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March 2019 Issue

From the Executive Director:
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Honestly, It’s for Everyone.


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Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Honestly, It’s for Everyone

Raising the Bar | From the Executive Director | March 2019

By: Jeff Kutash, Executive Director

A few months ago, Nebraska unveiled its new tourism slogan: Honestly, It’s Not for Everyone. It’s edgy. It’s self-deprecating. It’s disruptive. Stephen Colbert highlighted it on The Late Show. As a tourism slogan, it just may be pure marketing genius. But as a statement, it prompts a troubling question about inclusion in our state: If Nebraska is “not for everyone,” who exactly is it not for? And that is a question that’s been on our minds at Peter Kiewit Foundation. In June 2017, we developed a set of organizational values, one of which is inclusion. As a team, we believe diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is important to our culture, to our internal processes, and to our ability to have impact in a state with changing demographics, segregated communities, and deep disparities in outcomes for different socio-economic groups. So, over the past year, we’ve been working hard to embed DEI as a critical lens through which we pursue our work. We have learned a lot!

A-HA Number 1: Diversity, equity, and inclusion are critical for Nebraska.

We make grants, learn about, and work with communities across the entire state of Nebraska. The following learnings have led us to prioritize DEI:

A-HA Number 2: In order for us to achieve our mission, DEI must be a priority in our work.

Our mission is to create opportunities for people to live in and contribute to strong and vibrant communities, achieve economic success, and enjoy a high quality of life. If we are to achieve this mission, we have to pay attention to Nebraskans who are further away from opportunity – especially people living in poverty and people of color.

A-HA Number 3: Our first step as an organization needed to be inwardly focused.

We recognized that before we could embed a DEI lens in our external work, it must first be a value we embrace in our culture and our organization. So, we did the following:

  • We made it explicit. We formally adopted inclusion as an organizational value.
  • We set three goals: Be authentic and live our value of inclusion, embed DEI in our internal and external processes, and apply a DEI lens to strengthen our relationships, better work with our partners, and increase our community impact.
  • We defined what we meant by DEI. We identified diversity as the value we place on and the better results obtained when we embrace and learn from differences in race, ethnicity, gender, life experiences, and other factors. We identified equity as individuals getting the support and resources they need so our life outcomes can’t be predicted based on the color of our skin, the zip code we were born in, or other factors over which we have no control. And we defined inclusion as ensuring that diverse voices are engaged and empowered to inform and influence the decisions that impact their lives and their community.
  • We put in the work. We hired a facilitator to guide us through six-months of intentional conversations and trainings for our team about diversity, equity, inclusion, implicit bias, and structural and other forms of racism. We took the Intercultural Development Inventory and discussed the results as individuals and as a team. We now hold monthly DEI “lunch and learn” sessions. And we hired the first African-American and Latinx program officers in the foundation’s history.

A-HA Number 4: You can’t be afraid to jump right in.

It was tempting to hold off on applying a DEI lens to our external work until we felt more confident within our team. However, we decided we just needed to be courageous and get started. While we are just at the beginning of this part of our journey, we have begun to bring more diverse voices into our boardroom to present to and converse with our Trustees, added DEI questions to our grantee surveys, developed and begun to apply a vendor diversity statement, and we are about to kick off a series of self-facilitated sessions based on Power Moves, a curriculum put together by the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy to help foundations learn how to unleash power in the nonprofits and communities they serve.

A-HA Number 5: The clichés are true.

DEI work IS hard. The conversations ARE uncomfortable. We DO need to confront our own unconscious and conscious biases.

A-HA Number 6: DEI is a journey, not a destination.

We are still in early stages of truly understanding and applying a DEI lens in our work but it is already abundantly clear that the attention we are placing on DEI is going to make our team stronger, our foundation a better partner, and increase our ability to have impact in the community. So, we are in it for the long haul!

Grantee Interviews

In 2018, Peter Kiewit Foundation partnered with Stuart Chittenden of Squishtalks to interview a few of our grantees about their work and their clients. We are proud to share their stories with you on our website (Nebraska Enterprise Fund & Together, Inc.) and in our office space.