Glasspockets Find: Philanthropic Leaders Join Ban the Box Movement to Address Inequality
October 26, 2016
(Melissa Moy is special projects associate for Glasspockets.)
A growing number of foundations are becoming more comfortable taking public stands on issues, rather than just offering behind the scenes support. One recent example is the Ban the Box movement, whereby public and nonprofit employers, and more recently foundation leaders are taking a public stand designed to draw attention to the employment discrimination of people with arrest and conviction records.
Ford Foundation CEO Darren Walker is one such foundation leader, who recently highlighted Rashad Robinson, executive director of Color of Change, and his video promoting the Ban the Box movement. The video is part of Ford Foundation’s #InequalityIs campaign, which engages the public to share its thoughts around inequality, from a motel housekeeper’s perspective about immigration to writer/activist Gloria Steinman’s on gender inequality and reproductive rights.
Foundations are generally known for their role and leadership in funding and supporting nonprofits and organizations that address societal and socioeconomic issues, and not known to be on the front lines of movements themselves. Perhaps the success of the Civil Marriage Collaborative is creating a change in awareness - that when foundations are visible partners, they can actually accelerate change.
“When foundations are visible partners, they can actually accelerate change.”
Through the Ban the Box Philanthropy Challenge, 42 foundations are using their influence and communications expertise to spur movement and action to eliminate barriers to employment for people with arrest and conviction records.
Organizers note that a prior history of convictions or arrests is a form of employment discrimination that has a “disproportionate impact on men of color, who are more likely to be incarcerated as a result of rampant over-criminalization,” according to the Ban the Box website.
In 2015, foundation leaders affiliated with the Executives’ Alliance for Boys & Men of Color submitted a letter to President Obama urging him to issue an executive order to “Ban the Box” in federal government and federal contractor hiring, which would open employment opportunities in the private sector.
Foundation leaders also recognized that a wide spectrum of stakeholders needed to be involved to address this employment barriers, including employers in the philanthropic sector.
The collaborative is challenging foundations to adopt fair hiring policies so that foundations will play their part as employers “to remove the stigma associated with a record, and (set) an example for other foundations and their grantees to follow.” Such actions will help advance opportunities to assist formerly incarcerated individuals and reduce recidivism.
The Ban the Box movement has attracted a bevy of prominent foundations across health, economic and social welfare focus areas, including The California Endowment, Ford Foundation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Kresge Foundation, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
Since transparency is still a challenge for the field of philanthropy, seeing foundation leaders step forward on the pressing social issues of the day could be an encouraging signal that some are growing more comfortable with more public facing and influencing roles. Transparency Talk looks forward to tracking the impact this movement will have on the philanthropic sector’s hiring practices, as well as its influence on encouraging other foundations to take more visible roles on the issues and causes they care about.