By Esperanza Pallana
Senior Program Officer

As a local, collaborative partner in social justice and financial equity, Community Vision prides itself on being responsive to our community’s needs. Over the last few years, several movements and events inspired us to take a deeper and self reflective look at how we were advancing our mission. We sought to understand the root causes of the systemic injustices, including a racially discriminatory financial system, and the role capital could play in confronting it. This examination brought us back to the foundation upon which we were created as a Community Development Financial Institution (CFDI) founded to provide capital to communities of color that were redlined and redress intentional disinvestment.

We are very proud of the work we have done to date in developing sound financial practices and business acumen to ensure we are a strong and sustained partner in the communities we serve. As we strive to hold ourselves to this standard, we also want to be responsive to a fast changing sociopolitical environment. Our 2019-2021 Strategic Plan represents a decision making framework to anchor us in our mission, enable innovation, and root even more deeply in our commitment to economic and racial equity.

We chose to do this work, centered in equity, with an internal focus on organizational excellence, with the understanding that our innovation, impact, and influence are an expression of our values in action.

Our strategic plan was the culmination of work done by our staff and board, supported by outside planning experts. In 2016, staff formed a Leadership & Culture Committee that serves as stewards of culture, leadership development, inclusivity and job satisfaction at the organization. The committee conducted an internal equity audit of our organizational design, culture, and leadership practices. Building on this, a cross-sectoral team of board members, executive leadership, and staff worked with strategic consultants at Schaffer & Combs, to develop a decision-making framework. By the end of 2017, clear goals and strategies were developed and in 2018, our full staff came together to develop metrics and annual benchmarks. Our finalized plan reflects an effort to facilitate change management with an internal decision-making culture that is rooted in our mission and is responsive to a new sociopolitical era. With it, we seek a dynamic balance of creativity, relevance, and financial acumen to ensure maximum impact.

Community Vision’s internal strategic work focuses on creating a robust, transparent cultural infrastructure, centered on daily practices that our staff developed to encourage culture-building, accountability, leadership, and social justice. Since implementing the strategic plan, we have undertaken a number of internal steps to build this cultural infrastructure.

In early 2018, Community Vision held a full day retreat where staff reviewed and updated the collective values driving our chosen strategic priorities. In addition to values, the staff identified and defined professional practices that allow us to live into our values through our work with each other, our stakeholders, and clients. These professional practices were then incorporated into our fiscal year 2018 annual appraisals.

This year, we revamped our staff evaluation methodology by implementing a performance management system consisting of quarterly self-reflection, 360 feedback and ongoing evaluation. This is an important shift as we cultivate a learning culture internally that enables us to recognize that we are all in a different relationship to equity. Together, we are working on building skills of emotional intelligence, courageous and compassionate communication, and the ability to receive truthful reflections. We found this to be particularly important as we partner with communities most impacted by inequities, as well as communities whose unexamined privilege and entitlement puts their humanity at-risk.

The strategic decision-making framework, and explicitly prioritizing racial equity, was a necessary step in moving our work, and its intended impact, forward. As a team we decided it was important and fair to provide an internal feedback loop of communication on relevant changes and direction. Within the first year of the plan launch, a pulse survey culture was implemented for quarterly “pulse checks” on employee reactions in critical decisions, changes and overall satisfaction with the culture, strategic direction and overall performance of the organization, including metrics for equity and inclusion.

This summer, we embarked on a two-day equity, diversity, and inclusion training facilitated by The Justice Collective with the overarching objectives of deepening our knowledge and comprehension of:

  • key racial equity terms, frameworks, historical and present contexts;
  • learning essential skills for advocates of racial equity including mindfulness, effective communication, and cultural diagnosis; and
  • operationalizing an equity vision clearly by identifying actionable items and establishing accountability to our individual and collective commitments as internal and external advocates of equity.

In addition, with support from the organization, staff are motivated and active in pursuing a myriad of professional development opportunities to advance their leadership and social justice lens. These include, Understanding and Analyzing Systemic Racism within the financial sector with Crossroads, a workshop series, Transforming White Privilege, with Shakti Butler, and attending the Dismantling White Supremacy Unconference, facilitated by the Dismantle Collective. Staff have also hosted ongoing literature discussions covering topics from decolonizing wealth and white fragility to the dangers of a charitable framework without justice.

Our journey has been remarkable thus far. Our strategic plan is about bold action towards racial and economic equity. The interrogation of our assumptions of mission alignment and our continued equity practices have had significant impact on how we approach our capital and consulting services. More than ever we are committed to sharing and eliminating barriers to vital financial resources and investing in the visions of health, wealth, and vibrant communities for all Californians. We look forward to sharing additional updates on how we’re implementing this exciting plan.