Written by Mercedes Brown (Director of Race Equity Assessment, BMP)
Last week, Building Movement Project (BMP) launched Building Blocks for Change (BB4C), an automated race equity assessment to help nonprofits develop the foundational capacities needed to foster more race equity in their workplaces. After years of rigorous research and testing, this has been a long time coming for BMP; this has also been a long-time coming for me.
For the past year and a half, I have been leading the development of BB4C along with a team of exceptional staff and consultants. As the Director of the effort, I constantly grapple with how to optimize the BB4C process to support nonprofits advance race equity within their organizations. My commitment to this work far predates my tenure at BMP. In many ways, the steps along the path of my professional life have led to this moment.
Before leading the BB4C team, I spent my career working in housing and health nonprofits, and government agencies. In each role, I led with my passion for advancing social justice and identified opportunities to ground my work in equity principles. Over the years, I had the opportunity to develop and lead internal and external Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) strategic plans, trainings, large-scale initiatives, and evaluations. I honed my skills as a DEI champion, working to make my organizations, agencies, and communities more equitable and just.
This work is hard. I often felt alienated and faced significant resistance. It’s common when you’re the only person of color in senior leadership in predominantly white spaces, and it is emotionally and physically draining. Then, six years ago, while deep in DEI work at a government agency, I was introduced to BMP’s Race to Lead research. Reading the reports validated my feelings and experiences and I became more open to discussing my experiences in white spaces; this was a game-changing experience.
Inspired by their learnings from the Race to Lead research, in 2018 BMP initiated BB4C. Too often, nonprofits’ limited resources make it difficult for them to secure the tools and expertise needed to advance workplace racial equity. BMP set out to address this by developing an accessible and high-quality tool that would accelerate the dialogue and action necessary to advance workplace equity across the nonprofit sector. Not long after BMP initiated the BB4C project, they began their search for a Project Director, a role that would fully leverage my skills and experiences and that felt like the perfect next step in my career. From the start, I knew that my lived experience as a DEI champion and as a leader of color within institutions and communities would allow me to support the development of a tool that was relevant, practical, and impactful.
The launch of BB4C is the result of countless hours of hard work by the BB4C staff and consultant team. And, it’s the result of my career spent within institutions and communities doing the sometimes grueling, sometimes joyful day-to-day work of advancing culture change. In the months ahead, I look forward to working with the nonprofits and DEI professionals that utilize BB4C.
Thanks for making it through this first blog post in our Accelerating Organizational Race Equity series. Future posts will explore BB4C’s rigorous development process, expand on the key organizational capacities the tool is organized around, and share what we’re hearing and learning from BB4C participants. Until then, please visit the Building Blocks for Change website to learn more about the tool, consider bringing it to your organization, and share it with your networks!