Systemic inequity takes many, interconnected forms—racism, sexism, ableism, transphobia, heterosexism, and more. Focusing on racial equity provides us with tools we can use to help dismantle all of these oppressions. The goal of our Equity Investments practice is to help build a cultural sector in King County that better reflects the communities it serves.
National reports indicate that cultural grantmaking struggles to reach underserved populations, and is even becoming less equitable. Here is some of the research that is guiding our decision-making for this practice:
- According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics, in 2016 just 2% of all cultural institutions receive nearly 60% of all contributed revenue. The 2% consists of 925 cultural groups that have annual budgets of more than $5 million—large institutions that focus primarily on Western European fine arts traditions.
- People of color represent 37% of the American population, but just 4% of all foundation arts funding is allocated to groups whose primary mission is to serve communities of color, per the U.S. Census and the Helicon Collaborative.
- A 2011 study in Science found that white researchers receive NIH grants at nearly twice the rate that African American researchers do. Even when factors such as publication record and training are considered, an African American scientist is still only two-thirds as likely as a white scientist to be funded.
Equity Investments put indicators of racial inequity at the center of our grant selection process. This includes geographic location, income, operating budget, audiences served, and project focus. While state law prevents us from using race as a determining factor in public contracting, by prioritizing these factors in our grantmaking we can direct funds to where they have historically and repeatedly been denied.
A key tool in helping us assess these factors are Communities of Opportunity census tracts. Equity Investments will be largely focused on projects and organizations outside of the City of Seattle, OR located in Seattle but also within an area with a Communities of Opportunity index percentile of 60% or greater. These locations are shown in purple on this map:
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Each of our grant programs will implement an Equity Investment system tailored to the specific needs of its applicants; please read the Panel Process section of each guideline page for details on how Equity Investments will function within that specific grant.
Every grant application we receive is evaluated through a peer-panel review process. Artists and cultural workers of all disciplines review applications against grant or artist call criteria and make decisions about funding allocation; 4Culture staff do not influence the outcome of the panel process.
In order for 4Culture staff to assemble panels that reflect the tremendous artistic, racial, geographic, and cultural diversity of King County, we maintain a roster of individuals with interest in serving on a panel. Our Volunteer Inquiry Form helps 4Culture to connect with community members who are interested in serving on a panel. 4Culture asks all interested volunteers about the communities they belong to, work with, or represent personally or professionally.
In addition, equity-based criterion has been built into the core criteria of some of our programming, specifically, If the project and/or public event is intended to support people or communities historically marginalized in King County, and if the applicant has outlined why and how this will take place, is a part of what our panelists engage with and review.
Racial Equity Toolkit
In late 2021, 4Culture began implementing use of a Racial Equity Toolkit within work planning processes.
The toolkit is designed to help staff:
- Intentionally dedicate time to discussing and understanding racial equity and potential racial inequities of program decisions in a planning period.
- Document learnings and define actions taken to advance racial equity in workplans.
- Document changes and results that might assist other staff with advancing racial equity in their work.
The toolkit is a working document, developed and piloted over two years by members of 4Culture’s Racial Equity Team.