Advancing Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Anti-Racism at the Aspen Institute
People across the United States and around the world are rallying together in grief and anger about pervasive police and societal violence against Black lives. These actions shock the conscience and demand solutions to historical, structural, and interpersonal racism in their many forms.
The Aspen Institute drives change through inclusive dialogue, values-based leadership development, transformational ideas, and powerful solutions to entrenched challenges. This is a defining moment to proclaim that Black Lives Matter and to take purposeful anti-racist action through our work and within our organization. This commitment is not only consistent with, but mandated by, our 70-year-long mission: to affirm human dignity and work toward a free, just, and equitable society.
Fulfilling this mission also means asking difficult questions about what we must do better. All organizations must continually examine their history, internal culture, and practices. We are committed to holding ourselves accountable. Members of our community who are from underrepresented and historically marginalized communities must be present, heard, and supported at every level of leadership and in everything that we do.
The steps we are outlining here are the result of ongoing conversations with our staff and our stakeholders. They are a work in progress. I am inspired by the efforts of many of my colleagues, but much remains to be done. Fighting racism and all forms of injustice is not the work of one time, but of all time.
Dan Porterfield, President and CEO
Updated: 10.22.20 This page is updated regularly to reflect new commitments and work.
The work shared here reflects a commitment across the organization supported by the Institute’s President and CEO and Senior Executive Team; a new Task Force on Equity and Inclusion (more below); our long-standing, staff-led Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council (DEIC), and our Human Resources Department. It includes work the Aspen Institute and its staff are doing internally, externally, and individually in new ways, and in ways that build upon ongoing efforts.
This is not only work we must do now, but also a commitment we must act on continuously. The Aspen Institute’s ongoing Commitment to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Anti-Racism can be found here.
We are addressing these issues internally as an organization by:
- Assessing the Institute’s operations, including hiring and compensation practices, approaches to fundraising and investments, and policies and practices.
- Hiring Miecha Ranea Forbes as the Vice President for People and Culture, a newly created position, and naming Maribel Duran the organization’s first Managing Director of Equity and Inclusion.
- Identifying ways to improve organizational culture and opportunities for learning, engagement, and growth for staff, fellows, and program participants.
- Using more inclusive lenses when communicating about our work.
- Working to better understand and acknowledge America’s long history of racism and systemic injustice and embracing our responsibility to address and transform these realities both within our organization and in society at large.
We are addressing these issues outwardly in the way we do our work by:
- Changing the ways we do our work so that it is more anti-racist and inclusive. The items we’re pursuing include: centering equity in program design; increasing inclusivity in Institute programs and events; addressing structural racism and other inequities in funding and fundraising decisions; and more.
- Elevating issues of justice and equity across the Institute’s programs and platforms with blog posts, podcasts, social media, and free, digital events featuring powerful conversations about anti-racism and social justice.
We are addressing these issues within ourselves, as people and individuals, by:
- Engaging in Institute-wide learning, training, and discussion opportunities on critical topics like valuing and understanding diversity and explicit and implicit bias. This includes mandatory trainings for leadership and staff.
- Undertaking internal peer learning and best practice sharing on diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism efforts.
- Addressing how, as colleagues, our personal beliefs or behaviors may need to transform to address systemic and implicit biases in our organization and the communities in which and with whom we work.
Read below for more details on some of the action items mentioned above.
More on the Task Force on Equity and Inclusion:
The Institute’s President and CEO and Senior Executive Team created the Task Force on Equity and Inclusion in July 2020 to develop and implement new ways for the Institute to live its commitments to diversity, equity, and inclusivity, and to become a more actively anti-racist organization. The Task Force is identifying key opportunities and barriers to overcome, developing a set of actionable recommendations, and advising the implementation of solutions. The group consists of a diverse range of colleagues from across the Institute who represent the full organization, span roles at junior and senior levels, and bring a wide range of perspectives. The Task Force made initial recommendations, which were approved by the Senior Executive Team, in late October 2020 around the issues of: Human Resources, Events, Central Services, Programming and its Foci, Fundraising and Business Model, Demographics of Leadership and Board, Culture, Communications, and Marketing. Read the Task Force’s charge here.
More on the search for a Vice President for People and Culture:
The Institute is actively recruiting for the new senior role of Vice President for People and Culture to provide additional capabilities for the Institute in professional development, organizational culture, and diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism. This position will serve as a member of the Institute’s Senior Executive Team. The person in this position will help implement the recommendations of the Task Force on Equity and Inclusion; help create systems and metrics for goal setting and reporting; create new and lead existing professional and leadership development initiatives; and help nurture a collaborative, supportive, and inclusive culture across the Institute. The position description can be found here.
More on our Programmatic Work:
Programs across the Institute have elevated the themes of equity and racial justice over the past several months. Examples include:
- Stacey Abrams and Brittany Packnett Cunningham on voter suppression
- Alicia Garza, Michael Eric Dyson, and Eugene Scott on Black Lives Matter
- Wes Moore on systemic racism in America
- Rashad Robinson, Khalil Gibran Muhammad, and Tonya Allen on police violence
- Ibram X. Kendi on how to be an anti-racist
- Eduardo Porter on racism and the coronavirus pandemic
A number of the Institute’s programs have made statements and commitments to racial justice. This includes President and CEO Dan Porterfield’s statement following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, which can be found here, and after the ensuing protests and police violence, which can be found here. Other program statements are linked below:
- Aspen Challenge
- Aspen Digital
- Aspen Forum on Women and Girls
- Center for Native American Youth
- College Excellence Program
- Community Strategies Group
- Eduction and Society
- Economic Opportunities Program
- Energy & Environment Program
- Financial Security Program
- Inclusive America Project
- Weave: The Social Fabric Project