Achieving Results by Centering Race Internally and Externally

Living Cities has committed to a new vision and mission that focus on closing racial gaps. This Theory of Change outlines how it will achieve its new goals.

Living Cities’ members recently made a commitment to work together and fund our work for another three years–this time with an explicit focus on racial equity. This is the first time in our nearly 30 year history that we have centered race and racial equity in the work that we do. The journey was long to get here, but we know that centering race will not only help us achieve our results, but that we will not be able to achieve them without doing so.

As we were developing our new mission and vision with our members, we also knew that we would have to develop new programs and initiatives to guide us in our work, as well as new performance measures to help us continuously improve towards our results. Instead of developing programs first and measures later, we decided to start with our results and work back from there. That led us to develop a new Theory of Change, one that explicitly names race to ensure it is ingrained in all the work that we do.

Our Theory of Change is rooted in the person-role-system framework. We believe people need to use the formal and informal power in their role to change the systems they inhabit to create a world where all people can live abundant, dignified and connected lives. Watch this video from AECF to learn more about this framework.

Download the document by clicking in the top right corner, and you’ll see a graphical representation of the Theory of Change on pages 1-3, which is a little easier to absorb, as well as the full Theory of Change on the last page. To explore our Theory of Change start with the “person” and move to “role” and then up to “system”.

In most organizations, the theory of change focuses on external programs and strategies. Ours focuses on both the internal work we’re doing to dismantle white institutional culture within our organization (page 1) as well the external work (page 2) to support our network to do the same. As we embarked on our journey to be race centered in our programmatic work we realized that we were asking our staff and grantees to do things out in the world that we weren’t yet ready or willing to do “back home.” Therefore, as we developed our Theory of Change, we knew that it was necessary to intentionally call-out the work all staff are doing internally to deepen their racial equity competencies which we’ve come to realize is just as important as the work we’re doing externally.

The process has been long and still on-going, but we felt that, with our new mission and vision public, now was the time to share the Theory of Change with the field.

In the next phase of our results framework, we will be using our Theory of Change as the foundation to develop individual models for our entire portfolio to get more specific about how we’ll measure the impact of our strategies.

We hope you’ll share your feedback with us about this document, as well as think through how we can partner together. Our vision is bold, and we cannot build it alone. So please join us in our work to achieve results by centering race.

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