Promoting Cultural Equity

August 8, 2016


Tim McClimon

"To support a full creative life for all, Americans for the Arts commits to championing policies and practices of cultural equity that empower a just, inclusive, equitable nation."

Recently, Americans for the Arts, a national advocacy organization dedicated to representing and serving local communities, and creating opportunities for every American to have equal access to a full and vibrant creative life, adopted this Statement on Cultural Equity. The statement aims to guide the work of this organization, but also to serve as a model and template for other organizations to follow.

What exactly is cultural equity? As defined by Americans for the Arts,

  • Cultural equity embodies the values, policies and practices that ensure that all people - including but not limited to those who have been historically underrepresented based on race/ethnicity, age, ability, sexual orientation, gender, socioeconomic status, geography, citizenship status, or religion - are represented in the development of arts policy; the support of artists; the nurturing of accessible, thriving venues for expression; and the fair distribution of programmatic, financial, and informational resources.

In this statement, Americans for the Arts pledges to provide informed, authentic leadership for cultural equity and to strive to:

  • Pursue cultural competency throughout our organization through substantive learning and formal, transparent policies.
  • Acknowledge and dismantle any inequities within our policies, systems, programs, and services, and report organization progress.
  • Commit time and resources to expand more diverse leadership within our board, staff, and advisory boards.

They also commit to pursuing systemic change related to equity and to:

  • Encourage substantive learning to build cultural competency and to proliferate pro-equity policies and practices by all of our constituencies and audiences.
  • Improve the cultural leadership pipeline by creating and supporting programs and policies that foster leadership that reflects the full breath of American society.
  • Generate and aggregate quantitative and qualitative research related to equity to make incremental, measureable progress toward cultural equity more visible.
  • Advocate for public and private-sector policy that promotes cultural equity.

This statement was adopted by the board of directors of Americans for the Arts (of which I'm a part) after a lengthy review process involving over 150 local, state and national partners from inside and outside the arts. It is meant to be used as a model for others to adopt or adapt for their own organizations or communities, and the statement also includes a summary of 10 steps that can be taken to create such a statement.

These steps are a great template for any organization -- including CSR programs -- that are contemplating the creation of policies:

  • Determine a need
  • Create a task force
  • Find great examples
  • Understand your definitions
  • Name the starting conditions
  • Determine your goals, expertise, and areas of focus
  • Create a draft (and another and another)
  • Get your draft in front of stakeholders
  • Start talking about actions and benchmarks for success
  • Present the final statement, and actions, and have a conversation

  What do you think? Does this statement on cultural equity make sense to you? Can you see its applicability to other organizations, including CSR programs? If you have a comment or question, please follow me on Twitter at @timmcclimon and start a conversation there.

By the way, July 25 was the 5th anniversary of CSR Now! -- so a big thank you to everyone who has stuck with me through the years and sent me words of encouragement. Writing a blog can be a lonely enterprise if no one is commenting, so thanks again and enjoy the summer!

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