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Where Racial Justice, Love, and Spiritual Transformation Meet

How can we make our deep commitment to racial equity and justice explicit?  

An experiment, a gathering, a learning space, the Fetzer Institute’s Racial Justice Praxis Project is a cohort of thirteen talented BIPOC leaders whose work centers faith and spirituality, two dedicated Fetzer staffers, and one consultant with a gift for deep listening.  

Together they are exploring the nuances of love, spiritual transformation, and racial justice and how to be in transformative and equitable relationship. 

Two questions are at the core of the project:  

  • As a funder, how does racial justice deepen our understandings of love and spiritual transformation?
  • How might we learn with practitioners doing this work in a way grounded in Spirit and deep relationship?  

“While many funders make grants to support particular sectors or address specific problems, Fetzer’s hope for this project is that it will transform the core of how we work and fund,” says Shakiyla Smith, vice president of Organizational Culture. “This is why the project is rooted in praxis, a form of intentional learning from experience that includes cycles of reflection and action.” 

Through these cycles of reflection and action, we are learning about:

Being in relationship. Early in the project, the cohort shared feedback on the Institute’s contracting process, which came across as extractive and overly burdensome on the very people it means to support. We are now reviewing our entire contracting system.

What it means to show up. The group determined not to count people out because they could not all participate in the same way. For example, one member needed to listen in rather than join the conversation. They later shared a written contribution that added to the group’s experience, helping to redefine participation as many ways to be present in body, mind, and heart. 

Having hard conversations differently. In taking on challenging topics like racial justice, group members have incorporated embodied practices—like movement and breathwork—to help open pathways so we can have these conversations differently.

Dreaming together. The hard work at the crossroads of racial justice, spiritual transformation, and love requires a balance of being able to dream about the future as we seek to address present injustices.

We have also created an internal learning track representing all Fetzer departments. This allows our staff to work within their teams to experiment, engage, reflect, and do their own learning informed by the cohort's praxis in ways that relate to staff's specific roles and responsibilities. 

The Racial Justice Praxis Project has the following desired outcomes: 

  • Actionable learnings about how to expand our networks and partner with BIPOC-led and focused organizations   
  • Support of underfunded BIPOC teachers and BIPOC-led and focused organizations 
  • Deepened commitments to love and racial justice and how to enact them most effectively and equitably in the long term 

By the numbers: 

  • 2 years, in person and remote 
  • 13 cohort participants
  • 3 implementation team members
  • 15 days of meetings, including two multi-day in-person retreats
  • 29 staff members participating in an internal learning track

$2.5 million 

  • $200,000 in general support to each organization/practitioner  
  • $500,000 to support the full learning project 
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