50th Annual Meeting Speaker Highlight: Rhonda Broussard

While many foundations these days have made equity a greater priority, not all of them are starting from the same place. Some are still in a learning phase, others are ready to act, and others have already done equity-based work, but are looking to expand further.

At this year’s Annual Meeting, attendees will have the opportunity to hear about the equity journeys of their peers and, no matter where their organization is starting from, explore how to increase its “equity footprint.”

Helping lead this conversation will be Rhonda Broussard, the founder and CEO of Beloved Community in New Orleans. The organization, which focuses on policy advocacy and capacity-building, states plainly in its motto that “equity is our only hope.” Broussard leads the organization in its work to promote equity in schools, in workplaces and in the home.

“What will it take to make appreciable, sustainable change on the equity front? Beloved Community was born out of that question and the recognition that education alone can’t solve for society’s inequities,” Broussard said in a recent interview with LaPiana Consulting. “I believe that we can build our communities differently than we have been -- encompassing social justice, business/nonprofit, and government perspectives. These groups may have different reasons for being on the train, but if we design right we can get going in the same direction.”

Broussard personally leads Beloved Community’s Equity in Schools practice, where she designs supports that transform operations, pedagogy, student culture, and adult culture for sustainable inclusion and equity. However, she believes strongly that the equity journey doesn’t end on graduation day.

“If we get equity right in schools, but students graduate to a workplace that doesn’t respect their humanity or provide a livable wage or access to professional growth, we won’t reach economic equity,” she said. “We work with schools and employers to increase sustainable operations for diversity, equity, and inclusion for all of their stakeholders.”

In her work, Broussard wrestles with questions that would be familiar to many in philanthropy, particularly what she calls “the most chronic tension” – whether the social sector doing things to the community, or with the community.

She says resolving this tension often requires trusting in the leadership of people on the ground.

“Young people are already powerful leaders in their lives, not leaders for the next generation — but leaders who can do this work now,” she said. “If we adults make space, we can build in concert with them.”

Broussard founded Beloved Community in 2017, taking inspiration from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s goal “to create a beloved community” requiring “a qualitative change in our souls as well as a quantitative change in our lives.”

“My leadership has always been about bringing more people into shared vision, investing in them to grow and lead in ways that only they can, and building something bigger than any of our individual strengths,” Broussard said. “Sometimes we get stuck thinking there is only one way to lead and we try to perform in that way -- especially when we are the only black woman in the room. Make space for your leadership to be true to you and your leadership style.”

Hear more from Rhonda Broussard at the 50th Annual Meeting session "Wading Into the Water: How Deep Do You Want to Go with Equity?", taking place at 9:30am on Thursday, November 14.


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