Mission and Accountability: What We Do and How We Do It

Because racism is reflected in every institution and organization in the U.S., it is also present in progressive, social change groups. The structures and cultures of food system non-profits and grassroots organizations reproduce white privilege and racial oppression found in the wider society. Fortunately, organizations, like individuals evolve, change and grow. Food justice groups can transform themselves to operate with anti-racist practices.

The process of addressing institutional racism in the food system is about more than individuals changing our behavior and ways of thinking. This important self-reflection and individual work must inspire a collective commitment to dismantling racism in the food system. Organizations whose missions include addressing hunger and poverty have an inherent responsibility to organize in partnership with low-income people and communities of color. The grassroots leadership in oppressed communities must be identified, developed and followed. When people and organizations with unearned privilege recognize the power we are granted, we become accountable in new ways. Sharing power is an important indicator of effective and accountable racial justice organizing.

Our food system organization can have incredible projects with amazing results. And if we are not operating with a conscious understanding of the role of race in the food system, we are perpetuating oppression. More important than what we are doing, how we are doing it determines whether we are part of the solution or remain part of the problem.

Anti-Racist Organizational Development

Developing a healthy food system requires assessing the assets and liabilities within that defined system. It requires identifying where you are and imagining where you want to be. Similarly, creating a healthy organization requires understanding your organization’s strengths and weaknesses and setting realistic and meaningful goals for moving the organization toward becoming a strong anti-racist organization.

There are many ways to measure the effectiveness of your organization’s work. Whatever evaluation tool you use, you should be assessing the following:

  • The vision and/or level of consciousness about the organization’s desire to be a social change organization/anti-racist organization.
  • The organization’s culture: is it sustainable, does it honor the organization’s values, is it truly inclusive? By culture, we mean the organization’s values, beliefs, norms, and standards. This should include an assessment of what the organization says about its values, beliefs, norms, and standards and what the reality is in regards to values, beliefs, norms, and standards.
  • The organization’s structure:
    -the policies and procedures
    -power,accountability, and decision-making practices
  • Fundraising and budget: where does the money come from and who understands where the money is going? who does the organization feel most accountable to?
  • External program work, including:
    -degree of participation by people targeted or served in the program’s planning and development;
    -degree to which program builds people’s leadership and power;
    -quality of relationships created through program work;
    -degree to which program deepens people’s understanding of problem (political analysis);
    -degree to which issues, strategies, and tactics address racism and/or build strong anti-racist agenda;
  • Board effectiveness and health, including communication methods and effectiveness.
  • Staff effectiveness and health, including quality of supervision communication and methods and effectiveness.
  • Perception by and accountability to community targeted in mission
  • Understanding of root causes of problems organization is set up to address
  • Understanding of how your organization’s work connects to racism