Choosing Our Path

Our team started 2022 in the homestretch of completing our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Strategic Plan. A 12-month process, the development of this plan and the introspective work that drove it were essential first steps in determining our path forward.

Most road trips start with a plan. First, you identify your destination. Next, you determine the best route to get you there. But it’s not as easy as picking a route and jumping in the car; you need a map, a timeline, and resources to guide your way. At VCCSE, we started with a tune-up before we hit the road toward equity.   

The DEI strategic planning process required a lot of self-reflection and helped us better understand our strengths and opportunities for improvement. This process – driven by a vision shared by all members of our team – resulted in a commitment to equity. In addition, we looked to industry experts and experienced partners – mile markers and trailblazers – for inspiration and guidance. 

Our DEI Journey

Necessary Preparation

In early 2022, we wrapped up our DEI Strategic Plan, a staff-led project completed with assistance from our incredible partners at Circle Coaching.

This was truly a transformative process! It began with an audit of our policies, practices, and staff experiences to uncover strengths to build on and gaps to fill. Second, our team came together to build our values statement, which you can see below. This statement reflects what we stand for, as well as our shared perspective of what matters to us when we think of DEI.  

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Our Values Statement served as our North Star as we then embarked on the development of our DEI Strategic Plan. The plan is a three-year rolling plan that sets out strategic goals and milestones for our organization using a DEI lens. During this process, our staff, leadership, and board of directors spent many hours working together to identify five strategic goals and supporting milestones and action steps. Our five DEI goals are: 

  • Achieve alignment and accountability for board, leadership, and staff. 
  • Develop a DEI Values-driven business strategy that embeds DEI in products, services, and risk analysis. 
  • Employ effective talent recruitment, advancement, and retention of a diverse workforce and creation of an inclusive workplace culture. 
  • Center DEI in our marketing and communications. 
  • Utilize data-driven decision-making, assessment, measurement, research, and learning. 

Every member of the VCCSE team supports the pursuit of these goals with their passion for equitable community prosperity and dedication to their work. We also developed a cross-departmental group – the Mission, Equity, and Inclusion Collaborative – to track our progress. The Collaborative made certain that our DEI goals and corporate strategic plan were thoughtfully and intentionally interwoven to ensure full alignment of our values and business development. Our objective is to show you, our partners, that these are not just words on a poster hanging in the breakroom. We strive to live these values and let our DEI goals guide us on the road toward equity.  

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"Our deep roots as a trusted community development financial institution and advisor to impact investors will serve us well as we reinforce our mission and purpose to support those who have been economically impacted by structural and systemic inequity. This DEI Strategic Plan makes our intention explicit. Fair access to economic growth opportunities for all and the inclusive advancement of our businesses and communities lies at the heart of this Strategic Plan, supported by the unique skills and talents of our diverse and expert staff."

Amir Kirkwood, President & CEO, VCC Social Enterprises

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Our Promise

A Commitment to Equity

As you read in our values statement, our commitment to equity is reflected in how we operate internally and how we show up in the communities we serve. Whether we’re talking about our workplace culture or our products and services, there’s a common focus: the people. 

Under our roof, we’re putting people first by committing to parity and shared decision-making. We’re examining the language we use in our communications and embracing asset-framing to characterize people and communities by their aspirations and contributions before listing the gaps and challenges.  

Externally, prioritizing people means partnering with organizations that are asking communities to lead in the enhancement of their quality of life to ensure their visions are realized. Through our work, we strive to help build robust community development ecosystems that – through the combined expertise of ecosystem members – increase equitable access to catalytic capital and resources.  

At VCCSE, our commitment to equity is a commitment to our humanity. Ultimately, community development isn’t financing the bricks that build the townhomes or filling whiteboards with prospective grantees. Community development is – to the best of our ability – ensuring all people have equitable and inclusive economic opportunity.  

Our Guardrails

Expertise that Guides Us

Our best practices are steered in part by the comprehensive framework of Equitable Bank Standards (EBS) established by the Beneficial State Foundation.

Along with a committed cohort of community bankers, academic researchers, and economic justice advocates, we helped create the standards in 2021. 

Equitable Bank Standards are categorized into three groups for organizational evaluation and development. The practice areas include: 

  • Essential Equitable Practices: Representing standards for operating ethically to minimize negative impacts for all stakeholders, including customers, the community, and the environment. 
  • Emerging Equitable Practices: Representing standards farther along the equitable banking journey whereby banks avoid harm while proactively seeking a positive impact for people and the planet. 
  • Industry Leading Equitable Practices: Representing industry leadership and best practices toward generating substantial and long-term positive impact. 

VCCSE demonstrated practices consistent with the Industry Leading category for the establishment of the Economic Equity Fund (EEF). The EEF is a loan fund that provides flexible financing for small business owners who are women and/or Black, Indigenous, or People of Color (BIPOC) and were disproportionately affected by the economic impact of the pandemic.  

The results of our self-assessment indicated a development opportunity around legislative advocacy, which led to its inclusion in our goal planning for 2023 and beyond. Results from the Lending and Investments practices, along with Governance, indicated the most standards met of all categories. We value a proactive approach toward reflection, assessment, and transparency in our work to advance economic equity. 

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Our Collaborators

Partners in the Journey

Our work is community-led and driven. We continue to build a multitude of partnerships to: 

  • Inform our perspectives on community needs and dynamics, 
  • Complement the skills and expertise that exist within and outside of our organization, 
  • Teach and learn innovative techniques and best practices, 
  • Build momentum toward common goals, and 
  • Strengthen relationships and trust between organizations that share our values. 

Our partners are an invaluable resource in our efforts to build healthy, vibrant, and inclusive communities. Here are some of the collaborators we’re looking for:

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Let’s do more, together.

There are many ways to partner with VCC Social Enterprises on the road toward equity. Are you our next visionary collaborator?  

Join Us