Barr is committed to centering racial equity in all we do.

Three Guiding Principles

In pursuit of our mission to invest in potential, one of the Barr Foundation's core values is to "Center Racial Equity."

We are guided by three principles:

  • We must be unequivocal about our commitment to racial equity.
  • We must view this as a long-term commitment.
  • We must expand our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion with a focus on anti-racism.

We recognize this is long-term work and that we have much to learn. Yet, we know that this work requires deep and sustained focus, investment, engagement, and action. We created this page as a central place to share what we are doing and learning as well as how this work is evolving.

"Our commitment requires that we listen deeply, that we validate others’ experiences, and that we bring deep humility to our learning. It also requires the much harder work of acknowledging where we are part of the problem and how we are working to change that."

-Jim Canales, President & Trustee

Racial Equity in our Grantmaking and Partnerships

The Barr Foundation centers racial equity in our grantmaking principally through investments in our core programs of Arts, Climate, and Education (as well as our Sector Effectiveness grantmaking). These investments are complemented by partnerships with organizations focused on racial equity in the Greater Boston region.

Our program teams continue to examine their work through the lens of anti-racism, to improve how we partner with organizations and communities, and to integrate racial equity more explicitly in their strategies.

Through our Education Program, we support the fundamental redesign of high schools so that all young people can succeed in learning, work, and life. Our partners focus on serving students who have not been well served by our current system, and we are committed to closing equity gaps that only widened during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In our Climate Program, we recognize that systemic racism has stymied progress on climate goals. We advocate for policies that address the inequitable impacts of climate change on communities of color, while investing in organizations that center racial equity and reflect the diversity of the communities they serve.

Through our Arts & Creativity Program, we are advancing arts and creativity that lift up the full breadth of our region's diversity, support artists and organizations that are deeply rooted in communities, and build an ecosystem of support for those artists and organizations.

Among its priorities, our Sector Effectiveness grantmaking aims to build more effective, diverse nonprofit leadership in our region, through investments to support and build relationships among BIPOC leaders, research, and capacity building for organizations to cultivate more inclusive leadership.

Key Milestones

Our Timeline

We are committed to centering racial equity in all we do. This has been long-term work and will continue for years to come. Click on any of the years on the left to explore important milestones.

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  • A view of Boston's historic Pilot House from the harbor


    Amos and Barbara Hostetter establish Barr with founding mission to “build a better Boston for all.”

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  • Barr Fellows posing in front of a garden

    Field Building

    Launch Barr Fellowship to advance and strengthen a diverse network of nonprofit leaders in Greater Boston.

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  • Grantmaking

    Award first grant to Diversity Matters to integrate diversity and inclusion in local nonprofit organizations.

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  • Knowledge Building

    Host Dr. john a. powell for sessions on structural racism and “targeted universalism” with Barr grantees, staff, and Boston colleagues

  • Students graduation

    Knowledge Building

    Support research calling for culturally-responsive curriculum and shifts in school culture across Boston Public Schools to improve outcomes for male students of color.

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  • Two women hold up protest signs at a rally and smile.


    Announce a new Special Initiative supporting frontline organizations defending civil rights in communities targeted by the Trump administration.

  • Internal Initiatives

    Engage with consultant Angela Park, who leads initial DEI workshops for Barr staff, a team that has more than doubled since that time.

  • People sit at a table and have a conversation.

    Knowledge Building

    Support and amplify Building Movement Project's analysis of the racial leadership gap among Massachusetts nonprofits.

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  • Convening

    Participate in Grantmakers for Effective Organization’s National Conference focused on DEI and learn from Bush Foundation about their equity journey.

  • Internal Initiatives

    Engage consultants Beth Zemsky and Parisa Parsi to deepen our DEI knowledge and capacity, with an emphasis on organizational culture change using the Intercultural Developmental Inventory as a guiding framework.

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  • Internal Initiatives

    Organize learning sessions for Barr staff on the history and legacy of slavery in preparation for a staff trip to the National Memorial for Peace and Justice and the Legacy Museum. Cecilia Hylton, Barr's Communications Manager, leads our learning sessions.

  • Staff Retreat 2018 photo

    Internal Initiatives

    Launch two "Action Learning Teams" of staff to address aspects of Barr's organizational culture and practices through a DEI lens.

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  • Image of protest at Massachusetts Statehouse over family separations, with poster reading "Families Belong Together"


    Announce $2 million to support immigrant-serving organizations responding to COVID-19.

  • Speaking Up

    Affirm Barr’s commitment to center racial equity and to focus on tangible action as the nation grieves and people take to the streets to protest police brutality and the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor.

  • Protesters cheer during a Black Lives Matter Rally in Boston's Dorchester.


    Announce $1.36 million in direct support to nonprofits supporting Black communities, including advocacy for equity in pandemic recovery.

  • parents gather outside state house to demand equity in education

    Speaking Up

    Announce Barr’s explicit, long-term commitment to racial equity and to focus more fully on what it means to be an anti-racist organization.

  • Internal Initiatives

    Host Enola Aird and Dr. Cheryl Grills of the Community Healing Network, who lead two learning sessions for staff on the history and current realities of anti-Blackness.

  • Knowledge Building

    Partner with The Boston Foundation to commission updated research from Building Movement Project on the the racial leadership gap in Massachusetts.

  • Two men play music outside.


    Announce $4.15 million in new grantmaking centered on racial equity.

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  • Knowledge Building

    Support the Equitable Evaluation Initiative, as it launches a "learning collaboratory" to bring equitable evaluation principles to social impact work in New England.

  • Barr Staff Zoom Group Shot

    Internal Initiatives

    Barr outlines changes to its employee leave policies and performance management system, by empowering staff teams to recommend changes and by placing equity at the center.

  • Speaking Up

    Jim Canales and Barbara Hostetter co-author an op-ed in Chronicle of Philanthropy titled "To Advance Racial Equity, Foundation Boards Need to Take an Active Role."

  • Internal initiatives

    Engage with consultants Beth Applegate and Inca Mohamed to continue organizational work on DEI, anti-racism and culture, including the use of affinity groups for staff.

  • Internal Initiatives

    Barr staff volunteered for confidential, individual coaching with Beth Applegate and Inca and Mohamed for individual coaching for personal development and collective growth.

  • Gender Wage Gap

    Speaking Up

    Barr becomes a Compact Signer for the 100% Talent Compact, administered by the Boston Women’s Workforce Council, a unique public-private partnership between the Boston Mayor’s Office and Greater Boston employers dedicated to eliminating the gender and racial wage gap.

  • Grantmaking

    Launch “Driving Toward Educator Diversity” cohort with nine New England communities committed to attracting and retaining a diverse teacher workforce.

  • Grantmaking

    TSNE announces 22 leaders participating in new Executive Directors of Color Capacity Support Pilot, a cohort-based pilot program for community-based nonprofit leaders of color in the Boston area.

  • Speaking Up

    Roger Nozaki reflects on Investing in Leadership for Racial Equity.

  • dancers on stage during a performance


    Launch Powering Cultural Futures: A six-year partnership with 15 community-rooted organizations to support BIPOC arts and communities, and advance a more equitable Massachusetts arts sector.

  • Grantmaking

    Barr invests $1 million in Institute for Nonprofit Practice’s Black Leadership Institute.

  • Knowledge Building

    Center for Neighborhood Technology and Community Science publish “Tools for Equitable Mobility Practices” to guide planners in designing equitable communities.

  • Speaking Up

    Barr adds "center racial equity" as an explicit core value for the organization.

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Sharing Our Experiences

Recent Blog Posts


We are sharing what we’re learning here and on our blog to be transparent about this ongoing process, and to invite your help and ideas to deepen our learning, to strengthen our work, and to hold us accountable. We are open to all feedback and encourage you to share with us directly by email; by our grantmaking process feedback form, or by sharing an anonymous public review at GrantAdvisor.