Meet the Johnson Center’s New Distinguished Scholar in Residence for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Juan Olivarez

Earlier this summer, Juan R. Olivarez, Ph.D. joined the Johnson Center as Distinguished Scholar in Residence for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Tory Martin, Director of Communications and Engagement, sat down with Dr. Olivarez to understand how he feels philanthropy “can be a critical change-maker in this space.”

Here’s a short excerpt from the interview:

Tory Martin:  Dr. Olivarez, welcome to the Johnson Center! The Johnson Center and the local foundations who made this role possible see the Distinguished Scholar in Residence for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) position as a way of addressing a particular need in local and national philanthropy. How would you define that need?

Juan Olivarez:  Certainly, understanding and serving the interest in the philanthropic field around social justice and equity continues to be a need. Fundamentally, philanthropy exists to facilitate a community response to a community need, yet stark gaps persist between the makeup of nonprofits themselves and the communities they serve. Of course, there is already great work being done here, but the critical question for us is: what more can we do, and what can we do more effectively?

The demographics are changing in the world and in our country, specifically. The majority of babies in the United States are now children of color, and the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that there are at least 350 different languages spoken in the United States. Philanthropy has the potential to touch all Americans, yet we still have the sense that we’re not truly reaching and assisting all communities enough. So, the need is to study, to look at best practices and to determine how we can influence the advancement of all of DEI, including efforts like talent pipelines to nonprofits and foundations. This is really a first step at looking at ourselves to determine how we can best serve others.

You can read the entire interview here.

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