This post originally appeared in the PLACES Connection January 2022 newsletter.

BY Dion Cartwright, Director of Equitable Initiatives and Leadership Development

As I kicked off 2022, I began to reflect on the past year and wondered to myself, where did the time go? Last year truly felt like a blur. In some ways I felt like I accomplished a lot. In other ways I felt like I didn’t do enough. I started to wonder whether I made the best use of my time. Did I achieve my goals? Did I check off some boxes? What the heck did I do the past twelve months? How many of you can relate?

Then I paused. I thought to myself, I survived. After a traumatic year of grief and heartache, a global pandemic and civil unrest, I reminded myself that 2021 was about healing, it was about staying healthy, it was about humanity, it was about finding joy again. I had to show myself a bit of grace.

Grace is defined as “courteous goodwill.” Imagine if we approached this new year — or better yet, each day — by offering grace to ourselves, to our coworkers or employees, to our grantees, to the communities we serve. It literally would change the culture in which we often operate. In 2021, as part of our equity journey, TFN worked to understand the characteristics of white supremacy culture and how it shows up within our organization. It’s a process and we still have work to do. But recognizing how we often uphold these characteristics, often unconsciously, is a step in changing these unhealthy norms and behaviors that have created a culture that lacks care, humanity and grace. When we lack grace, we perpetuate a negative and toxic environment that is often reflected in the work of our organizations and in the way in which we engage with community and with one another.

As you reflect on your past year and lay the groundwork for the new year, I challenge you to offer yourself and others a bit of courteous goodwill. Know that you have the power to change how YOU approach each day. Every step we take in dismantling white supremacy culture in our work and in our lives is a step toward a more equitable and just society.

We all need a bit of grace in our life so you might as well start with you!



PLACES — which stands for Professionals Learning About Community, Equity and Sustainability — uses learning, coaching and reflections to explore structural racism, community empowerment and equitable grantmaking practices. In addition to the PLACES curriculum, Fellows learn from the people and places we visit. Our Fellowship Cohort, selected annually from a highly competitive pool of applicants, embarks on year-long journey that includes four site visits to communities across the U.S. and Canada.

The PLACES Fellowship concludes with a capstone presentation and graduation — but that rarely marks the end of the PLACES experience. As any PLACES alum will tell you, the deep bonds and professional connections forged by the Fellows extend well beyond the end of their cohort year. Learn more about the PLACES fellowship and alumni here.


About the Author

Dion Cartwright is TFN’s senior director of equity initiatives and leadership development, directing the PLACES Fellowship program and leading the organization’s work to address equity, inclusion, and structural racism. She was a 2010 PLACES Fellow and chaired the PLACES Advisory Board for four years before joining TFN’s staff.





Photo by ninosouza is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA