In my monthly CEO letters, I often share highlights about the external-facing work the DC Bar Foundation is doing—from building out the DC Legal Aid Transformations Network to the Eviction Diversion Pilot Project. I use this space to help amplify the initiatives that are making an impact on District residents with the greatest need and serving as a vehicle to help build collaboration and connection within the legal aid community. Today, I want to highlight an internal-facing project that DCBF has been working on for the past year – our organizational core values.
DCBF's goals and purpose have always been clear – to ensure all District residents have access to the legal help they need without regard to knowledge, wealth, or power. More than three years ago, we developed our strategic framework, which serves as the road map for our organization's work, allowing us to establish and execute the big-picture plans and meet key metrics.
So, what are core values, and in what way will they serve the DC Bar Foundation? There are many definitions of organizational core values, but the general idea is that they represent guiding principles for an organization and helps to manage relationships and interactions with employees and external stakeholders.
The purpose of DCBF's core values is two-fold: 1) from an internal perspective, our expectations, decision-making, and communication efforts will be clear; and, 2) externally, our partners and stakeholders will better understand the 'how' and 'why' behind our work as it provides a clear picture of our values and what to expect from us as an organization.
These five core values will serve as DC Bar Foundation's guiding principles going forward:
Equitable Justice. The impact of race, class, and gender on systemic injustice is interconnected. We seek equitable justice, which is concerned with transforming systems and must be inclusive and accessible to everyone regardless of race, wealth, gender, or power. It extends beyond the law into other systems and resources.
Community-Centric. We are guided by the voices of those most impacted by our decisions. We are working to ensure the civil legal aid system is accountable and responsive to DC's communities most affected by systemic injustice.
Collaboration and Partnership. Our work is most effective when we collaborate with all stakeholders. We will always ask the questions: Who else should be at this table? Are all voices at the table being heard?
Mutual Trust and Respect. Respecting others' capacities and contributions will foster a community where ideas are heard and problems are solved. We seek and offer mutual trust and respect so that greater progress is made toward our mission of equitable justice.
We Stand Against Anti-Black Racism. We must work within ourselves, our networks, and our institutions to challenge anti-Black racism with each decision we make. We must actively change behaviors, policies, and procedures that perpetuate anti-Black racism. Understanding and addressing anti-Black racism will help reveal solutions to eradicate the manifestation of all forms of bias, racism, and hate.
Each of these core values is important, but We Stand Against Anti-Black Racism is especially poignant. We understand that many of our systems, including legal aid, are steeped in anti-Black racism. So much of how systems are built keeps Black men, women, and families at a disadvantage, and there can be no progress until we dismantle these systems.
We have begun to implement these core values across our projects and programs. Our work on building a Coordinated Intake & Referral System, which will streamline how DC residents connect with legal aid providers, highlights some of these values. We have centered these principles in this process, keeping community, partnership, and respect at the heart of our work.
I'm happy to share these core values with you, because I know they will fortify our work within the legal aid network. I consider these core values DCBF's identity, and it will allow us—and you—to hold us accountable for how to move forward in this space. For future reference, you can find our core values on the DCBF website under the about section.
Kirra L. Jarratt
Chief Executive Officer, DC Bar Foundation