As part of our five-year, $1 million commitment to racial equity, RX is delighted to support two new charity partners – the GO Foundation in Australia, and the Research in Color Foundation in the USA. We highlight the vital work they are doing to empower people of colour through education and mentoring.
The GO Foundation – Empowering through education
Founded in 2009 by Adam Goodes, a proud Andyamathanha/Narungga man, and Michael O’Loughlin, a proud Kaurna / Ngarrindjeri / Narungga man, the GO Foundation is a non-profit organisation committed to empowering young indigenous Australians through education.
Adam and Michael are both Sydney Swans Legends, and during their Australian Football League (AFL) careers they became well known for their commitment to youth and communities, and their stance against racism.
In the early days, GO worked in a small community providing vocational training, health promotion, and sports equipment to the town’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. The experience, and the belief that education is key to empowerment and self-determination, led them to focus on culturally appropriate academic support, resulting in the launch of the GO scholarship scheme in 2014.
Today, GO supports Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students from primary through to university. The foundation works with 72 schools and six universities to reach students and, to date, has awarded over 800 scholarships in Sydney, Adelaide and Canberra.
Inspiring role models
A GO scholarship provides students with the tools and resources they need for their studies, including laptops, Wi-Fi access at home, sporting equipment, musical instruments, excursions and school trips, and food at the canteen. Critically, GO also offers cultural engagement to enrich the learning experience, and in the hope that students will choose to go on to further education.
Biripi Gadigal woman and first Aboriginal CEO of GO, Charlene Davison, said respect for and celebration of culture is also important.
“Our research shows a strong link between cultural identity and successful outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students” Charlene explained. “In particular, the presence of role models is vital to driving engagement in learning, and enrolment in further education.”
Senior GO Scholars are offered mentoring and career opportunities through the GO Ecosystem, which is made up of over 70 education, corporate, and Indigenous organisations. GO works closely with each to facilitate professional pathways, which includes mentoring days, work experience, internships, and employment opportunities. These opportunities are all designed with culture at the front of mind and Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander role models are imbedded along the way.
Current GO Ambassadors include musician Dan Sultan, Channel 9 presenter Brooke Boney, author and Professor Dr. Anta Heiss, and renowned artist Blak Dougals.
With the appointment of Charlene, as well as the announcement of Sonja Stewart, Yuin woman and CEO of the Law Society of New South Wales as the first Aboriginal Chair in 2020, GO has transitioned to Aboriginal leadership. “Including our Founders, Aboriginal Directors now make up 50 per cent of our Board, and 50 per cent of our staff are also Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people” revealed Charlene. “These are exciting milestones for GO and provide our scholars with fabulous exposure to inspiring role models.”
Building on success
Last year, the GO Foundation celebrated the graduation of 32 high school students, with students going to university, into apprenticeships and traineeships and some choosing to work part-time and volunteer during a gap year. Several students from the Class of 2021 are already placed in internships with GO’s Ecosystem Partner, CareerTrackers and one scholar was awarded a scholarship to the Nation Art School.
With RX’s support the GO Foundation has been able to increase its capacity to deliver more opportunities for scholars in 2022.
“Building the capacity of the GO Foundation means we can reach more kids” said Charlene. “We started the year by welcoming four new team members to the GO family, enabling us to have an even bigger impact in the lives of our young people.”
So far this year GO has welcomed 170 new Scholars to the family across primary school and high school, and the figure is set to increase with a new round of applications in Term 1 of 2022.
The Research in Color Foundation – diversifying economics through mentorship
The Research in Color Foundation (Research in Color) is a US-based, nonprofit organisation which is dedicated to increasing the number and retention of racial and ethnic minorities in economics through mentoring and financial support. It was founded in 2019 by Chinemelu Okafor, currently a doctoral student at Harvard University.
“Economics directly influences policies across healthcare, education, criminal justice, and beyond, but economics as a discipline includes disproportionately few people of colour” Chinemelu explained. “When you exclude the viewpoints of marginalised groups, you restrict the range of economic insights available to policy makers, which can perpetuate economic and political disparities in everyday life. Our goal at Research in Color is to increase the number and retention of Ph.D. students of colour in economics and economics-adjacent disciplines, and to support meaningful economic and policy research on communities of colour, with the aim of achieving a more inclusive profession, and economically inclusive world.”
As is the case for many underrepresented minorities, Chinemelu’s own path into economics was non-linear, and required learning the “hidden curriculum,” which serves as a barrier for people not already read into the culture of academia generally, and economics specifically.
The turning point for Chinemelu was meeting her first mentor during her time at the World Bank Group. As she began finding her way, she committed herself to helping others find theirs as well – and so the idea for Research in Color was born.
Today, Research in Color is led by three Black women economists: Chinemelu who serves as President; Vice-President Rahma Ahmed, a doctoral candidate at the London School of Economics studying development economics; and Director of Operations, Odichinma Akosionu, a doctoral candidate at the University of Minnesota studying health policy.
"We believe that mentorship is powerful, because, if done correctly, it can not only help scholars advocate for themselves professionally, but it can have massive ripple effects – where those who had good mentors become good mentors themselves” said Chinemelu. “Research in Color has seen this work bear fruit in former mentees who have gone on to start their own advocacy non-profits as well as those who have committed themselves to academic research to help socially underserved or overlooked communities.”
"We believe that mentorship is powerful, because, if done correctly, it can not only help scholars advocate for themselves professionally, but it can have massive ripple effects – where those who had good mentors become good mentors themselves”
Shaping the future of economics
Research in Color matches minoritised scholars with established mentors in an 8-month personalised mentorship programme to prepare them for graduate school or a career in economics. The mentors oversee an independent research project of the mentees’ choosing, and advise them on the graduate school application process. In addition to one-on-one mentor training, the mentees also attend skill-building workshops on writing, coding, data science and statistics to improve their understanding of technical issues required for research in economics and related fields. The programme culminates with an annual conference where the mentees present their research projects to an economic and academic audience. Having completed the programme, Research in Color also offers mentees a 1000 USD stipend to help cover costs incidental to the PhD application process, and access to high-level fellowships with collaborating organizations.
To make sure the programme is equitable and easy to access, Research in Color has an open call for mentors and mentees advertised via social media channels (Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook). They also reach out directly to universities, in particular Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) as well as minority-serving institutions, and rely on a growing network of mentors and mentees to get the word out and attract people who believe in their mission.
Inspiring the next generation
Such is the demand for its programme that Research in Color has doubled its membership from 30 mentors and mentees to 72 in just two years.
RX’s donation will help provide scholarships to Research in Color mentees as they prepare for graduate school. “This can be an extremely expensive undertaking, which can be especially prohibitive” said Chinemelu. “RX’s generous contribution will also help support Research in Color’s administrative expenses to keep the organization alive and running.”
For more insights into Research in Color’s inspirational work, visit their website to ‘meet their mentees’, and check out their social media campaign #PaintTheProfession, which highlights the important research done by prospective Ph.D. students of color on communities of colour. “These are the stories of the next generation of economists, and these will be our future models of success” affirmed Chinemelu.
Readers can support Research in Color by donating directly to the organization.
In January 2020, RX pledged to donate $1M over five years to selected not-for-profit partners around the world who are working to improve inclusivity and diversity in their local communities by supporting social change, fighting injustice and fostering development. The Go Foundation and the Research in Color Foundation share the RX 2021 fund of $200K with our 2020 partners who continue to enjoy our support.