Going strong two years since forming coalition
The Minnesota Business Coalition for Racial Equity (MBCRE) was formed two years ago in recognition of and response to the murder of George Floyd. Companies across the state of Minnesota, including General Mills, banded together and committed to do more – support efforts, lift up and help change the trajectory of systemic racism in our communities.
We sat down with Tiffani Daniels, managing director for MBCRE, to reflect on where we’ve been and what lies ahead.
Tell me about the Minnesota Business Coalition for Racial Equity.
After the murder of George Floyd, leaders from more than 75 business organizations came together to use their collective resources to address systemic racism. We have four pillars – Workplace, Philanthropy, Policy and Allyship -- that meet bi-weekly, along with member organizations that gather quarterly at our All Hands meeting to work towards an equitable, inclusive, and prosperous state with and for Black residents. We focus specifically on improved outcomes for the Black community in our state while honoring existing work already being done in the community.
What is your role with the organization? How has your career experience at General Mills and in brand management specifically prepared you for your work in MBCRE?
As the inaugural Managing Director for MBCRE and the only full-time employee, I am responsible for building the organization’s strategy, structure, and operational plans to address racial disparities in the state of Minnesota.
I was so intrigued by this role because it allowed me to put many of the skills I had built as a brand builder and general manager into practice. From the day I started at General Mills seven years ago, I was expected to lead - lead when I had low knowledge, lead through highly ambiguous situations and lead while I was learning a new category or space. My time at MBCRE has been similar. I am being exposed to new areas like the non-profit sector in Minnesota, the legislature and so many others so it is a lot of learning and leading at the same time.
MBCRE is a start-up, so the entrepreneurial principles from my time in General Mills’ G-works program and the experiences I had on small, low-resource brands are very helpful. A few years ago, I had the chance to lead a change initiative across North American Retail (NAR), so I pull from that experience every day as well.
What are some of the projects you are working on?
During this 2022 legislative session, we identified agenda priorities for members to support. We hired Fredrikson & Byron as our government relations partner to amplify our efforts and help us build the right connections in the legislature. I have been excited by the ways we can use our 75 member companies to amplify the issues related to Black Minnesotans. For example, we spoke out and encouraged members to reach out to their representatives via phone calls or email in support of Minnesota’s iteration of the CROWN Act, which has passed in more than a dozen states.
Black Media Initiative
In June, we are launching our one-year pilot program, where we will sponsor four targeted campaigns with Black-owned media outlets, which represent the diverse voices of the Black communities they serve. The campaigns will amplify MBCRE member events or other relevant topics such as Juneteenth, Black Philanthropy Month, and our 2022 Impact Report which will highlight the progress we have made over the last year.
Workplace Resource Guide
We created a tool to aid member companies with strategy development, data transparency, and leadership accountability as they build clear Diversity, Equity & Inclusion plans inside their organizations. So much of the power in MBCRE is in facilitating conversations across member organizations to learn from one another and adopt consistent practices for the sake of improving the experience of Black employees across our member companies.
What have been some of the biggest challenges to date?
MBCRE is a new organization, a start-up, so we have had to invest a good deal of energy and resources into how it should operate, identifying the right community partners and understanding how we deliver differential value to the robust conversation on racial equity taking place in this region at this moment.
What are you most proud of?
After the police killing of Amir Locke, due to a no-knock warrant, in February 2022, we hosted a Healing & Action session with Dr. Joi, where nearly 500 people attended. It was the first time that we intentionally engaged Black employees from our member companies, and it felt good to center their experience in a moment of sadness and needed healing while surfacing actions the business community can take to advance safe communities for all Minnesotans.
How have you partnered with other organizations in the Twin Cities and across Minnesota?
One of the principles of our work is to honor and amplify the work that is already happening in the community and not recreate the wheel. Each of our pillars reaches out to thought leaders and community partners to inform them of the initiatives we support. We have strong partners in GreaterMSP, our fiscal agent, who offers expertise in coalition-building and in the African American Leadership Forum, given its strong connection and insight into the most pressing topics Black Minnesotans are facing.
Are you currently seeking additional corporate partners? If so, what is typically the tipping point that makes them say ‘yes’?
Yes, we are looking to engage members, not only for the sake of growing membership, but we want those companies that are ready to challenge the status quo, examine their own practices and are willing to invest financial and/or human capital to build a more just and prosperous state with and for Black Minnesotans.
How does MBCRE fit into the broader work happening across Minnesota?
There are several efforts focused on racial equity and part of our job is to understand those efforts and help clarify opportunities for the business community to engage. MBCRE is one of the only groups that leverage the might and operational knowledge of employees from member companies in combination with the commitment of senior leaders. We acknowledge the need for transformation inside our member companies while we look to engage with the Black community.
Have you seen other cities follow suit or if not, are there cities who are also doing really great work that you are watching from afar?
I recently spent time with the Managing Director for the Corporate Coalition of Chicago and learned about some of the initiatives they are standing up and how they are approaching shifts in business practices across their members. There are also groups in other cities like Seattle, Atlanta, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles. We are working on bringing the leaders from these efforts together for us to learn from one another and connect.
Over the last few months, I have been identifying the areas where we want to focus our impact, articulating how we will work, and building a structure that will allow us to facilitate more action and to be more responsive to the needs of Black Minnesotans. Members have been excited about the changes and I am encouraged by the commitment our members continue to make to racial equity two years after this group was formed.
To learn more about MBCRE, visit mbcre.org.