Katie Delp, a dedicated resident of historic South Atlanta for nearly 22 years, has experienced first-hand the transformative power of collaboration. She has the unique experience of both being a neighbor and a community partner through her previous role as executive director of Focused Community Strategies (FCS), a renowned, 40 year-old nonprofit based in the neighborhood. Delp leaned into her deep relationships with neighbors in Historic South Atlanta and her unwavering commitment to racial equity to drive FCS’ holistic and neighbor-focused initiatives.
FCS joined the Purpose Built Network in 2019, and in 2020, Purpose Built Communities (Purpose Built) selected Katie to join a small cohort of other neighborhood-based leaders as a Truist Foundation Racial Equity Ambassador. The Ambassadors’ program led by Purpose Built entails an eight-month fellowship program that equips the staff of Purpose Built Network Members with invaluable resources, training, coaching, and peer-to-peer learning centered around advancing racial equity within their organizations and throughout the neighborhoods in which their organizations are based. Inspired by her journey through the Ambassadors’ program, Katie expanded her involvement with Purpose Built, and now proudly serves as the organization’s senior vice president of network member support.
With the commencement of the 2023 ambassadorship program in January, Katie recalls her profound experience as an ambassador, and stresses the paramount importance of the program in catalyzing vital conversations and strategic initiatives through the lens of racial equity.
“In order to really understand the fight, you need to learn and place yourself in environments that challenge you and provide opportunities to learn,” said Katie. “Being an ambassador broadened my understanding of racial equity as a framework in place-based work and helped perfect our effective strategy at FCS. It was an excellent opportunity to work in collaboration with peers in the field and learn how we together can create systemic change.”
The annual program continues to make remarkable progress in enhancing the effectiveness of Purpose Built Network Members’ racial equity strategies, empowering organizational leaders with the necessary knowledge and skills to drive profound, transformative change within their communities. And Focused Community Strategies continues to be represented in the program. This year’s cohort includes current FCS staff, Danielle Clay, Director of Finance and Administration, and Candice Kelly, Community Development Advisor of The Lupton Center.
Now on the other end of the program – the delivery end on behalf of Purpose Built – Katie emphasizes that it is crucial to acknowledge remaining challenges to advancing racial equity on the horizon. The ongoing journey demands sustained commitment and collective effort to address the systemic barriers that persist.
“Working towards true equity is more than a job or a lifestyle choice. If you are doing this work well, it is something you never really arrive at – it’s an ongoing process. There is no checklist as to when you will reach your goals,” said Katie. “As an organization, Purpose Built is committed to meaningful short- and long-term action that gets us closer to a society where everyone can exist safely, live fully and thrive infinitely. This program is essential to ensuring that Purpose Built Network Members are aligned in how we can effectively push forward in this work.”
According to Katie, the issue must be a top priority for any place-based community model. Through understanding the historical and ongoing impact of racism on marginalized communities and actively working towards rectifying these inequities, place-based community organizations are able to confront and dismantle the deeply rooted systemic injustices that perpetuate racial disparities. This work strengthens community across neighborhoods and creates social cohesion, fostering environments where all individuals can thrive and contribute to the collective flourishing of the community.
“Racial equity has to be front and center in place-based work models, it needs to be both a strategic priority and a core value,” Katie said. “We must have open-minded conversations surrounding race. Recognizing the realities of systemic racism, both by listening to our neighbors and studying our context, guides our efforts and makes our vision for equitable, thriving communities possible.”