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Racial Equity with Intentionality

Racial Equity with Intentionality

On January 13th I joined in a virtual workshop on the subject of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) entitled Racial Equity with Intentionality offered by The Nonprofit Partnership, in conjunction with Aspire.  The goal of this workshop was to define different ‘lanes’ of equity and prepare administrators in the nonprofit sector for building their own framework around DEI.  Additionally, this workshop inspired attendees to reassess their organization’s DEI statements with this new lens.  The primary facilitators of this workshop were Diane Burbie and Evonne Gallardo of The Aspire Group.

The first task in this workshop was to have the participants share ‘where we are in the work’ – in other words, are we just beginning to consider how DEI plays a role in our organization’s essential functions?  Have we already drafted a DEI statement?  What explicit actions have we taken to work towards our goals?  The facilitators then reviewed definitions of key terms – equity, racial equity, cultural equity – to ensure we were all on the same page.  The definition of cultural equity (the values, practices, and policies that ensure all people are represented in the development of policy and the fair and equitable distribution of cultural resources) resonated with me as the ‘lane’ that the ENC most likely identifies with.  Staying in this lane ensures we are aware of all marginalized and historically underrepresented groups.

One of the biggest take-aways from this workshop was trying to answer the question, “how do you integrate a measurable framework throughout your organization?”.  Diane shared that in order to move from talk to action, one must exceed a simple ‘casual brainstorm’ at a staff meeting and COMMIT to being proactive.  Brainstorms get people fired up but rarely yield results.  All employees are stakeholders in DEI, so all must be held accountable in some way to taking on action items that work on these goals.  Monthly deadlines, goals, or check-ins are helpful.

A good DEI statement should be a living document the illuminates the values that support who you are and articulates how you demonstrate your commitment (in the past, present, and future).  A good DEI statement must also acknowledge past wrong-doing or past lack of equity.  Using phrases such as “We acknowledge that our field…” or “…longstanding issues around” can but helpful.  Make the task the decision of what’s important to us – not wordsmithing.

Some organizations fall into the trap of hiding behind the apathy of a diverse facade.  Simply hiring what you define as a ‘diverse staff’ does not solve all your problems (especially if everyone at the top and on the board is NOT diverse).  People can remain blind to the fact that “things are baked into our cake”.  In other words, changing a company culture requires more than just diversifying staff.  It can all start with an internal (or external) assessment – who is not represented or underrepresented?  The results of your assessment lead to goal-setting, the development of your approaches, and finally your desired outcomes and impact.  This is all very similar to strategic planning so it seems like a logical step is to embed DEI into one’s strategic plan.  Logic models can be used to finesse this process.

I think the ENC has already made so many great strides in the area of DEI and it was affirming to know that we’re thinking about things with the right lens.  But that doesn’t mean we should pat ourselves on the back just yet – DEI is a continual process that needs attention and this is just the beginning! If you are part of or know of a great civic or cultural organization committed to inclusive change that would be interested in collaborating with the ENC to promote diversity, equity and inclusion within our organizations, I’d love to hear from you! You can email me at Mindy@encenter.org .

– Mindy Schwartz, ENC Education Director

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