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Taking Stock: Turning Inward on Your Racial Justice Journey, Part 2

Shannon Johnson / September 2020

For more on racial justice from Blue Garnet, check out our other essays in this series: 1, 2, 3, 4.

Welcome back to Part 2 of this “Taking Stock” essay. Part 1 focused on taking stock as an individual. Now that we’re all self-aware leaders (ok…at least have started our personal journeys), we are better equipped to lead our organizations through the transformational change to center racial justice.

“Taking stock” at the organization-level starts with addressing 5 key questions:

  1. How has systemic racism impacted your organization?
  2. Who are you hiring, and how are you orienting and developing them to support a culture of racial equity?
  3. [For philanthropies] Who are you funding, and are you investing in organizations led by people most proximate to the challenges of their communities?
  4. How are you resourcing your efforts to center racial equity?
  5. How will you manage this organizational transformation to center racial equity?

One quick note before we dive in. Think about who needs to be “at the table” when you’re answering these questions.  A poll during NP Quarterly’s “Beyond the Board Statement: How Can Boards Join the Movement for Racial Justice?” webinar showed that while 70% of participant organizations had issued a public statement addressing racial equity since the murder of George Floyd, only half (52%) of those organizations involved their board in framing it.  Your organization cannot make transformational change without the support of your board. They need to be involved of the process if you truly are going to center racial justice. Ok – back to our five questions:

Q1: How has systemic racism impacted your organization?

Even if your organization’s mission does not explicitly tackle racial justice, look at your mission, programs, and history through a “racial justice lens.” Ask yourself – how has systemic racism played a part in our history? How has it impacted our constituents? Staff? Leaders? Who has benefitted and how? Involve your board and staff, and acknowledge that searching for this truth is going to get uncomfortable.  Once you’ve acknowledged this history and context, you can start to figure out what to do about it.

A good example is The National Park Conservation Association. Last year, it published its Statement of Intentions which included: “We also know our visionary founders marginalized certain people. We were not always on the right side of justice; we helped pioneer the concept of public lands but excluded important voices in the creation of national parks and our organization. And many of our national parks and public lands were created by forcibly removing those who called them home. That history cannot be unlived, but facing these difficult truths allow us to do our best work going forward.”

Let’s be honest about our history, then commit to changing the path of our future.

Q2: Who are you hiring, and how are you orienting and developing them to support a culture of racial equity?

Who is more equipped to fight for racial justice than those who have experienced the trauma of systemic racism firsthand? Moreover, there is a multitude of studies showing the benefits of workforce diversity, including increased innovation and financial gains. Having a diverse workforce (or at least adopting policies to work towards increasing diversity) is also a tangible symbol of your authentic commitment to centering racial justice.

One way to get real data and hold yourself accountable to equitable hiring practices (and funding practices, too!) is to conduct a “Diversity Audit.”  In order to do so,

  1. Articulate who your constituency specifically is (e.g. all African American youth in the City of Los Angeles).
  2. Beyond your constituency, discuss other ways is it important for your organization to be diverse, including – but not limited to – race/ethnicity, gender, age, income level, sexual orientation, physical and cognitive abilities, religious beliefs, immigration status, etc.
  3. Gather your “baseline” diversity data for how many of your board, management, and staff fit your prioritized diversity/social justice categories.

Beyond recruiting a diverse board or hiring a diverse workforce, you need to think about retaining them. Will your culture and norms allow Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) members of board and staff to bring their authentic selves to work, or will they be required to adapt to a white-dominant culture, or serve as the token voice for their entire community? Do your salary and promotion policies ensure equity across marginalized populations? In answering these questions, check your retention numbers. Without realizing it, you may be struggling to retain diverse talent with valuable perspectives and ideas that you worked so hard to bring in. If you do happen to lose diverse team members, be sure to conduct an exit interview to better understand why.

We know that collecting sensitive information like this is not easy. It may help to keep the data anonymous, share only consolidated totals, and communicate that the purpose is to promote racial justice.  Or you can hire a third party like Blue Garnet to help collect and draw insights from this information for you.

Once you know the “baseline,” set diversity targets for where you want your organization to be in the future. Then make an action plan for how to get there, and hold yourself accountable to results.

Q3: For philanthropies, who are you funding, and are you investing in organizations led by people most proximate to the challenges of their communities?

“Fund us like you want us to win” was a rallying cry to philanthropies from South Los Angeles community leader Gloria Walton, at a Southern California Grantmakers conversation we attended back in June.  This quote really hit home for us. While the social sector may be well-intentioned, philanthropic redlining exists. A recent Bridgespan report found that organizations led by People of Color win less grant money than those with white leaders. And budgets for white-led organizations were 24% higher than those led by People of Color. We want to lift up Ms. Walton’s rallying cry to every philanthropic ear. It’s time to do the work – to transition your DEI statements to grantmaking decisions.

Start by taking inventory of your past grants. What does board and executive leadership look like at the organizations you fund? How does that compare with the communities the grantees serve? And how do you make it easier (or harder) for organizations led by community leaders to access and ensure your partnership? This simple step can help open eyes to implicit biases that exist in your organization’s grantmaking.

Similar to Q2 above – once you know your funding diversity “baseline” – review and adapt your policies, set future diversity goals, and develop an action plan to achieve them. (Pro Tip: You can conduct a diversity audit for your grantees using the same approach above).

Q4: How are you resourcing your efforts to center racial equity?

As we all know, transforming your organization to center racial justice takes significant time and resources. If you are making a genuine commitment, you need to allocate appropriate staff capacity and budget to support the process of transformation. Think of your budget as a “moral document,” as it illuminates your organization’s true priorities. Take a look at yours and consider if you’re “putting your money where your mouth is:”

  • Do you have funds for emergent, equity-focused strategies (e.g. programmatic changes, advocacy)?
  • Where are the funds for on-going equity training for staff, leaders, and Board members?
  • Take a deeper look at your compensation across gender, race/ethnicity, age, and other social justice characteristics. If you find implicit bias in your compensation practices – do the work to make it right.
  • Do you have funds to hire people or consultants to help inform and execute this transformation? Most organizations are stretched thin already. Simply adding these responsibilities to someone’s already full plate will reduce the likelihood of achieving your results.

Question 5: How will you manage this organizational transformation to center racial equity?

For most organizations, centering racial justice is a significant, foundational change that will require thoughtful, strategic change management. Every organization will encounter resistance and roadblocks, because change is hard. Each individual transitions at their own pace, “letting go” of the way things used to be. Kotter’s 8-step process (see visual) is a helpful framework to execute transformation. Additionally, working to create shared leadership and an inclusive culture will provide a stable foundation to see this change through.

We know that “taking stock” is just the first step in a long journey to center racial justice. Blue Garnet is on the same journey. Though we may have started our journey earlier, we’re still learning, too. What steps have you taken (or want to take)?  Let us know if you need a strategic thought partner to take steps towards racial justice and to manage this change at your organization.

For more on racial justice from Blue Garnet, check out our other essays in this series: 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.1.

Taking Stock: Turning Inward on Your Racial Justice Journey, Part 1

Shannon Johnson / September 2020

(This is part 5 in our racial justice essay series. Read more in our other posts: introduction, taking a systems view, getting proximate, defining goals, and taking stock Part 2)

The Blue Garnet team is encouraged that a large number of people and organizations have been sparked into action in response to the current racial justice movement. We’ve seen numerous organizations publish “diversity and inclusion” statements, or share their ideas on how to make their organization more equitable.  We think this is a great first step – in fact, our last blog focused on developing a long-term vision for racial justice.

Yes – we are encouraged…or maybe cautiously optimistic is more accurate. We don’t want this racial justice movement to mirror what happened last year with the Business Roundtable’s “Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation.” When 187 CEOs of major public corporations promised to “deliver value” to all STAKEholders, not just SHAREholders, it was considered a major milestone in corporate social responsibility (also noted in another BG blog). However, just one year later, the statement has been called a scam and “should be viewed largely as a PR [public relations] move rather than as the harbinger of a major change.”    

Please don’t let that happen here – this moment is too important. We need to hold ourselves accountable to doing better for racial justice. It’s time to transition from PR statements to action, and every journey starts with a single step.

In our experience, your first step should be to “take stock,” starting first with yourself, and then for your organization. As an individual— you need to understand the facts and history around systemic racism in the United States, recognize unconscious or implicit biases you hold (we all do!), and address your relationship with our racist systems. These are critical steps in mitigating our individual attitudes and actions. Whether we like to acknowledge it or not, we all have implicit biases and the vast majority of us are racist to some degree. And while structural racism may not be our fault, it falls upon us to address it and its impact on our community. A higher level of personal preparation better positions you to lead any transformational work on racial justice in your organization.

Taking stock individually often involves turning inward with a few questions:

  1. What is my personal relationship with systemic racism and Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) populations?
  2. What are my own implicit biases and blind spots?
  3. How does this show up in my life? Through my (implicit and explicit) attitudes and actions, how have I contributed to, or alleviated, the impact of systemic racism?
  4. What antidotes and changes do I need to take on, so that I might be a more effective leader in my organization and change agent in general?

This deep reflection is a journey, and it’s not easy – it will cause discomfort, but we need to forgo the right to comfort. Tema Okun, social justice advocate and facilitator, writes:

 “Understand that discomfort is at the root of all growth and learning; welcome it as much as you can; deepen your political analysis of racism and oppression so you have a strong understanding of how your personal experience and feelings fit into a larger picture; don’t take everything personally.

At Blue Garnet, we’ve made some space for members of our community (clients and fellow team members) to take on this self-reflection. Here are some recommendations for how you might support this deeply personal, and profoundly important, journey:

  • Be humble and acknowledge that there is a lot that you don’t know. Take this Harvard assessment to help uncover your implicit biases.
  • Do your best to actively listen and learn. Review and reflect on Tema Okun’s characteristics of White Supremacy Culture (note these are applicable to all dominant and existing systems, not just for white individuals). Some of our other favorite resources include Racial Equity Institute Phase 1 training, the “Seeing White” Podcast, Awake to Woke to Work training, and Community Coalition-South LA activist training.  Looking for more? Check out Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation-Los Angeles and Racial Equity Resource Guide to find additional racial equity organizations, guides, workshops, and resources.
  • Be vulnerable and open to feedback. While it may be uncomfortable, encourage a trusted friend (or, to avoid tokenizing, find an “accountability partner”) to illuminate your blind spots. Ask clarifying questions to understand. Speak for yourself and share your experience with others.
  • Expand your “community” and connect with people that are different from you to broaden your perspectives and get external feedback; get plugged in.
  • Know that you can change your personal (and eventually, organizational) behaviors and practices, as Dr. Bryant Marks, Sr. encourages leaders through his training efforts nationally. 

Self-reflection and learning are ongoing disciplines, and the Blue Garnet team is right beside you. What self-reflection tips or resources would you add? If you need a coach or accountability partner during this journey (or just have some questions), please don’t hesitate to reach out.

As a leader in your organization, your individual journey will ultimately cross into your organization’s journey. When it does, don’t forget to “take stock” there, too. We know the asks above are a lot to process, so we’ve broken this blog into 2 parts. In Part 2, we’ll turn to “Taking Stock” at your organization. Sneak peek: we share perspective and resources on these 5 questions:

  1. How has systemic racism impacted your organization?
  2. Who are you hiring, and how are you orienting and developing them to support a culture of racial equity?
  3. [For philanthropies] Who are you funding, and are you investing in organizations led by people most proximate to the challenges of their communities?
  4. How are you resourcing your efforts to center racial equity?
  5. How will you manage this organizational transformation to center racial equity?

 

For more on racial justice from Blue Garnet, check out our other essays in this series: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.2.


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