I’m realizing my word, my work and my focus this year is intentionality.
Being intentional has me trying to figure out what my purpose really is and what work I should be doing to help me achieve that purpose. I find myself cutting strings from individuals, groups, services and organizations that no longer suit me and the truth is, I probably don’t suit them either.
As I start on this more intentional path, it’s not easy to know what my purpose is meant to be but, it is a bit easier to know what it is not. I am a Black woman. I work in diversity, social justice, imperialism and representation as it presents in children’s literature but, I am not a DEI trainer. Oh, I’ve found myself working on the implementation of DEI in organizations, even on my campus and in my library with committees of like minded individuals but, this is not my skill set. I get so passionate about this work that it can be easy for me to confuse the various ways we teach and learn how to eliminate racism and bigotry and while each instance may require me to be present enough to connect and bear witness to things I don’t want to hear or say; to forgive things I find it hard to even to listen to and to then plod through on faith, each of these instances requires a completely different skill set.
Not all IPOC are willing or able to do this work.
The fact that DEI has become a billion dollar industry tells me most of you know this should not be unpaid labor.
I came to realize most of this after speaking to my son, someone who leads conversations to stimulate corporate change. He helped me to fully understand that this is not my work. I knew I was in a spot that didn’t seem quite right, so I asked him how should organizations, libraries, universities or corporations begin the process of DEI work? He wrote the following response and even though this isn’t my work, sharing this kind of information here is because more than just the books have to change. I realize many know that and are trying to figure out what they’re doing. I hope this helps.
Diversity, Equity, Inclusion: Where o I Start?
Yesterday I was asked where an organization should start their Diversity, Equity, Inclusion (DEI) journey. It’s a good question, I think it’s the right question to think about before starting. I answer this question with a few questions of my own.
Where is the company today?
Has the culture been (honestly) evaluated?
What does DEI mean for the company? Are they living up to their own expectations of this?
more plenty more questions I’d ask. Where to start will depend greatly based on the answers to these. I do know starting is better than staying on the side-line. I also know that starting with clear intentions is even better.
OK, while everything I just said is true, I realize that it didn’t answer the question at all. So
I believe lack of diversity to be a symptom of other issues inside the culture of an organization. For instance, typically a non-diverse culture is not inclusive.
People Change Management
Reflecting on the history and problems involved in getting us to where we are is vital. It is also important that we teach the skills needed to allow us to discuss where we go next. The goal is to change the way an organization thinks and works. To make this happen requires change management. A friend of mine refers to it as “people change management”. The steps involved are awareness, desire, knowledge, ability, and reinforcement. When it comes to people change management think of it as a continuum and everyone is starting at different places and moving along at their own pace; And that’s OK. Everyone doesn’t need to move at the same speed. Offering and teaching tools that individuals can use to help them where they are is key. Creating safety is critical as well. I know it has become a bit overused to say “safe space” however, the sentiment is correct. Psychological safety is the most important thing for all relationships and teams to thrive. In fact Google research agrees and found that 5 qualities that make a team great start with psychological safety.**
Also, a Harvard Business Review article about how Diversity can drive Innovation notes the following “Six behaviors, we have found, unlock innovation across the board: ensuring that everyone is heard; making it safe to propose novel ideas; giving team members decision-making authority; sharing credit for success; giving actionable feedback; and implementing feedback from the team.”
Where I Think You Should Start
I think organizations should start with building safety and conversation tools. I think setting the table is key to going deeper and making lasting change. I do also think starting anywhere is better than not starting at all. I will share a couple of companies that do excellent work in the DEI space: Mindful Training Solutions and Bridgeworks. If you’re interested in safety and tools reach out to me.
Epilogue: Food for Thought
I like to ask questions, so I want to leave you with a few more thoughtful questions around the topic.
When any meaningful change is made two aspects must be considered one is sustainability and the other is structure.
What structures are you putting in place to support the desired change?
What structure is in place to make it sustainable over a long period?
The initial learning is great. What is being done to focus on knowledge retention, practice, and growth?
Lastly, when talking about DEI we are discussing topics that come with a lot of baggage for all involved.
How are we supporting individuals as they try to do their day jobs and navigate towards improvement?
I say improvement because there is no end state. There is no achieving DEI. It is a constant conversation that must be nurtured and focused on over time.
Where do I begin this journey? I begin with myself and making sure that I see, hear, and value those around me so that we can build bridges together.
Rodney Campbell is Chief Vision Officer of More In Common. He is a self-proclaimed “jack of many and master of some”. Rodney’s goal is to teach others that connecting with people isn’t difficult it just requires a little compassion. His background includes 18 years of retail and technology sales and 6 years serving the Boys and Girls Clubs of Burbank and Venice on the Board of Directors.