When we addressed the subject of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Access (DEIA) two years ago it was a charge to nonprofit leaders and boards to take the subject seriously in reflecting the social justice mission of so many nonprofits, associations, and congregations across the country. In that time, the initiatives to make boardrooms more diverse have largely not produced a change in representation as revealed by BoardSource and Nonprofit Quarterly.
It appears that classroom learning alone is not yielding any measurable progress in Diversity and Inclusion. The steps that need to be taken must go deeper. All of us who want to make an impact must go much deeper.
Part of the cultural shift is nonprofit leaders committing to creating their learning pathways and being open to where it leads to in terms of self-discovery as well as greater understanding and deeper enjoyment of others.
At Third Sector Company, we are taking steps to ensure that DEIA is integrated into everything we do. It is not a segregated discussion or some kind of initiative. It is a fundamental shift in the way we are doing business that is redefining our own leadership culture, even when it does not lead to easy answers.
“DEIA is not a benchmark to aspire and then fulfill so that we can say, ‘Been there, done that,’ says Erin Rodenbiker, Senior Creative Strategist. “But recognizing that culture and organizations change, and we must, too, in the way we conduct ourselves in relationship to others.”
In our training programs, it is now standard practice for us to create classrooms norms and frameworks where we invite micro-aggression to be discussed and defined by the group; and, then, micro-aggressions are called by participants and more voices are being added that shape the lens of DEIA as part of all our education goals and curricula.
“The concepts of inclusion and access have so many more applications than we think,” says Randy Brinson, Senior Strategist for Board and Executive Leadership Development. “I recently presented a conference workshop that was attended by representatives from a very wide range of organizational sizes. While we always teach that ‘one size does not fill all’ when it comes to governance strategies and other best practices, being in that room with such a wonderfully diverse group drove home for me how important that concept really is. Whatever our work may be, we are most effective when we can open our minds and meet people where they are, instead of expecting them to see things our way.
“I am doing a lot more ‘check-ins’ with diverse people“, says Jeffrey R. Wilcox, President and Chief Advancement Officer. “This helps me to better understand how various concepts I may have presented or discussions I may have led or participated in have landed with individuals. I am constantly asking people, who are not like me, about how they experience me and seek their feedback on ways for me to show up ready for meaningful and respectful engagement with everyone.”
Interim Executives Academy aspires to be tops in the United States for discussing with practicing and aspiring interim leaders how to become “disruptive innovators” during their interim engagements. During a leadership transition, a well-informed interim can effectively address the DEIA culture at a nonprofit and view the transitional leadership role as a unique and invaluable capacity-building opportunity.
“We believe the numbers regarding diversity as reported by such groups as BoardSource is not going to change unless interim leaders call-out and enact strategies during their tenures,” says Wilcox. “We further believe that making DEIA central to the interim leadership management model can begin to reverse cultures and traditions at risk of holding back DEIA in organizations and throughout the entire nonprofit sector.”
The opportunity to advance DEIA in the nonprofit sector has significant potential if leaders are willing to undertake a responsible form of activism to call out micro-aggressions, uncover the role that institutional racism is having on the operating culture, and recast the lenses of governance, fundraising, planning and talent resourcing from outdated charitable and antiquated privilege practices that hold organizations back from realizing its mission.
At Third Sector Company, we are now advancing the concept of creating the IDEAL situation; which stands for Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access as a Lived Experience for every person in the organization. We hope that our interim leaders feel trained and supported by their peers at our organization to be the “disruptive leaders” that are so desperately needed right now to turn an IDEAL into a new reality.
To hear more in their own words from Third Sector Company senior leaders on DEIA, please visit their LinkedIn posts:
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