When a Conversation Takes a Serious Turn

| by Shannon Williams

Last week I had the opportunity to meet Katherine Ngaruiya (Kat). We had a video call scheduled, but technology was not my friend, so it turned into a phone call. Here we were two professionals sharing our career journeys and present engagements—simply getting to know one another.

Somewhere along the conversation the subject of diversity, equity and inclusion rose to the surface.  All of a sudden, I appreciated the irony of our failed video call. I loved that we had this discussion without the biases that come from eyeballing someone. We were just two professionals engaged in conversation.

Following the conversation, Kat shared a resource that I want to share with you as well. It is from the National Council of Non-Profits and it discusses why diversity, equity and inclusion matters, but it goes a step further. It gives practical resources to help you start the conversation with your team, your board, your volunteers, or donors. I am pretty sure we will be digging into a couple of these resources at the next Armstrong McGuire team meeting.

I don’t think it is hard to see the benefits of diversity, equity, and inclusion. As the Council says, “For some organizations, the moral imperative of equity may be enough to spur action. Others may be moved by data showing that diversity can boost the quality of decision-making and that a diverse workplace can encourage people to be “more creative, more diligent, and harder-working.” Studies have also shown that a more diverse staff can foster enhanced innovation. And when board members, employees, and others who shape the values and activities of a nonprofit come from a wide array of backgrounds, they each bring unique perspectives that shape, blend, and influence how to advance the nonprofit’s mission and solve problems in potentially more innovative ways.”

Understanding why it is important is not rocket science, but for some reason living it seems to be a lot harder to figure out. We all know that both the eye test and the statistics tell us that the non-profit sector is not diverse in its leadership—staff or volunteers. I would like to think we are better on the inclusive piece, but without diverse teams are we simply kidding ourselves?

I do know that including diversity, equity and inclusion in our value statements is a first step. But the next step is even more important and that is talking about how you overlay all your organizational values across everything thing you do and every decision you make. How do you make those values actionable for staff, volunteers, and clients and how do you hold one another accountable to that?

Clearly, there is not a quick fix. But if there are more conversations between the Kat’s and Shannon’s of the world, if there are more resources shared, if there is more collective will to embrace these values and hold one another accountable to them, we can orchestrate change that will help us bring creative solutions to complex problems. The problems are already there. How are we going to attack them differently?

Thanks, Kat for the conversation and the inspiration!

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