A global health crisis was the tipping point for our organizations and our feebly constructed lives both to come tumbling down. The uneven global response to the health crisis illuminated how carefully we have built inequity into the systems and structures that we call society. As a result, it has been the great test of humanity to activate our collective will in order to protect each other and ourselves. Clearly, adversity is testing our resilience in a new way.
There is now new attention being paid to how pervasive racism is within our organizations. This challenges us to not only reframe how mindful we are about personal responsibility, but to take concerted action in erasing inequity.
This is the time for leaders to step up and admit that the enterprises they direct are designed to benefit some groups while they disenfranchise others.
It is time to do the hard work of breaking apart static legacy systems and commit to the continuous work of building new systems that undoubtedly serve the greater good. It is time to do the deep work and interrogate why you may think that your organization (or field, or sector)is already doing good enough or right enough. We have been forced into a new landscape and this gives us the opportunity to ask ourselves whether we will re-create structural and systemic racism.
In this forced re-set, we have a brilliant opportunity to make equity our default position. By definition, achieving equity means that we are not looking to achieve the idea of equal or standard. Fighting for equity within our organizations recognizes the need to fight for investments of time, resources, people and practices to right lasting wrongs.
Make no mistake about it, this is hard work. And it is an investment into the daily wellbeing of people around us, not to mention our collective future, that heightens the stakes, yet makes the work all the more necessary.
Despite the difficulties, it is inspiring to see many leaders already seizing the opportunity for long-term impact. For example, the Greater Chicago Food Depository’s strong advocacy and decisive action led to the creation of a grant program that extends dignity to those who must access an emergency food network.
The Food Depository is not alone. Another example is the new group of 25 nonprofit executives who have collectively begun building a community of practice to advance inclusion in their organizations and their field at large, understanding that it may be an uphill battle to challenge long-held traditions.
This is good news. Progressive leaders are redetermining the path for defining sustainable organizations by centering equity in their approach, mission, and work every day.
We are also starting to witness how philanthropic and corporate organizations are making larger than ever investments in education and human services in Black and Brown communities as well as gradually diversifying corporate ranks.
Critics will remind us that the actions being taken today could have happened a long time ago and are still not enough. While true, we must leverage today’s power of collective action. It is possible to illuminate your goodness in the company of leaders and organizations who are finding a new resiliency by centering equity in what you do and how you do it.