March 30, 2021

Activate Now! : Approaching DEIB as fundamental, strategic, and collaborative

Bravely has been honored to host several webinars that created containers for hard conversations about the real and felt impact of a lack of diversity, equity, and inclusion for Black employees. Real Conversations on Blackness gave participants from all backgrounds a window into the lived experiences of their Black colleagues and to reflect on the context of this moment of renewed interest in DEI work.

Hakemia Jackson, Bravely Pro, called on people on the webinar to “Activate Now!” Her call to action inspires this post as we reflect on where we are currently and how we continue to stay active in the fight against oppression, starting in our workplaces. 

Our everyday lives at work reflect themes that are currently playing out on a global scale. As the world turns inward to examine the systems and institutions that benefit few on the backs of many, so, too, have our organizations and leaders been called to examine our complicity in systemic oppression. Identifying the gap between intention and impact is the first step on your Activation Journey. 

If acknowledgment is step one, what are your steps two, three, and four? Creating a plan of action and building in systems of accountability is the path to actual behavior change, and, eventually, systems change. It’s time to get strategic. 

Mindset shift: DEI is fundamental.

To capitalize on the momentum of the cultural moment for lasting change, we must make the mindset shift from viewing equity work as an add-on to understanding it as a fundamental part of the structure and success of a business. Seek ways to integrate DEI into your organization’s foundational success measures — and hold leaders accountable to these metrics! DEIB is expansive work that should shift your entire approach to your work. 

Everyone has a role to play in DEIB.

DEIB Strategist and Bravely Pro Dion Bullock explains, “We all have a role to play in creating DEIB within organizations. Based on your group membership, you may have a different role to play, given that you have different levels of access to power and privilege.” 

Identify your potential accomplices and allies who are ready to make change with you. The people who know how systems work are often from privileged backgrounds and can maneuver through bureaucracy to get things done. If that sounds like you, your role might be to: actively listen to the voices of the more marginalized in your organization, seek to understand their concerns and needs, and actively participate in finding potential solutions. 

Ask yourself: what are the formal processes are for getting things accomplished, and what are the informal ones? Who has access to which processes? Where can you bridge a gap? Where can you ask for help? 

Reflection questions

  1. Where have I, or my organization, been complicit in systems of harm and oppression? 
  2. Who is in my immediate sphere of influence, and how can I engage with them to move the needle toward becoming an anti-oppressive workplace? 
  3. Why now? Wrestle with the harder question of why not sooner? (Many POC and other marginalized groups are wondering why this is the moment that organizations are ready for change.)

Be a change maker, not a hero.

“I feel morally obligated to do something about this” and “I’m going to come in and save the day” are myths we tell ourselves. The figure of the hero — the person who singlehandedly brings about change — is an appealing one, but it’s not a productive way to think about DEIB. Whatever role you play in equity work won’t change the world, but all of us working together concertedly can. 

Meritocracy, or “bootstrap theory,” ignores a lot of societal/historical exclusion that keeps people from acting in self-determination. Cultivating diversity, equity, and inclusion in an organization is a step past meritocracy. DEIB work acknowledges that gaps in access and resources — based on race, class, and identity — exist. Ultimately, creating a more just and liberated workplace is about working toward self-determination: an environment in which everyone can set the direction for their own future and possibilities in the workplace.

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