Anti-racism: From Statements to Action

Our Director of Programs shares an inside-view of how Ei is addressing anti-racism and putting words and ideas into action.

Aaron Wilson-Ahlstrom

Director of Programs

Last July we made a commitment. Inspired by the Movement for Black Lives we challenged ourselves to move from being an organization that is not racist to an organization that is actively anti-racist. We know that challenging, messy work like this is better when we do it together. So we want to share with you how our anti-racism efforts are going and what we’ve been learning along the way.

OUR ROADMAP TO ANTI-RACISM (SO FAR)

Create an advisory board

Anti-racism work is complex, and it takes expertise to help make organizational change happen. We invited three friends, all BIPOC, each with decades of experience leading anti-oppression education and helping organizations increase diversity, equity and inclusion. We meet with the board each quarter, in tandem with our quarterly strategy retreats, so we can incorporate our anti-racism learning into our quarterly priorities and goals.

Develop shared language through Anti-Racism training.

Our core team participated in a one-day Intro to Systemic Racism workshop led by Crossroads, a national leader in helping organizations dismantle racism.

Make regular time for readings & discussion.

We’ve learned that good anti-racism work isn’t just about execution. There’s lots of learning and unlearning that need to happen. We’ve been making time on the second and fourth Fridays of the month to discuss readings, videos and other materials recommended to us by our Advisory Board.

Identify changes to our learning programs.

We’ve been auditing our existing programs, looking at whose voices and stories we use as examples, and making those more inclusive.

Identify changes to our work culture.

One of the things we learned in the Crossroads training (that was reinforced by this powerful article on White Supremacist Culture by Tema Okun), is that we often adopt values and ways of working together that, while not explicitly racist, help keep the status quo of racial inequity in place (more on this below).

WHAT ARE WE LEARNING?

Working from a sense of urgency can help sustain racism.

One dominant cultural value that we’ve been focusing on as a source of learning is Urgency. Urgency can also be thought of as practicing a scarcity mindset when it comes to time. As a small business, we’ve realized that needing to act immediately can keep us from implementing some of the anti-racist changes we want to make. For example, when we land a new project and want to bring new people onto the team, we go directly to our existing networks to find those people quickly. Because we work in the fields of design, entrepreneurship, and innovation, fields that have been white male-dominated, our default networks tend to be white male-dominated. But one of our goals is to diversify our team. We’re learning that takes time, and deliberate, proactive effort. So we’re building that lens into our hiring and onboarding process. And, because we know we can’t always avoid the need to act with urgency, we’re also doing deliberate work now to expand our networks so when the next urgent situation arises, we have a more diverse network to reach out to

Invest in facilitation.

Because doing anti-racism work is not just learning but also unlearning — which can be really uncomfortable and difficult — we’ve learned it’s important to have skilled facilitators who can hold space that helps people work through challenging material and feelings.

This is messy work.

Change can be uncomfortable, it can be hard to measure progress, and we often struggle with the feeling that we’re not doing enough. We try to celebrate small victories, and remind ourselves these problems didn’t get created overnight, and we’re going to need to be in it for the long haul. So consistency and longevity are more important than spectacular successes.

WHERE ARE WE GOING NEXT?

We’re doing work to expand our network (as mentioned above). If you know of an individual or organization working for equity in design, innovation, entrepreneurship, professional learning, that you think we should meet, let us know.

We’re continuing to look for better ways to measure progress and hold ourselves accountable.

Coming soon! We’ve created a new page on our upcoming new website for this work, to share regular updates on what we’re doing and learning.

If you’ve gotten this far, we appreciate your interest in and support of our work, and we’d love to hear from you: What are you learning? Who are you paying attention to? What is most challenging? And what’s been most helpful?

 

PS: This was part of our Wednesday Words series. Each week, we share articles on one main topic related to the future of work and learning. Sign up to learn more at: http://bit.ly/wednesdaywords

posted by

Aaron Wilson-Ahlstrom

Director of Programs

As Director of Programs, Aaron provides leadership and coordination for Ei’s college and workplace programming, and advises on K12 programming.

The spark you’ve been looking for.

Visit our store to find award-winning education tools used by individuals and teams around the world.