Is it ok to celebrate an inch? Takeaways from 2023

Hi y’all, 

A theme we’ve seen throughout the year with our clients is folks feeling disheartened because their DEI and racial equity work didn’t make as much progress as they’d hoped.

We’ve watched staff managing the fallout from layoffs, funding gaps, resource reallocation, hiring, pay, and promo freezes, leaders unwilling to take a stand against the gross injustices in the world, and the outright targeting/defunding of equity work.

It’s exhausting. And yet, we don’t give into despair; we don’t let them either. 

We want to share with you some of what we tell our clients:

  1. First and foremost, this work is about relationships. Full stop, exclamation point! Your big win of the year might be that the crew of folks committed to this work took care of each other as human beings. That you were able to hold space for the disappointment and turmoil. The most important KPIs aren’t measured in numbers. How did it feel to be in DEI/racial equity related meetings? How did you care for folks, how did you protect the most vulnerable, how did you hold leaders accountable with the levers you did have available? Remember, it’s not just that we do this work but how we do it. Centering relationships and our humanity is central if we aren’t replicating harm.
  1. There will be times you move this work along by strides and moments you move it along by inches. The most important part is you don’t stop moving even if it’s a centimeter at a time. A client of ours who has a big budget, and a big team committed to DEI, only made significant headway on two of their ten deliverables for 2023. We still celebrated. It was a win because in spite of a hostile environment created by leadership, this group showed deep love and care for each other. The deliverables they did achieve created community across the organization and kept the work alive. We also found subversive ways to move the needle a little at a time –we take on white supremacy with whatever tools we got!
  1. You won’t fix everything and you certainly can’t fix it by sacrificing yourself. Too many folks devoted to this work are burned to a crisp. We specifically recognize folks of color and the expectations placed at your feet. This work requires a deep bench and the mentality to celebrate (not resent) folks’ stepping back so they can care for themselves. We were never meant to be doing this work alone, if we’re going to make it over the long haul it will require community. Creating a culture of racial equity for most organizations is a 5 to 8 year play. Strides and inches the whole way!

We don’t offer the above as a way to make excuses. There’s a difference between people truly committed to doing this work (who are still going to make mistakes and drop balls) and folks doing it to check a box or placate. This message is for the former. 

If any of this resonates with you, please know you get to celebrate the inches. You can still have an analysis around all the gaps, keep your fire (and the receipts) but don’t forget as the year wraps up to give yourself some credit too.

Let’s go get free!

PS- We’re kicking off a program in January called Pathways to Liberation, you can learn more about it here

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