Jessica Payne will briefly explore the movement towards cultural competence within social justice work while affirming key definitions and understanding how cultural competence impacts our work internally and externally.
Steven: All right, Jessica, I got 1:00 your time, 4:00, my time. Is it okay if I go ahead and get this party started?
Jessica: Yes, let’s do it.
Steven: All right, awesome. Well, good afternoon, if you’re joining us live. And if you’re watching the recording, I hope you’re having a good day, no matter where you are. We are here to talk about cultural competence, what it is, why it matters, and most importantly, how you can incorporate it into the work your organization does. So thanks so much for being here. We’re going to have fun over the next hour. So I’m Steven. I’m over here at Bloomerang. And I’ll be moderating today’s discussion as always.
And just a couple of quick housekeeping items, just want to let you all know that we are recording this session. And we’ll be sending out the recording as well as the slides later on today. So if you have to leave early, or maybe get interrupted by a family member, or a toddler or something, don’t worry, we’ll send you the recording later on today. I’ll get that out to you right after we adjourn here.
But most importantly, please feel free to chat in on the Q&A box. There’s a chat box. You can use either of those. But either way, we’d love to hear from you. We’re going to save some time at the end for Q&A. So don’t be shy, ask questions, introduce yourself in the chat if you haven’t already done so. We’d love for these to be interactive and we’d love to know a little bit more about who we’re talking to. You can also tweet us I’ll keep an eye on Twitter for those comments as well. But yeah, we’d love to hear from you.
And if this is your first Bloomerang webinar, I just want to say an extra special welcome to all you folks. We do these webinars now a couple of times a week. We love doing them. We always bring on a great guest for a totally educational presentation. Today is no exception by any means. But if you’ve never heard of Bloomerang, just for context, we’re a provider of donor management software. So if you’re interested in that, maybe you’re shopping for the software before the end of the year into next year, check us out. You know, we’re pretty easy to find online. You can watch all kinds of videos and kind of get a sense for what we’re all about. But don’t do that right now because this is a very important presentation. It’s going to be a good one. I’ve had a chance to peek at the slides from our guest joining us from beautiful Los Angeles, Jessica Payne. Jessica, how you doing? You’re doing okay.
Jessica: Yeah, I’m doing great. Thanks for having me.
Steven: This is awesome. This is great to have you. We’ve been talking about this for a year, literally. We did a quick audible on the topic, given the importance of this topic and today’s world that we’re living in. So super excited to have you join us. If you don’t know Jessica, check her out. She’s got two really cool organizations that she runs. One is Mockingbird Analytics, which you’re going to want to check out. They do a lot of research and evaluation for nonprofits. She’s also the co-founder of a really cool incubator called Mockingbird Incubator. So if you’re listening, either live or on the recording, if you are kind of an emerging nonprofit, check that out. She’s got a really cool program that she puts those emerging nonprofits through. And they end up getting a grant at the end and get really good guidance on things for governance, through fundraising, you know, all those things you need to have in place.
And the thing I really like about Jessica, and something I look for in all of our guests is she’s been in your shoes. She’s been a nonprofit employee. She’s been in the CASA world, also worked with some of the municipal groups there in LA, as well as with Homeless Services Authority. So a lot of expertise, definitely knows what she’s talking about. And I’m excited because this is not a topic that I know a lot about, which I’m also excited for. So, Jessica, I’m going to stop sharing. I’ll let you bring up your beautiful slides, and it’ll be your floor.
Jessica: Perfect. Thank you so much.
Steven: Cool. Looks like it’s working.
Jessica: There we go. There’s the presentation. Okay. Let me pull all these things out of the way, so I can actually read. Thank you so much, everybody, for joining us. It is such a privilege to be here. I always like to start off this presentation acknowledging my own white privilege in this moment. I am a white woman. And I am not always on the receiving end of the negative impact of cultural incompetence, and maybe not always the right person to have a conversation about it. But I’m here to have sort of an open and honest conversation about what cultural competence means in nonprofit work and how we can do that a little bit better. I welcome any voices. And I definitely would love to hear your sort of input into the presentation as well, acknowledging sort of where I come from versus other people’s experience.
So just to get started with a little bit of information, our mission is to help nonprofit organizations tell their story through data. And that doesn’t just mean research and evaluation, that means grant writing, that means strategic planning, database work. Bloomerang is one of the databases that we recommend to our clients consistently, so that they have lots of places and lots of good tools to do their work.
A little bit about us really briefly. I won’t read you this whole thing. But I started Mockingbird Analytics in 2015. And as of 2019, we founded our incubator program because our clients are mainly small to medium-sized nonprofits who are looking to scale and grow their work. We primarily work on infrastructure issues, and the range of our work is really broad. I like to think of us as a yes/and company. So whatever your issues are when it comes to fundraising, strategy, technology, I said, fundraising, evaluation, and research, we can help you find the solution to them.
So the goals for our workshop today is, number one, we want you to walk away with a really good definition of cultural competence. There’s a lot of sort of variations on this out there that are really great. This is the one that we as an organization really find it speaks to our mission. We also want you to leave with an understanding of why cultural competence is important in nonprofit work. I think it goes without saying a lot of the times and that becomes something that we take for granted. So it’s important to really revisit why cultural competence is the backbone of much of why we tried to do the work that we do.
And then last, I want you to be able to take away at least one step for your organization that you can make actionable to integrate cultural competency into your organization, whether that’s on an individual level for you, the person that’s attending this, or that’s something that you can take to your organization as a whole, with leadership to implement it across the board for everyone.
So, right off the bat, what is cultural competence? I really like to start with this sort of bottom quote about cultural competence. I’m trying to move this out of the way, so I can actually . . . it. So cultural competence is really about acknowledging and respecting differences at the end of the day. It’s through having enough empathy, understanding, and humility to help others get what they need to thrive and acknowledging that everyone’s needs are different.
A quote I that always comes to mind in this moment, thinking about that definition is, we might all be in the same storm, but we’re in different boats. So important to acknowledge the difference in everybody’s boats and whether their boats are sufficient or the storm we’re in right now, the storm of 2020.
But two ways, I also want to contextualize this definition are, number one, from an individual perspective. Cultural competence is really a framework for developing your individual deep understanding of how cultural differences impact your work on an individual level to the people you serve. And you should evolve over time as you get to know the people that you serve and develop a new level of awareness, skills, and knowledge, and continue your own self-assessment to increase your cultural awareness.
Number two, on an organizational level, you want an organization that really integrates knowledge about individuals into your practices, your standards for the work you’re doing, the attitudes that you approach to work with. And really, at the end of the day, most importantly, implement that within the quality of services that you provide to address actual disparity within the communities that you’re working on, not just on the individual level, but on the policy level as well. Policy is something I think really gets forgotten in the day to day conversations that we’re having on a one-to-one basis with individuals receiving services. But if we really want to impact homelessness and climate change, and many of the social issues that we’re all working on, policy is one of the biggest potential impacts on addressing those disparities.
So, with that definition in mind, why is this important in a nonprofit? And I think a lot of us really already know this, but I think it’s important to revisit this, especially in light of the year that we’ve had because we really need to go back and look at our sort of motivators at the end of the day. Initially, the concept of cultural competence was really born out of a desire for an ethical decision-making model in specifically healthcare services. But that’s really grown a lot to encompass all service-based nonprofit, social justice, racial justice work.
This is also important in nonprofits because racial and cultural divisions that have existed, have existed unacknowledged for a really long time. And this year, especially those things are being uncovered. And we need to acknowledge how our work in the past has resulted in intentional and sometimes unintentional harm to marginalized groups. So it’s important to remember that that is sort of a guiding vision in our work. It’s not only do no harm but what is actual intentional versus unintentional harm we might be causing through our work.
Last but not least, cultural competency is really important in nonprofit work because disparities in access are prevalent across, not just nonprofit work, but throughout healthcare, throughout the environment and access issues that we all have. So important to keep in mind, why we’re addressing cultural competence is because it really deep down is about the disparities that we see, and our own desire to make those better by meeting people where they are.
So I want to boil this down and ask all of you really, how comfortable do your employees or clients feel speaking about their culture? Is it common in your culture for people to be able to celebrate their own holidays? And how comfortable would they be speaking up about something that made them feel uncomfortable in their work environment? If your answer isn’t sort of abundantly yes, absolutely, people feel comfortable, or there’s no moment anybody feels uncomfortable, then I would encourage a moment of self-reflection, especially for the people in the room who are coming from a dominant culture, to examine whether they might feel comfortable, but somebody else might not feel as comfortable.
And that’s really the heart of sort of why we do this work is to make sure at the end of the day, we are making our employees and clients feel comfortable with who they are and be able to sort of grow in the spaces that we create for them, instead of impeding that through our assumptions that don’t address cultural competency and cultural humility too.
So one thing I like to include in this is this cultural competence continuum. And I think, going through this continuum, it’s really easy to sort of say, “Okay, now I understand a little bit better about where we land on this continuum. It ranges from cultural destructiveness, which is really the sort of bottom rung where you have the least amount of sort of control over your environment, where intentional attitudes and policies, and practices are destructive to individuals within your organization. It includes erasure of people’s identities. I like to think of some of the indigenous schools in Canada whose job it was to sort of erase the indigenous identities of the children that attended them. That is cultural destructiveness.
Moving on from that cultural incapacity. Maybe you’re doing a slightly better job, but you don’t have the ability to help different groups due to your own biased beliefs against anything outside of mainstream culture. You’re not actively destructive, but you don’t have the tools to address things.
Then we move on to cultural blindness, which really helps maintain the dominant cultures approach to universally applicable theories and ignores cultural strengths that encourage assimilation. This is not a great way of honoring somebody’s culture and meeting them where they’re at, which is why it’s still a little problematic to be culturally blind. And an example I like to think of this as people who say, “Oh, I don’t see race. I don’t see color.” That’s an example of cultural blindness that is really problematic because it denies the humanity of somebody’s lived experience.
Moving up to cultural pre-competence. This is an organization that’s starting to incorporate culturally relevant and welcoming imagery, employing people representative of the population being served. This is a great step in this direction. And I see lots of this being done with people publishing their diversity statistics. That’s a great step. In the LGBTQ community, making sure that you signal to people who identify as LGBTQ, that they are welcome, that they are safe in that environment, and are able to identify their own gender without gendered assumptions. That’s a great example of cultural pre-competence.
Actual cultural competence at the end of the day is really defined as the acceptance and respect for difference, continued self-assessment, expansion of knowledge and adaptation. That means you’ve really created a culture where your organization adapts to the people that they serve. The services that you provide are directly linked to what is interesting and relevant to the people that you serve. This is sort of the end goal for everyone that works in nonprofits, is making sure that you are doing the work for the people and not for yourself as the person that’s coming in to sort of save the day.
Last but not least, cultural proficiency. This is really the highest standard on this continuum, which involves deliberate inclusiveness, regular assessment of responsiveness to the cultural needs of both the people you serve and your staff. I think staff is often really forgotten in the cultural competence conversation. And we are missing out on a lot of the very important experiences and cultural moments that people and our staff bring to the table as well.
I like to talk a lot to our founders in our incubator program about how you’re not actually making the world a better place, if the people that you work with within your organization, are not treated with the same standards of respect and inclusion, and responsiveness that you would expect for your clients as well. And that’s why cultural proficiency definitely should be integrated into, not only your work with the people that you serve but your staff as well through progressive employment policies and meaningful discussions and ongoing discussions within your organization.
And this is a journey for us all. I think everyone will go through periods where they feel like, oh, wow, I feel like we’ve achieved cultural competence. But then the next year, something might happen and you sort of move back down and say, “Maybe we’re actually at pre-competence.” We’re all going to move up and down the scale. And that’s okay, as we learn, as long as we are working towards getting to the place of cultural proficiency within our organization.
So I think a lot of us have seen some kind of version of this image. But I like to include it in our conversation because it’s especially wonderfully inclusive. And it’s important to really sort of bring home the differentiation between equality, which is listed here, and shown here is everybody gets a bike. That’s lovely. However, not everybody can use a bike in the same way. And so equity is really what we’re striving towards as nonprofits, where everybody gets the bike, and the transportation, and mobility that’s right for them and who they are. We get the one that adapts to somebody who’s in a wheelchair. We get a right size fit for this gentleman. We get a right size fit for this little kid. And that’s what we really want at the end of the day is the right size fit for everyone, not just everybody gets the same thing. And that means we’re all equal.
So I want to dive quickly into a quick history lesson About the emergence of cultural competence and where this whole sort of conversation comes from. I’m not a historian, this is research that I did. This history is a lot more nuanced and complicated than just this one slide. And I would encourage you to do a reading on many of these things. Because this is by far not comprehensive, but it’s a good sort of overview understanding of where this conversation came from.
So, starting in 1927, the conversation about cultural competence sort of came into being through Dr. Carter G. Woodson, who really wanted to create cultural awareness through his work in society and hospitals. This fast forward to 1989, there was an article published by Dr. Terry Cross, toward a culturally competent system of care. The thread that you see really woven through all of these things is that a lot of our understanding of cultural competence as it is today was born out of healthcare. And much of that healthcare stands on the shoulders of giants of activists and people advocating for social change, and better treatment, and equal rights as well. I don’t want to leave that out. There were too many things to include, I had to sort of pick a narrative.
The Institute of Medicine and Unequal Treatment is a great source that came about in 1999. And you can really see how our awareness and the importance of cultural competence really sped up in time from 1927 through the ’80s, ’90s, 2000s. And most recently, the HHS Healthy People 2020, 2010 surveys have helped us sort of understanding what cultural competence means with the people that we serve, specifically in the healthcare realm.
So, all of that, we’ve been talking about cultural competence for near on 100 years. But now it’s 2020, and we are still experiencing disparities in health, wealth, education, social services, access to resources. Why is this still happening nearly 100 years later? I would go back to what I said earlier about things are being uncovered. It’s not that they’re new. And I think 2020 has taught us a lot of that lesson of, we’re still experiencing all of these issues with cultural competence because racism still exists. It hasn’t gone away. And in the U.S., specifically, we have a long history of explicitly and implicitly causing harm to groups of people that are different than the majority of white male deciders. And it’s really always been a part of all aspects of our society. It’s just now we’re getting to have maybe a public reckoning with that reality.
These are a couple of current-day examples of social justice issues that our communities face. And much of the work that you were responding to is based in these ideas, where corporate speak says a lot of things about racial justice and then does something else. I think back in June, during our sort of major protests moments in this country, a lot of corporations put out a lot of maybe well-meaning statements about Black Lives Matter. But their actions have been a little bit different by not allowing staff to wear masks or other indicators of their own support for Black Lives Matter. And also, their values for cultural competence and diversity, and equity within their organizations are not reflected in their hiring as well. So definitely something a lot of people are still facing in this country despite our new conversation.
Another example of some of the issues that we’re responding to that are based out of the disparities that we’ve been talking about our access to open space. Cities continue to exclude people of BIPOC heritage in perspectives when planning open space, especially during a pandemic, when access is a harder issue than almost anything else right now.
And then just like we’ve been talking about throughout this presentation, healthcare access has been a huge, huge conversation and barrier to many groups. We can see that through more BIPOC groups being negatively impacted by COVID, than any other group with the disproportionate representation of essential workers, the disproportionate death rate of people who are BIPOC from COVID-19. All of these are really heartbreaking examples of the way that racism still exists in creating disparities within our culture and really underscored the need for cultural competence within our work in order to do better for these groups.
So we have a good sort of baseline of what we understand about cultural competence, what it is, a definition, examples of what it is, but how do you apply this to your work? Because I think sometimes we can get very high level and it doesn’t feel like this translates into a concrete, actionable thing that you can do to make things better.
And I really want to make sure that you understand that this will happen on two levels, both for you as an individual and your ability to impact your organization as a whole as well. I think there are probably some executive directors here that have control over their organizations. But there are also people who probably have to advocate within their organizations as well because they’re not the decider. But a couple of things that are important to apply to your work to get towards that sort of ideal of what if we call it cultural proficiency.
The very last thing on our continuum, the highest level is, number one, the most important thing you can do is value diversity within your organization, incorporate different holidays than the norms. I think the holiday that we just had. It’s a California holiday. It’s not a holiday across all of the United States. But Indigenous Peoples’ Day is a wonderful way of incorporating and valuing diversity within your team, making sure that all of the other holidays that come up that are part of people’s practice need to be acknowledged in your work as well and taken into account when you do recreational things with your team. How you build teams should be examined for its own cultural competency. You don’t want to pick team building activities that would exclude a group of people because their either religious beliefs don’t permit them to participate or this is not something that is familiar and they would be uncomfortable. This also goes for food preferences and making sure that you value the diversity in food preferences.
Another way to apply this to your work is have the capacity for cultural self-assessment. Make sure that you have a diverse group of people who are giving you feedback about the work that your organization is doing, and include them in the decision-making about what your organization does and pursues. Whenever we encounter a client that I’m not quite sure about, take it to the rest of my team in an all-team meeting to talk about, “Hey, is this somebody as a group we are interested in working with?” And I trust the group to help us make a decision that will be ethical and maintain their trust in our organization as we move forward.
It’s also really important to be conscious of the dynamics inherent when cultures interact. There’s a long history of language and domination between cultures. And it’s important to sort of do our best to even the playing field and make sure that we also acknowledge the history of one group and make sure that everybody gets their sort of voice in our process.
Also having institutional cultural knowledge, making sure that you’re cultivating leadership opportunities for women, for people who are BIPOC, and have a mission that really reflects the contributions of everyone on your team as well. This goes back to what you do with your team, making sure that, especially for nonprofits, that the people that work on your team have a lot in common culturally with the people that you are serving. It’s really not appropriate in 2020 to have a fully white board of directors or fully white program staff, team, doing all of the work connecting to the cultures that you serve, if they are not white. So making sure that you really are meeting people where they’re at so that you can create the best outcomes for them.
And then last number five, in order to apply this to your work, you want to make sure you develop adaptations to service delivery, that really reflect your understanding of cultural diversity, adopt policies, programs, practices to meet current cultural needs. This could be acknowledging that Sunday is not a good day to reach out to the group that you serve because they will be busy with other activities that day.
Making sure you respect their cultures during specific moments. What immediately comes to mind is making sure that we have an office environment that is friendly and in no way unsupportive during Ramadan, when people might be fasting, and making sure that we are culturally sensitive to that experience that somebody is going on.
So another question that I have. And I would love to see this in the chat to think about sort of what you guys are doing. What does your organization do well and what does it need to work on? And also very interested about where you see yourselves in that sort of continuum of cultural competence.
I mean, my organization, Mockingbird Analytics works very hard on this. A lot of our work is with our clients, helping them put in place some level of cultural competency into their services. But we definitely are not at the end of our journey with learning and broadening the work that we do. So I would love to hear more about what’s working really well for your organization. I’ve also seen some just sort of wonderfully creative ideas for cultural competence happening. So I am so excited to see those answers.
So, moving forward, we also wanted to give you a little bit of a checklist for cultural competence in nonprofits. And here’s what you can advocate for in your own organization. Number one, like we said, on our list previously, leadership diversity, make sure that your organizational leadership is multiracial, multicultural, and really represents the people that you’re serving.
And make sure that your hiring practices allow for representation. I think it’s sort of an emerging conversation that a lot of hiring practices, whether or not we realize it or not, are particularly exclusionary, whether that is requiring a degree where none is actually needed or it’s making sure that you don’t just recruit from the same recruiting sources that you’ve always done, expanding that into other areas where people might be able to join your team and bring in a different cultural perspective.
It also in this checklist, check in with your mission and vision statements. It is really important that we are acknowledging the contributions of diverse cultural groups within those guiding principles of our organization.
And last but not least, for your check place, workplace practices, making sure that your training, your orientation, your ongoing interaction with staff incorporates cultural sensitivity and awareness into the work that you were doing with people individually.
Also, it’s incredibly important in a progressive workplace that addresses cultural competence to have strict policies about oppression, stereotypes, prejudicial comments and behavior, prejudicial. This includes microaggressions. This includes sexual harassment, making sure that those policies are as clear and as protective as possible. I think one of the first things that many of us learn when we start out in the working world is that HR is generally designed to protect a company, not the people that work for the company. So making sure that your policies, in some way, begin to protect your employees as much as they are protecting your organization as well.
Making sure that you also engage in regular self-assessment within your workplace is important. We as an organization, provide a yearly anti-racism conversation. And then we have facilitated monthly staff meetings where we address anything that’s come up. Our operations manager leads those conversations from different aspects, talking about the work that we’re doing, the people that we’re working with, and how we can do a better job. Part of the sort of hardest work that we’ll do is making the conversation about race, and oppression, and stereotypes, a normal part of our conversations so that we can address those things head-on instead of waiting until it blows up into a terrible protest and not knowing where people stand.
Also, workplace practices, making sure you adopt policies, programs, and practices that meet current cultural needs, and are aware of when new cultural needs come in. Just because you have done this work in the past doesn’t mean any new employees are having their cultural needs met as well.
So a couple of more ways to create buy-in for cultural competency. And this is one of the things. I think everybody here on this call today probably on some level is in agreement that cultural competency is important within their organization, and really is a defining aspect of their work. However, sometimes the problem is not you individually, it is other people. And so how do you get other people on board with this? The most important thing is make sure that the views of cultural competency are institutionalized in your mission and vision statement. And if it’s not, making sure that you advocate for that.
Also, make sure that you were collecting data to document the disparities within your organization. Just like in HR, when you’re working on employment practices, documentation is king. Same thing for documentation of cultural competence. Make sure that you’re able to provide evidence of, “Hey, this didn’t work out because we weren’t appealing to this large group within our organization.” We want to make sure that we talk about feelings as much as we talk about sort of a countable reality, as well.
Always continuing to provide training opportunities for everyone on staff. Not everybody sort of understands their role within white supremacy. Not everybody understands how they participate in it. Just like we’ve been talking about throughout the past couple of months, it’s not enough to be not racist. What we need is people to be anti-racist. We need to get to the point where people understand what it actually means to be anti-racist, instead of just not racist within our organizations. And that is a great way to sort of start building buy-in within your org is to give people the tools to understand where they are and where they could be.
And then raise awareness about a lack of cultural competence too on the flip side, making sure that you’re having conversations with people in team meetings and do some implicit bias testing and implicit bias training. Implicit means we don’t always know what our biases are until we understand how they are embedded in our history, in our practices. So making sure that we include that in an understanding of who we are as organizations.
So just a final recap. Even if you work with a specific population, you and your staff providing services are still likely to encounter people that carry different beliefs, and values, and traditions than you. And that is okay. But we need to adapt to the needs of those people that we’re encountering that are different from us and make space for those people. It’s also incredibly important to establish that framework of cultural competence within your organization from the mission on down. It’s absolutely going to sort of improve your staff’s ability to meet people’s needs where they’re at, and, in a long run, improve overall outcomes.
It’s also really important to strive for continual cultural awareness and self-assessment. This is definitely not a one-time conversation that you should be having with your staff. It should be something you integrate into your regular work with the organization to assess its health and address any issues that people are feeling coming up immediately, instead of letting those fester.
Also making sure that you use language to empower. Making sure that you are using terms that are inclusive, that don’t make people feel that they are not a part of the work that you do, whether internally a staff or through the people that you are providing services to. And I will make a note about that later, when we talk about the sort of follow-up to this presentation.
And last but not least, I think it’s really important to understand that this journey is ongoing. We are not going to attend one training that makes our organization culturally competent. But it’s something that we need to continue over time and continue to incorporate listening, no matter how long we’ve been in our fields and how great we are at our jobs.
So I am ready for questions. Before we dive in and Steven starts curating the questions, here are a couple of really great resources for your organization. We have a blog that addresses a lot of that stuff as well. We also have a reading list that I think is really helpful for taking a deep dive into the sort of thought work going on around the social issues that we provide.
The Progressive Style Guide is a really great place to look up terminology language that is the appropriate way to address people of different cultural backgrounds. I’m a big fan of this. We refer to this often in the creation of, especially Evaluation and Research documents that we do.
So the follow-up that I mentioned before about language is this presentation is part of a series we do. We are going to be teaching a follow-up webinar on creating culturally competent research practices in nonprofits. In November, the date is TBD. And we in this workshop really want to get into how to create a survey that is culturally competent. And we really break down, use this question in this scenario, not this wording. And it breaks down that in a very concrete way that I think is very helpful for people and understanding how do we make sure we’re asking questions that are appropriate and don’t continue to marginalize the people that we serve.
So a couple of upcoming events that we have. You’re going to get these slides later. So I won’t go over them, but we have lots of free events that you guys are all welcome to attend. And here is our contact information if you would like to keep in touch. And Steven, if you want to jump in, let’s definitely start answering questions.
Steven: Yeah, cool. We got some time, probably maybe 10 or 12 minutes. So if you haven’t asked something already, we got a couple of good ones already, Jessica, but if you haven’t already, now’s the time because obviously, you got someone who has a wealth of knowledge here and is awesome enough to hang out for a few more minutes.
But first, Jessica, thank you. Great presentation, much, much needed, and I love how you broke everything down into not just informative tidbits but also actionable. So thank you. I’m wondering if people will indulge me to start off with my own question. Jessica, you kind of started the session by acknowledging the privilege that we as white people have. And I’ve been thinking about that all week, as we’ve been, you know, promoting this webinar. I am, of course, a poster boy for that privilege, even more so than you Jessica being, you know, a straight man.
It seems like the burden of this work very often falls to people of color within the organization, right? And you and I are not. And it’s good that we’re talking about these things, but how can we kind of balance being a good ally, without, you know, also burdening the people that are, you know, most affected by this, by, you know, giving them the responsibility to fix it for us? I know, it’s kind of a delicate balancing act. But that’s just something that’s been on my mind all week leading up to this. What do you think?
Jessica: Yeah, I mean, in our own anti-racism and cultural humility training that our organization went through a couple months ago, one of the key terms that we talked about that I thought was actually really powerful in sort of understanding that balance between, like, being a good ally versus, like, when are you sort of learning these things on the backs of people who are already the ones disproportionately impacted by it is they made the differentiation between an ally versus an accomplice. And an ally will say things, they will post things. But an accomplice is the person who stands up and puts their body or their livelihood on the line, in order to sort of advocate directly for a person of color who might be in danger in that moment.
There were a couple of really good examples they gave of literal, somebody being an accomplice in a moment, and protecting somebody’s body. There was a video that they showed about a white young woman who put herself between a young man of color, who was protesting in like May, I believe, and the police that were advancing on him. And she literally sort of put her body in front of them because she knew that her body was, and the outcomes for her were a lot safer than the outcomes for him. And I thought that was such a wonderful example of, like, this is an accomplice. This is somebody who is there for the ride and not just somebody who will say, “Yes, I have your back.” They don’t just have your back, you have their front as well. And I think that’s the sort of guiding principle in my own head for is there a moment where it’s not that I have somebody back, it’s that I will get in front of an issue, and I will take the brunt of it because my experience has a better potential outcome.
Steven: I love that the distinction between an ally and an accomplice that’s . . . I’ll aspire to that as well. So thanks for that. I had never heard that term. So that’s really cool. Here’s an interesting question. I’m going to paraphrase a little. So as the person who asked this question kind of hears it, I hope you’ll forgive the paraphrasing, but person works at a private school, kind of in an affluent area, I’m assuming, you know, mostly white, very wealthy, that seems like an organization that has kind of benefited from these inequities. But it seems like the person asking the question wants to do better.
For organizations who may kind of fit that description of ones that have kind of directly benefited from these disparities, what can they do to sort of, you know, face that past, you know, not ignore it, but also kind of move forward and try to get better as well?
Jessica: Yeah, I think there’s a whole body of literature out there on not only reparations, which people can feel like are just about money and are very culturally loaded, but there is a whole body of literature around community work and community reparations. I’m not thinking of the right name. We are reading a book right now for our book club called “The Revolution Starts at Home,” and it is about violence and how grassroots communities stand up for people within those communities without involving state law enforcement. And I think that is a really good place to start reading about, okay, how do we acknowledge our past and move forward to doing more sort of harm reduction from our previous work, as well as advance the mission and build trust with communities that have been harmed by previous work?
I think a lot of the work in the healthcare field around cultural competence really came out of, like, the Tuskegee Syphilis experiments. And if anybody’s read “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” there was a very, very good reason why people of color don’t trust the medical community. And cultural competence in healthcare really came out of trying to address those egregious misuse of those communities and trying to repair from that. And that’s why I use that as the example, historically of where this is coming from.
Steven: Love it. Really interesting. A lot of people, Jessica, have chimed in about the issue of board diversity specifically. You know, we’ve had a lot of people come on this webinar series to kind of give their take on it. What do you think . . . ? Obviously, it’s important, but going about it, you know, you don’t want to tokenize someone, obviously. What do you think the role of the board is in this process? And specifically, what should the makeup be if you want to be a culturally competent organization?
Jessica: Yeah. I fully ascribe to the idea that your board should be representative of the people that you were serving. I think it is a travesty to have a board making major decisions about how to serve people whose lived experience has nothing to do with their own. I don’t want to call out any specific organizations. But, for example, there are organizations here in Southern California that serve veterans who don’t have a single person who has ever served in the military, on their board. That is incredibly problematic, and really, I think undermines the confidence of not only the people that they serve, but the people that fund them as well.
Lived experience as a board member is incredibly valuable and should be part of the decision-making process, right alongside their ability to network and fundraise for their organization. Board for our incubator program, which is a nonprofit, we went back and examined our board diversity and decided, as part of our response to The Black Lives Matter Movement that was going on, that we were going to work on that this year because . . . And I think it’s incredibly important to value your board members for what they bring to the table and that they have been a part of the team. There are other things that they can’t bring. And we need to make sure that we have founders in our incubator program that see board members who look like them working on supporting their work as well.
I don’t think there’s any sort of, like, magic secret sauce recipe for, keep your white people under 50% or anything like that, but I think I would first take a look at who you’re serving. So we looked at . . . The founders in our incubator cohort, saw that they were 85% women and BIPOC. And we said, “We would like our board to be 85% women and BIPOC.” And that was the metric that we use. We are not there yet. We are still working on it. But we were like, “Okay, this is what it looks like. And we’d like to meet it where we’re at.”
Steven: Yeah, I love it. Especially the price about funding, I think kind of gets overlooked. And I know, funding should be very low on the list of reasons to have a diverse board, but it can be appealing to people who give grants to donors. Do you think that’s an appropriate maybe thing to bring to leadership as a reason? And it seems kind of shrewd, and I almost feel bad, you know, mentioning it, but I think that is a component, right?
Jessica: I mean, as somebody that has to write grants all the time, and a lot of our work is grant writing, foundations, more and more are asking for your board diversity statistics. So it is not an uncommon ask. I would say like one in every two to three applications wants to know about your board diversity statistics. So if that is the argument that’s going to work in order to bring in diversity, then you can use the tools you have.
Steven: Okay. Good. Got stamp of approval on that one. Kind of dovetailing from that topic, someone here who wanted to remain anonymous, all-white organization leadership-wise, many people of color are kind of entry-level staff. And they’ve been advocating . . . You know, they’ve even done some trainings and things like that. But it doesn’t seem like the leadership is really taking it seriously, you know, moving quickly on changing things. What can those people do? Is it a matter of maybe that’s not the place to work? I know that seems a little harsh. But I know I hate for people to stay there and then for nothing to change. What can those folks do to maybe, you know, make some change actually happen in a real way at those organizations?
Jessica: I mean, I would send them this presentation. I would work on that list of, like, how do you get buy-in? And that’s really what I want that list to address is, okay, well, what if it’s just me that sees the value in this, how do I start working on these things? And really, this is also something we teach to people applying for grants, it’s really important to make sure that you push back against your founders and your foundations, because they’re not necessarily the one with the most up to date perspective.
When we are working with clients who are doing grant reports, sometimes those grant reports will come back using inappropriate terms for their clients. And I always tell our clients, “Hey, it’s okay to push back and say, actually, this is the more appropriate term because and provide them some context.” People I think, really want that kind of education and correction. I think this is optimistic, but I think most people don’t want to be wrong. And so giving them the opportunity to be right and be on the right side of that conversation is actually appreciated.
Steven: Yeah. I love it. Wow. It’s almost 2:00 your time, Jessica. I want to be respectful of your time because you’ve already been very gracious with this wisdom. There’s a few questions we haven’t had time for. Is it cool for people reach out to you maybe by email? Is that okay?
Jessica: Yeah, absolutely. You can see my email [email protected] right here. I’m always happy to answer more questions. Our website has a calendar where you can sign up for time, just have a quick chat. Always happy to do that, talk more about our work as well. And I would love to see anybody who would like to attend our training on specifically culturally competent research because I think that’s one of the most direct impacts we can have to producing better services for clients that are culturally competent is making sure that we ask the right questions.
Steven: I love it. Well. Yeah, very generous of your time. Awesome conversation. Definitely reach out to Jessica. And check out the Incubator too, I think she’s still accepting applications. But we’ll get your invites to all the webinars that she’s got going on later on this year. So, Jessica, thanks for doing.
Jessica: Of course.
Steven: This is really cool to hear from you finally, after a year of planning . . .
Jessica: I know.
Steven: . . . this was a fun one. So thanks for doing this.
Jessica: Of course, thank you so much for having me.
Steven: And thanks to all of you for hanging out. I know it’s a little late in the day for some folks. So I always appreciate a full room, especially as we get close to yearend fundraising. So I hope you all enjoyed this one as much as I did. It was good to see you all. And we’ve got some we got some webinars coming up later on this month. I want to tell you about a couple of them. We’re actually taking next week off. I hope you don’t mind me taking a little bit of a break but two weeks from I guess it is yesterday, maybe Tuesday. My arithmetic is all off. But on the 28th, whatever day that is, my buddy Heather is going to be talking about remote workforces. And if most of you are remote like me, maybe you’re in a spare bedroom, maybe you can empathize with that, maybe you’re a manager who is struggling with keeping all those people productive, engaged, all those cultural things, you know, you want to hold on to, join us. Heather is an expert in remote work specifically. It’s going to be a really cool session you’ll get an invite to that for sure by email probably next week, so be on the lookout. And also look out for some goodies from Jessica. She’s going to give you some invites to her webinars as well.
So we’ll call it a day there. Like I said, look from an email for me with the slides and the recording. I’ll get those out later on this evening. And hopefully, we’ll talk to you again on another Bloomerang webinar. So have a good rest of your Thursday. Have a good week. Have a safe weekend. Stay healthy. We need all of you out there. Please be safe. And we’ll talk to you again soon. Bye now.