This is a guest post from our member Dee Goodrich, Director of Member Engagement, Connecticut Council for Philanthropy.
Earlier this year, the Connecticut Council for Philanthropy formed its first Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Committee. It was born out of an ad-hoc group of members we asked to help us identify a keynote speaker for our spring annual meeting. After they helped us secure Heather McGhee, president of Demos, their job was done. Except it wasn’t. These engaged and enthusiastic members did not want Heather McGhee’s keynote to be “one and done”. They believe CCP should work towards empowering its members to explore issues of diversity, equity and inclusion both internally and in their grantmaking. They understand this is a journey, an imprecise and often bumpy journey with no guarantees about the final destination.
If you’ve known me for about ten minutes, then you know I’m all about downloading road maps, getting directions, figuring out time tables and making sure I get where I’m going on time. Our DEI journey is nothing like this and it has me feeling off balance.
Enter #FourmCon17, where I hoped to connect with peers and experts who could draw a clear road map for me so I could come back to Connecticut with a plan ready to execute. It didn’t happen that way. And, to be honest, I knew it wouldn’t. But here’s what I did learn:
- I need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
I’m reading books I’ve never read before. Listening to speakers and experts I’ve never heard before. Having conversations that usually don’t happen in polite society (at least not mine) and stumbling to find the words. The more I explore, the less I realize I know. You know what? I’m not the only one.
- My experience is one of the dominant culture.
In one of ForumCon’s racial equity discussion groups, a participant asked “Why are white people afraid of this work?” I answered that I’m afraid saying something stupid in polite company. That I feel a sense of urgency to advance this work, but I’m afraid I’ll mess it up. That this work is uncomfortable, especially in a professional setting. Calmly, she ticked down the list: “Politeness. Sense of urgency. Perfection. Reluctance to be uncomfortable. These are all indicators of a dominant culture.” Talk about a bolt from the sky. I never thought of myself as being part of a dominant anything.
- I need to travel a personal path as well as a professional one.
While I don’t expect all of CCP’s members will be willing to start engaging in diversity, equity and inclusion work on a personal level, it is critical to do this kind of internal work to get real with your own biases, prejudices, stereotypes, assumptions, etc. before you can effectively engage with others. That’s what I need to do and I’m working with my president at CCP to figure it out.
- There’s a lot of good work happening out there. Talk to people about it.
We’re talking to a couple of our peers who are further down this path. We’re connecting with experts who may be able to help us. We’ve surveyed our members and have hosted two conversations with them (so far) to find out where they are and where they want to go. Keep talking. Keep asking questions. Each conversation will reveal a bit more and, slowly, hopefully, a path will start to come into focus. At least one to get us started. Check back next year to see where I am and where CCP and it’s members are.