This past year, as part of our strategic planning process, outside consultants conducted an assessment that engaged staff, board, volunteers, contractors, and past clients. There were a series of recommendations aimed at gaining deeper clarity around how we carry out our mission, both organizationally and programmatically. Some key themes we took away from the assessment included:
- There was a disconnect between what we say and what we do;
- Staff of color felt unheard, unseen, and insecure in their jobs;
- There were gaps in relationship and trust; and
- The voice of one person of color had weight at the expense of the collective voice of staff of color.
Our staff and board made a commitment to undertake the recommendations. We created a joint board/staff Change Team to shepherd the process, which was primarily comprised of Black staff and board members.
We found ourselves in the all too familiar traps we coach other organizations to avoid, including questioning and resisting Black leadership. We learned firsthand how hard it is to hold up the mirror and shift outcomes. We experienced how this work challenges people and systems to the core.
We are falling forward and learning through this. Here are some learnings collected from staff:
- There were uninterrupted negative patterns that didn’t go away, and wouldn’t have gone away without facing and working through them. Without this intentional work, we may have imploded.
- None of us, as individuals or organizations, are above the work that we do. We are ALL responsible for pushing the integrity of the organization forward; we were all falling short.
- We had to prioritize time and intention to create change that truly required that we live deeply into our mission.
- When you try to walk the talk, you lose people along the way, and that’s okay.
- Learning how to fall forward and letting go of fear of failure is critical in this work.
- Don’t allow a single voice to overshadow the collective; the greatest impact is in the collective voice.
- Undermining and questioning perspectives of staff of color can happen across racial lines.
- Without consistent, active and conscious anti-racist work, we all fall back into the norms of whiteness.
- Bringing in an outside consultant to hold up the mirror was invaluable; we resisted, and now reflect on how important it is to believe them when they tell you…
- What we ask people to do is A LOT.
- It’s imperative to take care of yourself and for the organization to care for folks as they undergo such change.
- Spending time outside of work together is an important part of relationship building.
As a result of undertaking this deep look at ourselves, or for personal reasons, a number of our staff members have decided to transition: Jamie, Carlos, Theresa, and Sandy. Some folks are embarking on their own personal transitions – moving/childbirth/marriage – and others are embarking on professional transitions – such as launching their own business. Still others are shifting their connection to RNW from staff to contractor. While goodbyes are never easy, we are so grateful for each of their contributions to RNW. We hope that for each of you, RNW reciprocated by providing the space, time, and creativity to hone yourself & your work as racial justice warriors. We wish you the best moving forward.
As we rebuild our organization, we have an incredible opportunities to actively see these organizational and personnel transitions as the launch of new phase of RNW that will be truer to our mission and create greater community impact. Moving forward, we will intentionally focus on:
- Investing in relationships with each other, across staff and board
- Structuring our work to be collaborative and in alignment with our full mission
- Opening the floor to greater shared wisdom and multiple perspectives
- Approaching our work with greater humility
- Ensuring that our theory and practice align
- Applying our conflict resolution, restorative justice and equity tools internally
- Intentionally setting aside time to build, define, and envision