Creating diverse, equitable, inclusive, and accessible organizations is often described as a journey. The purpose is to help leaders understand that this process isn’t instant. That, like a journey, it’s going to take time. You’re going to cover a lot of ground and it can be transformative. The journey represents an ongoing and evolving process rather than a one-time destination or goal.
For many nonprofits, the idea of taking time doesn’t jive with the demand to deliver results. Funders, executives, and other stakeholders what to see outcomes. Quickly. The focus is often on what can we do this quarter, or this fiscal year to deepen our impact, generate revenue, and deliver on our mission.
Calling DEI work a “journey” can lead to the belief that one’s work is never-ending. That we don’t achieve much because there is always more to do. And, this can feel deflating.
So, what can we do so that the journey – the process – of infusing DEI in our organizations is better understood? If you’re a nonprofit executive, a DEI committee member, or a leader, here are a few suggestions:
Expand your perspective about DEI.
Nonprofits need to deliver results and show impact. I get it. But DEI is not about quick wins. It is about creating sustainable company cultures and business systems that lead to more diverse, inclusive, equitable, and accessible organizations. When we focus on quick wins, we can rush past the work of creating a strong foundation. This impacts our ability to achieve meaningful goals.
Recently, Nancy Harris, host of The Intersection Podcast, interviewed me. And, we discussed the journey of DEI. She asked, what would you tell a non-profit executive who needs to deliver results now? I replied, “Expand your perspective.”
The journey of DEI is about setting ourselves up for present and long-term viability. As you may know, the U.S. population is on the verge of a historical demographic shift. In about 20 years, most of our population will identify as People of Color. I believe this will have a significant impact on our society. We will be a more racially diverse nation. We’ll also have greater diversity in gender identity, age, religion, and other personal characteristics. Our current ways of operating, serving, hiring, and promoting must evolve if our organizations are to thrive for the long term.
To thrive, we must address systemic biases, discrimination, and barriers that prevent equal opportunities for all. Since society and organizational cultures are constantly evolving, the journey toward DEI is ongoing. It requires continuous learning, reflection, and adaptation to meet the changing needs of our diverse communities.
DEI is not about quick wins. It is about creating sustainable company cultures and business systems that lead to more diverse, inclusive, equitable, and accessible organizations.Julye M. Williams
Expand your awareness.
Sometimes the actions we believe will make the biggest difference do not. The better solution might be something that we’re not even aware of.
This is why expanding our awareness is critical. The DEI journey involves learning and growth for individuals, teams, and organizations. It requires developing cultural competency, empathy, and an understanding of diverse perspectives. When we gain exposure to cultures and experiences different from our own, we can deepen our knowledge, challenge assumptions, and cultivate inclusive mindsets. The journey metaphor sums up this ongoing process of learning, unlearning, and personal development.
Set milestones and take action.
Just as you don’t plant a seed and expect a tree overnight, the work of DEI takes time.
Transforming organizational cultures and systems to be more inclusive and equitable is a complex task. It involves uncovering and challenging deep-rooted beliefs, biases, and practices that have been repeated for generations. Changing mindsets, behaviors, and internal systems takes time and consistent effort. When we see DEI as a journey, we acknowledge that progress may be gradual. When we set milestones, and take action, we move closer to creating organizations that are DEI.
The “journey” of DEI is essential for organizations that seek to become more inclusive. Building a diverse and inclusive culture is not a quick fix. It requires a long-term commitment from individuals and organizations. It involves developing strategies, policies, and practices that embed equity and inclusion into every aspect of an organization’s operations. This includes hiring and promotion to policies, decision-making processes, and programs and services. This commitment requires sustained effort and investment over time.
This is the journey of DEI.
For more information on how The Project 2043 Institute can support your organization’s DEI journey, please contact us for more details.