Building an Organizational Culture That Supports Your Team to Thrive, the second quarterly event in our new Thriving Leaders series, drew leaders of youth-serving non-profit organizations to be in community with each other for a day of reflection, connection, and learning on August 6, 2021. Thank you to our registrants for your commitment to strengthening our collective capacity for anti-racist leadership in the youth development field in King County and beyond.
Today we are reflecting on the Thriving Organizations experience by sharing with you the words of our participants and presenters. First, we’d like to share some nuggets of wisdom and thought-provoking questions for you from our panelists and presenters.
Anti-Racist Leadership Practices — Keynote Panel
Our panelists and moderator shared a wide array of anti-racist leadership practices, from those that have helped each of them feel a sense of belonging to practices they put into practice into their work. Here are some to inspire your reflection and action:
- Give leaders agency to make decisions, especially when they’re closest to the community and know what people need; include program leaders in decision-making, planning, and action around programmatic or organizational changes; emphasize the importance of rest for staff and the importance of taking care of their own mental and emotional health – Harmony Wright, Program Manager, City Year Seattle, King County
- Incorporate identity-based affinity groups within the workplace that include opportunities for deep reflection and discussion around connection, identity, allyship; moving from punitive professional accountability measures to community accountability; leaning into conflict as a way to grow and to learn – Tara Francis, Program Director, City Year Seattle, King County
- Being thoughtful and intentional about the screening process for Board leadership, such as recruiting those with a lived commitment to education equity and inviting potential Board members to sites to gather feedback from site coordinators about how they show up in the community; ensuring you as a leader have a strong and genuine support system around you that enables you to continue to lead, including staff and Board who are implementing anti-racist practices – Elizabeth Hodges, Executive Director, Communities In Schools of Seattle
- Group norms and facilitation practices that center power, privilege, and racial identity; creating the through-line of racial equity within your organization; intentional disruption of white cultural norms when quantity is being prioritized over quality or progress or success is being defined as more/bigger/growth – Nicole DiMichele, Deputy Director, Communities In Schools of Seattle
- Practice intersectionality because people are a prism of different experiences, and be sure to include disabled folks; consider the ways in which we need to save the world from ourselves and disrupt ourselves, including engaging with our own unconscious bias – ChrisTiana ObeySumner, Principal and Owner, Epiphanies of Equity
“Living into Your Mission: Putting Your Organizational Values into Practice”
with Viche’ Thomas, School and Community Engagement Coordinator at Summer Search and Na’Quel Walker, Program Coordinator, YDEKC
- “We talk about a lot of organizations – they talk about they want inclusiveness;, they talk about they want diversity, they want an inclusive space and a lot of times they can have a diverse staff but that’s not enough. Are your staff really feeling true to themselves when they’re…at your organization? Who’s included in your work culture?” – Viche’ Thomas
- “With defensiveness, we have to understand that there’s a link between defensiveness and fear so oftentimes we might have a fear of losing power, of losing face, losing comfort, losing privilege and sometimes people bring things to us that challenges that…. It’s important to name defensiveness as a problem when it is one. Discuss the ways in which defensiveness or resistance to new ideas get in the way of the mission.” – Na’Quel Walker
“Fearlessness at Play! Stories & Play as Antidotes for Institutions in the Grip of White Supremacy”
with Roberto Carlos Ascalon and Bryan Wilson, Program Managers, Bureau of Fearless Ideas
- “On the very very very smallest level of some of this work with our compass, you would find a single engagement with a single student – that everything that we do is kind, creative, fearless, and that zooms out to the big picture…that we operate in the same way with fundraising. All of that has integrity, our compass remains true and we don’t get mission creep in that way if we operate by these three values. A finely tuned compass allows you to stay true to your compass of community agreements that works all the way up through the organization.” – Roberto Carlos Ascalon, referring to the set of values or “community agreements” BFI uses to guide their work
- “My question then is ‘what stories live in our bodies?’ If we need to engage our imaginations in order to break free, and our stories live our bodies, what are those stories; how do we access them?” – Bryan Wilson
To close out the day, a group of us came together in the early afternoon to get to know each other and share resources on topics ranging from supporting youth’s mental health to exploring identity and social justice with youth who are recent immigrants and refugees.
Here are some thoughts participants shared during the closing reflection of our Community Building Through Reciprocity session about what meaning or action steps they were taking away from the day:
- “Creating a more just and equitable world not only for our youth but for ourselves.”
- “So many thoughtful, and vulnerable questions came up in our breakout group. It’s encouraging – and restorative to be in dialogue with colleagues asking similar questions in their works.”
- “I will be reflecting on white cultural norms…in the trainings that I offer and how I can break the single viewpoint.”
- “The importance of building community across providers to strengthen/re-inspire/reenergize the work.”
- “So many amazing looking resources shared today; have launched them all in a browser to walk through later.”
We encourage you to continue to carve out these spaces for connecting, reflecting, and learning. On that note, don’t forget to save the date of December 10, 2021 for the next event in our Thriving Leaders series! Our theme will be Thriving Youth and the event will be designed in partnership with a Youth Design Team — more information to come soon! Check out YDEKC Events for upcoming opportunities.