March 1, 2019

Action Letters, Equity

029 Doing the Do Pt. 2 – Equity Is Transformation

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Photo by Nicola = Black and White by Byron Kim and Glenn Ligon (1960)

Let’s start with an equation:
Not all transformation projects are equity projects.
All projects focused on equity are transformation projects.

How many times have you seen an organization, or group of people say: We are all about equity. We are going to learn a bunch about how to be more equitable in our work. But, we are largely going to confine that knowledge to subjects we have pre-determined pertain to equity. And at the end of the project we will largely will be the same people and organization we were at the start. Except we’ll have equity sprinkled all over!
My answer: I’ve seen that A LOT. And it is often couched in the idea that equity is some how a safer place to explore than racial justice……

If you are reading this letter, you probably already have a good understanding of why that approach doesn’t work. Inequity is our status quo. We are all mirrors/conduits of the status quo consciously and unconsciously, until we make a conscious choice to break with the status quo, consistently, every day. Committing to equity – to everyone having what they need, to addressing history and shifting dynamics of power – is inherently saying you will depart from that status quo. You will work to stop being a mirror/conduit for injustice – to become a liberation work. That is transformation.

And, that is why equity projects can’t be these neat, linear, defined explorations with a beginning, middle and end confined to a series of trainings. Humans transform through spirals, expanding and contracting in expected and unexpected ways.

We cannot pre-determine or confine what our learning needs to be, or where it needs to take us. We can’t only talk to people about equity in workshops, we need to be willing to audit our HR practices, question the assumptions of our decision-making processes as a whole, change how communications function,  among other transformations. Equity work is an integration of learning and growth on strategic thinking, organizational development, identity exploration, and systemic injustices.

As a part of our Doing the Do letter series this month, we are grounding in the second pathway of work we do through Up With Community: designing and guiding transformation projects for individuals and teams. We design learning experiences over months or years that help individuals and teams move through spirals of transformation to access and grow their creativity, impact, and freedom.

So how do we show up for transformation? What helps us walk with others in their journey of transformation?

I continue to learn from Robert Gass‘ decades of work in training and supporting transformational consultants – weaving it with our own approaches to equity and racial justice.

I loved our conversation with educator, organizer, and consultant Reiney Lin. Reiney’s discussion of how we can’t want something for someone else that we aren’t willing to explore for ourselves really touched me.

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