October 09, 2019

pov: REDI, Set, Go!

UNA has started our Race, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (REDI) journey as a staff. We include ‘race’ specifically to center the inequities we face with race in our communities and across the country as it relates to diversity and inclusion. As an example, women are paid less than men (82 cents for every dollar a man makes) and women of color are paid even less compared to men (63 cents for Black women and 54 cents for Latina women). You likely have heard this called other things such as: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) or even race-equity work. Generally speaking they are all similar and are interchangeable.

As a leader in the community and in the nonprofit field I knew that focusing on REDI work was important and that it was something that UNA needed to lead. So it all started about two years ago when I sat down with local experts in the REDI space and asked them for guidance to assist me and UNA. Since those initial conversations about how UNA could engage in and lead in this work, I have had dozens more conversations about it with my board, my colleagues, our members, and others across the country. What I have learned is that UNA needs to be intentional and we must be invested for the long term so that we can create a sustainable future that includes a focus on REDI for us as an organization and for the nonprofit sector. What has also been clear to me throughout this launch is that UNA needed to do more than provide a simple diversity training, or by sending staff to a training on equity, and even in discussing the ever changing demographics in Utah that necessitate us focusing on REDI. Thus, intentionality.  

Deciding to do REDI work is the beginning of a long journey that is complex and individual human perspective plays into the entire process. This caused a strange personal reaction when I realized it was time for UNA to lead in this work. As a leader who identifies as Chicana (Latinx), I found myself not wanting to lead on this. It’s not that my personal values didn’t align. In the simplest answer, I didn’t want to make waves and I really wanted someone else to step forward. Because this was a new set of feelings and an uncomfortable space to be in, I was forced to think about how/if my fear was getting in the way of actually doing the work.

Now here’s what I know. In the many conversations I have had with people about the topic I know that many of us are fearful. We are scared of saying the wrong thing. We are scared of having people think about us differently when we mess up and say the wrong thing. And some of us are scared of agitating the leaders at our organizations which may cause us to lose our jobs. The magical part about this fear that I have learned and witnessed is that those fears are voiced and immediately followed up with, “I’m scared to do this but I know it’s important. I just don’t know where to start”.

As a way to lead by example here is my commitment to you. I will blog about UNA’s REDI journey. I will share my vulnerabilities, our successes, and even the hurdles. The process each organization goes through will be different, it should be. You have your own organizational culture, different skill sets, and different people.

Here is a truth: Beginning and being open to the possibility that you will mess up and that you will offend someone is real. But you can always ask for forgiveness and understanding too.

Recently my staff and I sat down together to have a conversation about our shared values as they relate to our work, our mission, and REDI. Here is the first, unedited list of shared values we agreed upon:

  • Learning
  • Treat/serve all members/nonprofit leaders with respect regardless of size, type or region
  • Recognize diversity of Utah nonprofits and their diverse stakeholders
  • Public Policy efforts are reflective of diversity and nonpartisanship
  • Listen for understanding
  • Humility
  • Recognize what staff bring to the table while tapping into growth potential
  • Be ok with discomfort
  • Recognize capacity
  • Reflection
  • Community

This was such a powerful exercise because it allowed us to think about how much values play into how we serve our membership and how we go about our work. We recognized that a gap in our internal understanding was shared language and communication about REDI. Meaning we needed to define the terms. It seems basic, and it is. And it wasn’t something I expected.

Some of our next steps will include a shared understanding in the language. It will also include a series of webinars that our sister-state association in North Carolina have produced and provided. I look forward to sharing this journey with you and for your continued understanding as you read and learn things that may make you a bit uncomfortable. Keep in mind the REDI journey is multifaceted and will take some time. Feel free to reach out to me to share your own journey or discuss some of the hurdles you are facing.

For some resources here are a couple links: