Sustainable Equity uses a Trust Building and Social Justice process, a social justice approach, which involves empowering individuals to understand the systems that perpetuate inequality in order to dismantle them through respectful relationships and authentic coalitions. We survey participants prior to the process and one question we ask is “What are your hopes and fears for the program?” Many participants admit that they fear “just another diversity training program”.
According to many sources, this is a valid concern, suggesting that many diversity programs aren’t always effective. The purpose of diversity training is to celebrate contributions from all people. However, opponents have argued that it can be “an oppressive ideology and reeducation tactic that actually reduces the ability of organizations to attain their goals. It has been suggested that diversity training reinforces differences between individuals instead of fostering their commonalities, thus helping to further racialize the workplace, creating situations where people “tiptoe” around issues such as how to relate to people of different cultures as opposed to people learning to communicate with and truly understand each other.” [“Diversity Training Backfires | Competitive Enterprise Institute”. cei.org. Retrieved 2016-05-24.]
While we believe in the importance of diversity training and inclusion, we understand that some forms of training aren’t as involved with the participants and are presented in a lecture format. Fortunately, our process is all about fostering commonalities and educating about privilege and bias, without shaming or blaming. We believe in the three phase approach that begins with trust building in the group. Once trust and relationships have been established, we then move participants forward.
In fact, many of our participants leave with a sense of belonging and connection to their colleagues. Here is what they have to say (we protect their anonymity, so responders are kept confidential):
- “Despite my best efforts, I judged most of my colleagues once I met them initially. Unpacking their past, present and future in a setting free of judgment, ridicule, shame/blame and guilt truly helped me acknowledge that I too need to check my bias. Also, I need to meet people as a blank canvas and get to know them in a way that allows them to be their authentic selves.”
- “Overall, I would do this again and would recommend to every organization as a ‘must do’. I went into this skeptical and emerged a very powerful believer that the education accomplished in one week has the ability to enrich lives and communities into perpetuity.”
- “It’s not the job of one person to solve racism or make the world better. It only works if you have community. All of our small actions lead to big actions and contribute to our communities. It takes resilience and time and patience. Your actions will last or ripple for 7 generations. My coworkers and friends are amazing people.“
- “I will become a better listener while dealing with the public to try and understand the underlying issues that have caused the effect.” –police officer
- “The entire session was effective, but what set it up for success was our first couple of exercises in the circle – specifically, the round-robins when we brought our ancestors into the circle. It leveled the playing field and made it much easier for us all to connect as human beings and put aside tensions that could have made the discussions less productive and more strained.”
- “Connecting with my team on a deeper level and building trust and openness that gives us even more support and power in our daily work.”
We are so grateful to our partners and participants. Without them, change would not be possible. We look forward to future programs and following our partners in their journey to achieving sustainable equity.