There’s More to DEI Education Than You Think

Diversity. Inclusion. Equity. The work is here to stay.  


If you’re committed to leading anti-racist organizations and deepening your understanding of oppression and racism, it can be tougher than you expect to find helpful resources. Taking steps towards inclusion, belonging, and equity in your organizations can feel overwhelming. 


How do you know when you’re ready to lead a more inclusive and equitable organization? How do you know if your organization is ready? 


When we work with organizational leaders to design education and programs around DEI, these are the readiness factors we use. Is your organization ready to commit to DEI?


 1. Creating diverse, equitable, and inclusive organizations takes more than just workshops and checklists. 


The need for diversity, equity, and inclusion is not just a line item: DEI is essential for building strong teams, strong leaders, and strong organizations. 


To better understand the effects and implications of systemic racism and now it affects your organization, you have to approach DEI with a holistic point-of-view. There’s no such thing as a one-stop-workshop to undo the effects of racism; your DEI program needs to be comprehensive, intersectional, and built intentionally from the foundation to transform your organization. 


You need to approach every leadership decision – whether it’s day-to-day or long-term – through the lens of equity. DEI is as essential to your organization as your financial reports. 


Doing the work can be tough and uncomfortable. Expect that personal barriers can get in the way, team members may present challenges, and circumstances can create friction and stall the work – but you’re not in this alone, so don’t let it stress you out.   


Work with your team to create mutual agreements, expectations, and approaches that address these challenges as they arise. It helps to be prepared – and to give yourself time to regroup, refocus, and re-engage. 


 2. Expect challenges and resist the binary. 


Building stronger organizations that value inclusion and equity is tough. Expect to encounter uncomfortable moments – but know that discomfort is often a sign of growth.   


Organizational truths are often based on the perspective of the dominant culture. This is dangerous for your organization – it leads to assumptions and decisions that ignore the crucial perspectives of those who don’t share the dominant point of view.  


Diversity work is about questioning assumed values and norms. We all like the simplest and shortest answers, but critical decision-making is never that easy. It’s important to work through ambiguity – and to understand the immense value of the voices that can help you approach the decision from an angle you’re not used to. 


Learning about diversity, equity, and inclusion will help you gain new perspective, which will help you uncover problems you might have ignored before – and discover innovative solutions. If it feels like a challenge today, it’ll be experience tomorrow.  


 3. See and hear things you thought you knew, differently. 


Discussions about diversity, equity, and inclusion are centered around the needs of marginalized community members. They tend to be silenced or outright ignored – but their perspectives are immensely valuable to your work. Bringing their voices to the forefront opens you to new possibilities and perspectives that may differ from your experiences – which creates transformation for your organization. 


By nature, this work challenges us on a personal level. To find success in your organization’s DEI education and work, you have to tap into new levels of empathy and understanding. 


Yes, diversity work is personal, and you have to be open to reframing your understanding in a way that includes the experience and perspective of everyone your organization works with. 


 4. Nobody is looking for a savior.


The disenfranchised don’t need a savior or an expert. They need allies, or advocates who uplift and amplify their perspectives and voices. 


The best way to advocate for marginalized voices is to prioritize their own first-hand experiences and voices. Instead of you coming in with predefined notions and agendas, allow them to lead the conversation, to share what they need, and to lead their own upliftment. 


And importantly, commit to them. You’re crucial to this process, and you’re a partner in this work.  


 5. Give yourself time to comprehend, shift, learn, and absorb– and recognize that you don’t have all the answers. 


Being successful in your DEI work means being open to all ideas, while understanding that you don’t always need to have an answer. Don’t expect to understand everything the first time around, but remember that this is a learning experience. The most important thing you bring to the table is an openness and willingness to do the work. 


Your team members, community leaders, and diversity experts are here for you. History, stories, opinions, and statistics that don’t align with your experience are important as you work alongside them.  


This is a journey that you’re all sharing together, and the answers will come in the doing. 


 6. The work is worth it.


Organizations have to be more proactive with their DEI work. As we continue to become more connected than ever, as the reach of our organizations grow, and as information becomes more accessible, our culture will continue to shift – which is why it’s more important than ever to shift the way we work by prioritizing DEI. 


Improving diversity, equity, and inclusion in our communities, cultures, and workplaces takes dedicated work from everyone – but especially from our leaders. To ensure the success of your work, you have to commit to discovering your organization’s DEI challenges and implementing solutions to help your organization grow stronger. 


This is how to create sustainable change and positive impact for your team, your workplace, and your community.