(Beginning) Principles for Collective Action on Diversity & Inclusion

Reflections from Jacqueline Lim, Collective Impact Lead, ahead of our upcoming Leading Collective Impact programme, beginning on 23 September 2020, focussing on the theme of diversity, equity and inclusion.

The death of George Floyd in Minnesota US earlier this year, and the events that followed stirred something deeper in many of us at She Leads Change. I’m grateful for the courage and bravery of several individuals in our team who spoke up, sharing with us heartfelt and painful stories of their personal experiences of oppression. 

Listening to those stories was the starting point of a journey we are now on to inquire how She Leads Change – through our programmes, and our growing community – might embrace more diversity and inclusion, whilst nurturing greater belonging and equity.

At the same time, the team reflected on the completion of our very first cohort of the Leading Collective Impact programme – designed to equip change agents with the authenticity, confidence and skills to activate more systemic multi-stakeholder change, collectively.

We were struck by the stories and experiences of participants all of whom were activating positive, collective change in a variety of arenas and sectors. The story shared by Abby Crawford, Equality Manager at the London Fire Brigade, was particularly resonant given our own internal journey at She Leads Change.  

“She Leads Change helped me to explore how my own identity as a ‘leader’ impacted by ability to effect culture change (at the London Fire Brigade), and introduced me to some effective concepts and practical approaches to leading change in an open and collaborative way.”

Co-creating new possibilities together

In all of this, the question that emerged for the team – “could we more intentionally offer our Leading Collective Impact as a space for others to activate deeper inquiry and collective change on diversity and inclusion?”

In the spirit of co-creation (one of our design principles at SLC), we opened an invitation to potential participants, curious individuals and other supporters to join in the exploration. In late July, we were humbled by the over 70 individuals who registered, many of whom joined us in a session to look at what a “collective endeavour” to explore diversity and inclusion might look like. Through deep listening and whole-hearted conversations, a beginning set of principles began to emerge. as we embark on the next Leading Collective Impact programme starting later this month. 

Principle 1: Seek diversity of experience and thought

One of the first questions we explored was “what diversity and inclusion means to us”. The map that was co-created by everyone present revealed the breadth of experiences, intentions and hopes across the group.

We are reminded of the intersectionality represented by the multiple dimensions present in each of us, our organisations, our communities and beyond. And we are committed to creating space for every voice in the room to be heard. Also space for every individual to show up with their whole selves, including their marginalised or hidden parts.

Principle 2: Change on the outside and the inside

The need for change in our organisations and society is clear. The system is failing many who are left behind or are invisible. One co-creator urged us to think even further… 

“It’s crazy to think about organisations having a Theory of Change or purpose that’s about improving society without contributing to racial/social justice”.

And yet, many of us have been moulded by our experiences and environments. As a cisgender, heterosexual, woman of colour born and bred in east Asia before living in London for the last 10 years – I bring rich, but limited perspective.  

Affecting change in the world first requires change in me.  I am continuing my journey to get to know my blind spots. Learning my way into greater appreciation of multiple dimensions of diversity – including with disabilities, neurodiversity, sexuality, gender orientation, socio-economic status and beyond. Another co-creator put it this way – “I’d like to work on the barriers that stop me from being my best”.

Principle 3: Power deserves attention

But what about the barriers that hold back others from even having a seat at the table? Listening, appreciation and connection only go so far.

One co-creator shared… 

“Equity is key as a person of colour; I’d like fairness of opportunity for all”.

Real change in diversity and inclusion needs to result in greater equity for all. Which in turn requires us to explore power through the privilege we and others hold (what might I need to let go of?) and through the power that is inherent in us to be an agent of change (how and where might I take agency?).

On the latter, we will explore and learn collectively, ways of navigating the structures and systems we are a part of with grace and courage. We will prototype ways to influence and bring about multi-stakeholder change.

Principle 4: Working with the collective 

The Leading Collective Impact programme is an invitation to enter into inquiry and to live the questions. And doing so alongside a group of diverse and thoughtful peers – tapping into our collective wisdom to support our journeys.

We are committed to nurturing trust and fostering curiosity – and creating a safe rehearsal space where we can practice bravery. Where we can fall in the knowledge that others will be there to help us back up. Where we can all learn to recreate this culture of inquiry and learning on the main stages of life – with positivity and resilience.

We love this provocation from another co-creator which we fully intend to take on board!

“Let’s make diversity a joyful thing!”

Join our Leading Collective Impact programme – FOCUSED ON DIVERSITY, EQUITY AND INCLUSION – starting on 23 September 

  • Are you looking for new approaches and strategies to enable collective action and change – within your organisation, or across stakeholders or groups? 
  • Is your organisation committed to taking a deeper, wholehearted response to diversity, equity and inclusion – but isn’t sure where to start? 
  • Are you looking to be inspired and supported by a community of peers?

We only have very limited places available open to all (women and their colleagues). We do not want finance to be a barrier – we have sponsored places for women from under-represented backgrounds or who work at grassroots level. We also offer organisations group discounts.

Get in touch with jacqueline@sheleadschange.org to explore; or find out more at www.sheleadschange.org/co-impact.

Join our drop-in session on Monday 14 Sep, 12-1pm BST to find out more about joining the programme or if you want to get involved in learning together as part of our community. Or sign up to one of our SLC taster sessions coming soon.

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