Is your organization’s equity fake AF?
Vu Le of Nonprofit AF breaks it down in Is Equity the New Coconut Water? “Honestly, it’s really refreshing that everyone is talking about equity; as refreshing as an ice-cold carton of organic coconut water. Equity is about restoring balance to the world, and is that not what our field is about? We who are in this field are the Jedi Knights of our society; we bring balance. So it’s awesome that everyone is now explicitly talking about it,” said Le. “However, as excited as I am, I’ve been seeing a lot of instances where there is significant talk around equity, and yet the implementation falls far short of what the concept actually is.”
What is equity, Anyway?
Well, there’s a TON of debate about the definition. Let’s start with this:
“Equity is the fair treatment, access, opportunity, and advancement for all people, while at the same time striving to identify and eliminate barriers that have prevented the full participation of some groups. Improving equity involves increasing justice and fairness within the procedures and processes of institutions or systems, as well as in their distribution of resources. Tackling equity issues requires an understanding of the root causes of outcome disparities within our society.” ~ Independent Sector
Talking about equity does not equal equity.
This summer, my colleague in the Nonprofit Marketing Guide’s Inclusive Conversations Series, Kim Pevia, and I hit the road to gather with nonprofits. While we found ourselves having some open and honest conversations and realized that many of you out there have had it with Fake equity within your organizations!
Here are some of the ways it is bothering staffers…
“It feels fake to even talk about race equity in communications when our staff is all White.”
“We have an Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Access (IDEA) policy, but having a real discussion about equity has been on the board agenda to discussed and got bumped.”
“I am asked to promote programs and say, ‘all are welcome,’ but most of our events are held in places that aren’t accessible to people using wheelchairs.”
“Fakequity” should be in your vocabulary
I first heard the term in a nonprofit Facebook group for Nonprofit Unicorn Persons of Color. There, I noticed a few people talking about the challenge of working in an organization with “Fakequity.”
Props to Heidi K. Schillinger and Erin Okuno of Equity Matters for sharing the phrase with the nonprofit universe!
We have Fakequity. What can I do about it?
Fakequity is frustrating— even for organizations committed to an equitable work culture. But it’s especially challenging for those within the nonprofit who don’t feel like they can make changes.
Where on the spectrum of Fakequity to Diversity Champions?
- Fakequity-Talk with No Action
- Potlucks and Fake Community Engagement
- Forks and Shoes: You are Fork amongst Chopsticks
- Awareness Raisers
- Equity Brave
- Equity Champion
YOU can do something about Fakequity:
1) Don’t be fake. Keep yourself informed and at the very least make sure you’re not insulting and isolating people through your day-to-day communications, because let’s face it: language matters. Just in case no one else knows the reason why a luau should NOT be your next fundraiser theme, you can be the voice of reason. “Use your spheres of influence. Start a conversation with someone who needs to be pushed to think about race and justice.” 30 THINGS TO DO AND DON’T DO IN 2018.
2) Stay woke. Find a consistent source of training, information, and dialogue. If your organization doesn’t have a budget for it you can always sign up for something like Fakequity Fridays blog post. Maybe you can even start your own version in your organization.
3) Stay informed. There is a plethora of information, data and research out there on this topic. Check out organizations like Equity in the Center and Stanford Social Innovation Review.
4) Find allies. Even the experts in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion training say they learn something new about every day. That’s how I landed on a nonprofit unicorns Facebook group. You don’t have to work through an open group; you could just find a few friends to share privately (and maybe not in writing). You can get started by leading an open dialogue with Charts and Fun Stuff to help with dialogue for those in your organization who are ready.
Still not sure what equity looks like? You’re not alone!
“We recently conducted in-depth conversations about equity with 30 staff members of 15 foundations whose peers named them as leading ‘equity work’ in the field. We found that funders not only are confounded by the definition of equity but also highly desirous of one that resonates—both within their organization and for the field as a whole. Very few foundations had a clear definition of what equity meant to them internally, and absolutely no one saw any common definition emerging from the field anytime soon.” What the Heck Does “Equity” Mean?
It’s the best way to approach equity is by committing to an ongoing process. As The Road to Achieving Equity study says…
“Advancing equity is a journey, not a destination. The pursuit of equity never ends. The foundations we spoke to acknowledge that embracing equity means embracing a constant practice in the way the foundation board and staff think about the issues they wish to address within their stated missions and how equity plays a role in every decision.” You can’t ever check it off the list.
Be brave and encouraged no matter where you are in the cycle.
YOU don’t have to be fake about equity, even if your organization is guilty of fakequity.