Every organization approaches KPIs differently. Some organizations have been meaning to start this process but haven’t gotten around to it; for those organizations...we’ve got you! Before we begin, I thought it’d be fitting to present a glossary of...Read more.
“We each had skills that balanced each other well, all felt strongly about contributing to positive change and making an impact through communications.” - Val This sentence sums up the founding of rootid. But since storytelling and providing the...Read more.
When someone says the words, “it’s time for a rebrand,” does your heart skip a beat? In this 3-part series , we will examine a community-centered, values-embodied approach to the rebrand process. Part 1 will explore how we begin by centering the...Read more.
As I scroll through hundreds of #WHM posts on my twitter feed, I wonder, how many businesses, organizations, and foundations are prioritizing diversity, equity and inclusion in their core cultural values? How many organizations & institutions are putting those values into practice?Read more.
The problem with committing to equity, is that you might actually have to do the work! “Allyship born of heroism- not altruism- will ultimately be performative and harmful.” ― Jamie Arpin-Ricci introduction Welcome to the Nonprofit Allyship Theater...Read more.
Join a group of nonprofit leaders & staff to explore narrative framing during a 2-hour Virtual Roundtable. We strive to co-create spaces of meaningful connection and belonging (these workshops are not webinars). We encourage and model frequent screen and body breaks. We believe collective learning leads to the most innovative and effective outcomes.Read more.
During this time of racial reckoning in combination with the global pandemic and catastrophic climate change, we must seize the opportunity to reinvent, reimagine and more effectively communicate a collective vision—a world of interconnectedness and...Read more.
Every organization approaches KPIs differently. Some organizations have been meaning to start this process but haven’t gotten around to it; for those organizations...we’ve got you! Before we begin, I thought it’d be fitting to present a glossary of terms for your reference:
KPIs: KPI stands for key performance indicator, a quantifiable measure of performance over time for a specific objective. KPIs provide targets for teams to aim for, milestones to gauge progress, and insights that help people across the organization make better decisions.
OKRs: OKRs stand for "Objectives and Key Results." It is a collaborative goal-setting methodology used by teams and individuals to set challenging, ambitious goals with measurable results. OKRs are how you track progress, create alignment, and encourage engagement around measurable goals.
Annual Plan: An annual plan is an operational plan that indicates specific goals and objectives for a particular program or programs within a specific timeframe (usually one year). It often includes a detailed plan outlining which activities will be accomplished, by when and by whom.
Traditionally, when the KPI process is starting, those within an organization who best understand what resonates with the community, its needs and solutions - are sometimes left behind; even though they have the most knowledge in shaping the direction of the organization.
Because money plays such an important role in our work and society, the needs of the communities are sometimes ignored in the name of being seen as more marketable to funders. Organizations hope to present a more enticing argument to funders to secure funding; signaling to those with the least amount of power that their opinions or contributions are not important... effectively creating a power dynamic. However, there are ways to build KPIs that do not perpetuate white supremacy culture.
Perfectionism: little time, energy, or money put into reflection or identifying lessons learned that can improve practice, in other words little or no learning from mistakes;
Sense of urgency: continued sense of urgency that makes it difficult to take time to be inclusive, encourage democratic and/or thoughtful decision-making, to think long-term, to consider consequences;
Defensiveness: people respond to new or challenging ideas with defensiveness, making it very difficult to raise these ideas;
Only one right way: the belief there is one right way to do things and once people are introduced to the right way, they will see the light and adopt it;
Paternalism: those with power think they are capable of making decisions for and in the interests of those without power and those with power often don’t think it is important or necessary to understand the viewpoint or experience of those for whom they are making decisions;
Power hoarding: those with power assume they have the best interests of the organization at heart and assume those wanting change are ill-informed (stupid), emotional, inexperienced.
All of these characteristics don’t have to be the norm! If we do the personal work and show up with a growth mindset, a lot of healthy and productive conversation can happen.
How do organizations and those with positional power shift the game plan to not perpetuate harm when working on KPIs?
Listen and act on the information you’re hearing from those with the least amount of power. Don’t challenge it, though ask clarifying questions. Use this information to shape how everyone is building out their KPIs. It’s okay to take time to think outside of the box;
Have a clearly defined POP (purpose, outcome, and process) with a detailed timeline that’s reflected on everyone’s calendar well in advance;
Time allocation for every employee: do folx have manageable workloads and if not, then what needs to come off the plate.
At the last organization I worked at, I was able to create the above process and tools that helped mitigate some of the sentiments that come from white supremacy culture. Was everyone excited about the new process? Most definitely not. But those who had the least power within the organization certainly felt seen and heard.
Once you’ve created the process that work best for your employees:
Walk everyone through all of the documents;
Give folx time to digest it (at least a week);
Ensure there are opportunities to anonymously ask questions and/or give feedback;
Once the process has started, ensure someone is checking in with staff who have the least organizational power to ensure this process is going in the right direction;
After the information is populated, continue having org-wide and departmental conversations about the KPIs.
Creating equitable KPI’s is a process that has the potential to be a joyful experience. Allowing employees (subject matter experts) to give their insight and checking egos/ insecurities at the door; will ensure that it is.
“We each had skills that balanced each other well, all felt strongly about contributing to positive change and making an impact through communications.” - Val
This sentence sums up the founding of rootid. But since storytelling and providing the details is what we do…here you go!
In hindsight, rootid really began when I moved to the Bay Area in the Fall of 2008; after a Habitat for Humanity trip to Guatemala to celebrate my 30th birthday. Prior to moving, I worked for a well-established car company, but knew that “selling cars” was not going to feed my soul, no matter how nicely it fed my pocketbook. I loved the people I worked with, but I needed to feel like I was contributing to making the world a better place. It was time to revolve my life around “being the change I wanted to see in the world.”
Upon my arrival, I began contracting with Design Action Collective and building my own client base of companies/organizations whose missions I supported. These projects were not only for non-profits or activist organizations, they were also for small businesses and individuals whose values and vision aligned with my own (in one shape, or form).
Val & Andrew
It was about this time that I met Andrew Goldsworthy. I first met him on a construction site in Oakland where I was a volunteer photographer for new Habitat For Humanity home builds. We clicked immediately and I offered to volunteer my design services for them as well. Recognizing that we had complementary skill sets, we decided to take on some contract projects together. The first of which was OperaWorks; they needed a new website. Though I was not necessarily a huge fan of opera music at the time, I felt a real kinship with its founder, Ann Baltz. She had vision and was spending her life and career training performers to find their internal voice, to listen to themselves and to use that grounding as the basis for their artistic practice. As an artist who had recently been on my own internal journey, I connected with what OperaWorks was helping young singers achieve.
Val & Jason
Jason and I began dating in the Winter of 2009. Though Jason and I had only been dating a short time, we started working on projects together almost immediately. You would think this would have been a real killer to our relationship, but somehow it seemed to actually give us a strong foundation of trust, mutual respect and complementary learning for the journey we were stepping into together.
The winter of 2010 to spring 2011 was a time of change for all three of us. Andrew decided to leave Habitat and move to Argentina; and Jason and I were feeling pretty secure in both our personal and work relationships. I started talking with each of them about the prospect of joining forces together…We became rootid on May 12, 2011. We have always been ‘rooted in community.’ That’s how we first decided on our name—from the beginning we have been rooted in the idea of a collaborative communications model that co-develops strategies and effective tools based on listening to community needs.
From year one until… In year one, with just a staff of three we focused primarily on nonprofits from the community. We were fortunate to begin with four relatively large clients, and about 10 small clients that first year, the most notable being Habitat for Humanity East Bay (now East Bay Silicon Valley), California Family Health Council (now Essential Access) and UC Berkeley–all of these are still clients to this day.
The first five years were filled with changes and growth. We believed strongly in ‘growing your own’ so focused the majority of our hiring on training interns and helping them grow into junior and mid-level staff members. We grew slowly and organically in those early years, evolving from being three white co-founders to mentoring and then hiring our first employee, to then bringing in design and development interns; and as our staff grew, so did our offerings. By year five (2016) we were focused solidly on nonprofit and social good entities and had worked with close to 60 small to mid-sized organizations.
Through each of these experiences, we found that organizations (of all sizes) all needed the same fundamental brand and communications help—aspects like understanding how their values translated into the work they actually did, who their target audiences were and how to more effectively engage and deepen relationships.
Though our work was feeling relevant and thoughtful, it was in 2019 during our second 2-day intensive and followed by a conversation about how equity was infused in our work, that something shifted within me and I realized that we were not fully embodying the values we intended to be rooted within—we were centering belonging, but white supremacy culture characteristics were showing up in our organization, workshops and within us as individuals in ways that needed reflection and change.
So here we are 11 years later. The company we built together is one I am truly proud to be a part of. Grounded in the values that align with the core of who we each are as people and the ways we want to show up in relationship with our communities and planet. To date, we have engaged with over 400 unique organizations across our agency and community outreach work. rootid currently has about 20 - 30 ongoing retainer clients, 10 or so new clients each year and with the community engagement events we have planned, we expect our total number of nonprofits served to be upwards of 500 by the end of 2022.
And now our mission into the next 11+ years...
We join with others, envisioning a world where those most impacted are prioritized & communications & technology are used to heal & empower rather than divide.
How to Embody IDEA (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity & Accessibility) Values in Your Rebrand & Rollout Part 1
When someone says the words, “it’s time for a rebrand,” does your heart skip a beat?
In this 3-part series, we will examine a community-centered, values-embodied approach to the rebrand process. Part 1 will explore how we begin by centering the needs, experiences and voices of those closest to the outcome of our work, inviting you to examine how perfection and urgency might show up for you and your team. Part 2 will invite you to dive deep into iteration and 'safe to fail' experimentation, using liberatory design process principles to 'imagine,' 'prototype' and 'try' new approaches to your communications strategies and materials. Finally, Part 3 will discuss ways to embody IDEA (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity & Accessibility) values in your brand rollout.
Part 1: Making the Case for Doing This Differently
Does just the idea of rebranding, changing your logo, messaging and the rest of your visual identity across your various print and media assets send a shiver up your spine as you think about the stakeholders you will need to include, and the opinions you will need to balance? The politics and fear that this process evokes can trouble even the most well-balanced, calm and intentional organization.
Re-envisioning your brand is a huge undertaking and though it should be taken seriously, it does not need to cause as much heartache nor as many headaches as it often does.
Instead, what if we imagined this as an iterative process that worked into your everyday workflow?
An interactive process invites:
stakeholders and constituents to be included
direct as well as anonymous feedback to be collected and iterated upon
everyone to feel like they are part of a cohesive and collaborative team experience
What if I were to tell you that this process does in fact exist; newly termed the Community Centered Rebrand. In the Community Centered Rebrand, the visual materials are designed, tested and retested in real time response to internal staff and community input. Your messaging is iterated upon as you go; and your logo redesign comes last.
Let’s take a step back and remember that marketing is an experiment—technologies are constantly changing, politics and funding are often in a state of flux, and internally there is always some amount of team turnover and institutional knowledge gained and lost. It is only our dominant culture (read white supremacy culture characteristics, in particular, perfectionism and sense of urgency) that tells us we need to get it perfect on the first try, or somehow ‘flip a switch’ and change everything at once.
We do not take for granted that this is serious business and could potentially change the trajectory of your organization, but taking a more iterative, community-centered, and thoughtful approach makes this process feel more collaborative, connecting, and trust-building rather than exclusionary, problematic, power dynamic focused, and, well, often soul crushing.
Iterating vs. Perfecting
The problem with the typical rebranding process is that everyone goes into it with the pressure of perfection looming over them. Many Executive Directors don’t even want to touch it with a 10-foot pole because of the stress that the mere idea evokes. The complicated feelings and power dynamics between board members and senior staff are often centralized in this process, But, what if we approached rebranding work through the lens of IDEA (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity & Accessibility) and used the liberatory design process as our guide?
An approach like this has the potentiality to bring people in your community closer together, galvanizing support for your mission and in turn “contributing to greater organizational capacity and social impact.” (Stanford Social innovation Review)
The idea behind the Community Centered Rebrand, prioritizes the needs of your internal stakeholders and those you are in service to by beginning by assessing where you are, what‘s working, what’s not, who comprises your audiences and stakeholders; and how you want them to feel about your organization at the end of this process.
The first step is to look at your communication assets and materials. Ask your staff what materials they need to be more successful in their work, what tools would make their lives easier, what assets community members need that they are not getting as easily as they could?
Begin by redesigning these materials first since they are actually the most impactful brand vehicles you have.
To begin this redesign process, we start by creating mood boards. Mood board development allows you to establish an updated visual language for your organization without addressing your logo, and is a great tool for community inclusion.
Mood boards are collages/collections of fonts, imagery, colors, photography treatments and other elements (that best represent your org) that you can share with community members for feedback. We often begin this process with a community town hall where we have group discussions around color theory, fonts, imagery, etc. feel most aligned with your organizational core values and how those can potentially be applied across various contexts. We will usually include initial mood boards or sketches at this time as well as a survey to gain anonymous insights & feedback from those who either can not attend or are not comfortable sharing their perspectives publicly.
Words for the Wise
In order to make this work feel accessible and inclusive please provide materials at least 24 hours hours ahead of time, translated into whatever languages are needed in your community and make sure you have interpreters for the event itself. If you are thinking, 'that is too much work' or ‘we can’t afford that,’ consider from the perspective of those in your community who are neurodivergent or non-English speaking, even if they seem fine with however you communicate regularly, they will probably appreciate the additional care you have taken.
When we create mood boards, we usually begin with 5 directions and iterate over 3 rounds till we land on one final direction. We then use the final version as the basis of our updated visual language. Mood boards are great because they can also act as a mini-style guide that you can build upon.
Now it is time to start updating collateral and other communications assets. In your anonymous survey you would have included a few questions about what assets people really use on a regular basis and what tools would help them do their jobs more effectively. That information will be what determines which materials to start redesigning first.
The board and senior staff may lean toward choosing your Theory of Change, Annual Report or Strategic Plan, because those are often what funders or external partners want to see, but this approach centers the needs of your internal staff and those you are in service to, first. So when or if you feel pressure to begin with one of the above assets, take a moment to consider those materials are useful to the rest of your staff. Depending on your answer, perhaps consider that a slide deck, brochure, one-sheet or flier template might be a more useful first choice?
In Part 2 of this series we will explore iteration and ‘safe to fail’ experimentation using liberatory design process principles to ‘imagine,’ ‘prototype’ and ‘try’ new approaches to the application of your new visual language across your branded materials.
“Ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man – when I could get it!“ —Sojourner Truth
What does it really look like to highlight and support women?
As I scroll through hundreds of #WHM posts on my twitter feed, I wonder, how many businesses, organizations, and foundations are prioritizing diversity, equity and inclusion in their core cultural values? How many organizations & institutions are putting those values into practice?
What would it look like if we really highlighted and supported the accomplishments of women during Women’s History Month?
Originally started as a week-long celebration in Santa Rosa, California in 1978, Women’s History Month began as hundreds of students paraded the streets and presented essays of appreciation. The movement spread across the country as other communities initiated their own celebrations, and eventually, Congress passed Public Law 100-9 in 1987, designating March as “Women’s History Month.”
This was only 35 years ago.
Today, Women’s History Month is observed with annual themes highlighting the achievements of women, past & present – but at times, institutions fall short of building towards the promise of the future. Women’s History Month has drawn mixed reactions and criticism in recent years as corporate tokenism has used the holiday to check marketing and social justice boxes. Similar to the students of Santa Rosa over 40 years ago, sometimes it still feels like a parade.
While more companies create campaigns & initiatives to celebrate WHM, the recent pandemic and economic disasters have exacerbated many of the pre-existing issues burdening women. Issues such as, widening income inequality, widespread joblessness, an epidemic of domestic abuse, political attacks on reproductive rights, and a lack of balanced support systems. All while companies continue to play “Most Woke” on social media. (Notes: Extra Points to companies & organizations who can manage and navigate a second straight month of wokeness after #BHM February.)
Furthermore, companies celebrating the holiday have been criticized for their lack of diversity & inclusion practices as white supremacy culture has traditionally centered white voices over Black & Indigenous, Women of Color.
The truth is Women of Color continue to face inequity and disparity beyond the month of March. In 2020, women held the top jobs at just 37 out of these 500 companies — and none of those women were Black. However, it’s not just the private sector. Grassroots organizations and nonprofits led by Women of Color tend to receive the least amount of funding from both governmental grants and philanthropic donations. The monetary giving to Women of Color-led organizations makes up only 0.5% of the approximate $66.9 billion that is given annually from foundations. (Philanthropywomen.org)
"There needs to be more representation and inclusion in celebrations of Women’s History Month. I would like to see more actionable items from community leaders, corporations and legislators that promote equity and equal rights.” —Angela Ceseña, executive director of Latina SafeHouse
If you're an organization that truly wants to celebrate the movement of Women’s History Month, it’s not just enough to post a new facebook banner. It requires a real investment of culture and practice. Don’t just support the idea, support the people.
At rootid, we’ve decided to use our platform to celebrate and share the work of impactful BIPOC women currently creating change in our communities. On International Women’s Day this year, we asked our team members to share the names & stories of influential leaders we could learn more about and support by highlighting in our newsletter. As we continue to live our values, we celebrate the women on our team, in our lives, and on this list that inspire us to build for a more equitable future.
Kristina Ashley Williams - The social justice heroine determined to ‘spread radical joy’ As dual CEO and social justice champion, Kristina is shifting organizational cultures with her futurist voice and challenging the tech industry to prioritize diversity, equity & inclusion with her education based training platform, Unpacking. She is a highly-touted speaker whose personality, subject matter expertise and experiential design recently earned her a NAACP award nomination and notable recognition from TechCrunch, Forbes and even a co-sign from Beyonce’s BEYGood Foundation. Just this month, Kristina and Unpacking won best pitch representing Future of Work in the speed pitch finals at SXSW festival in Austin,TX. As a descendant of Jackie Robinson, social impact isn’t just a buzzword for Kristina, but rather a legacy for a woman redesigning workplace culture with a futurist voice.
Veronica Santiago Liu - The community builder at the local bookstore I was first introduced to Veronica’s work by our Experience & Service Designer, Mabel Colón. Mabel shared that Veronica founded what is currently the only bookstore in her New York City neighborhood, and how her kindness kept drawing in members of the community to volunteer. Veronica is the founder and general coordinator of volunteer-led bookstore, Wordup Community Bookshop (Librería Comunitaria) which has trained more than 800 neighbors as volunteers since 2011. She was an inaugural member of the Committee on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion of the American Booksellers Association (ABA), and serves on the boards of New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association and Dominican Writers Association, the advisory board for Healthy Families Washington Heights, and the community advisory board for freeform radio station WFMU. Veronica continues to impact her community and even had February 28th declared as “Veronica Santiago Liu Appreciation Day” to honor her arts and civic work.
Danielle Coke - The illustrator using art to make a social statement Our designer, Grace introduced us to Danielle Coke, a 25-year-old illustrator and social activist from Atlanta who runs the popular Instagram account @ohhappydani. Utilizing her artwork as a communication tool is something relatively new to Danielle. Until July 2019, she was working in the event planning industry in marketing and graphic design. She only recently started her impactful instagram account to represent Black history through visual arts. With over 352,000 followers, she is using art and words to help good people become better neighbors by hosting informational livestreams about actionable steps any citizen can take to engage in social justice movements. Take a second and check out her shop.
Bi Nguyen - The fighter helping others find strength Bi Nguyen is an Asian-American MMA fighter whose story has personally moved our Director of Design, Soy Pak-Krisher. Known professionally as “Killer Bee” in the ring, Nguyen went through difficult times growing up and martial arts helped her find a purpose and direction in her life. Now she’s impacting her community by helping to empower young girls and women. She's using her ever-widening platform to help abuse survivors by giving free self-defense seminars, sharing her story at schools and shelters, and continuing to create opportunities for other women of color in martial arts.
Bernadette Lim, MS - The healer reshaping community health Creater, healer, warrior. Bernadette Lim (known as “Bernie” in her community) is the Founder and Director of the Freedom Community Clinic, an Oakland-rooted and womxn-led mobile clinic providing healing services and wellness education. She is the daughter of Filipinx and Toisanese immigrants who recently earned her Master’s at UC Berkeley School of Public Health and graduated from Harvard University in 2016 with cum laude honors. Now, Bernie is leading a health revolution that nourishes and uplifts the bodies, minds, and spirits of under-resourced communities and brings care directly to where communities gather and celebrate.
Indigo Mateo - The abolitionist making powerful music & fighting rape culture Indigo Mateo is an Afro-latina singer, songwriter and culture worker who creates art to heal and transform. She is a co-owner of her social impact record label, Question Culture and founder of Soul Showers, a space for those who've experienced sexual violence to cleanse shame and 'heal in the sun.' In August 2019, Indigo appeared on the AFROPUNK Brooklyn Solution Sessions panel about Street Harassment. Her first album, Intuition has garnered over 10,000 plays and her original music has been featured in films and international productions. Recently, she launched Abolition X, a new podcast from Spotify, that investigate the many pathways of abolition and provides a forum for voices at the vanguard of the anti-violence movement.
Share with us the women who have been influential in your life, drop us a line!
The problem with committing to equity, is that you might actually have to do the work!
“Allyship born of heroism- not altruism- will ultimately be performative and harmful.” ― Jamie Arpin-Ricci
Welcome to the Nonprofit Allyship Theater!
Today's show includes:
A ‘this is how we’ve always done it’ work culture
Endless conversations sans actions
Microaggressions that go unchecked
Thoughts & Prayers
And of course, a great fundraising board
It’s not enough to make an effort, when you really want to make progress. We at rootid understand that the journey to equitable practice requires various tools and resources; thought partnership, a knowledgeable community of like-minded individuals, and strategic communication/messaging. As you reevaluate your commitments to equity; know that rootid is here to provide ideas on how to continue moving forward ….to progress.
2020 - the great awakening
March 13, 2020 started off like any other day… and then it became known as the day the world closed. 2020 was a tumultuous year to say the least. As a country, we witnessed a contentious election; systemic racism protests with people of all colors marching side by side; rainbow flags on full display; black squares; collective empathy, and promises of change. Finally, it was the America we always knew we could be. The America where liberty and justice was truly FOR ALL. Individuals were self-reflecting, and desired to change, what we knew then as ‘normal everyday life’.
At dinner tables, cubicles, and coffee bars, individuals engaged in conversations about humanity and the treatment of all of its citizens. For profit and nonprofit organizations were not immune to this wave and began to take a deeper look at their culture, values, and practices. As diversity and inclusion became the buzzwords of progress, DEI consultants began to see an uptick in requests for services inclusive of implicit bias training, cultural awareness and belonging.
All over, individuals were equipped with knowledge and provided with the tools and wording for how to show up for their marginalized peers. They were allowed to peek into the minds, trauma, and experiences of others in the hopes that they would not retraumatize and instead help. Certain members of the nonprofit community would proudly beat our chests believing that we are ahead of the game in regard to our commitment to equity - for we are the change we wish to see.
Our websites are awash with diverse faces. Our hiring practices were fair and balanced; our boards reflective of the communities we served (in both race and socioeconomic status). We brought in consultants to do a listening tour with the patrons of our organization; we are doing the work….but are we really?
“Choose your beliefs wisely, for they will become your reality.” ― Anthon St. Maarten 2021
the great stagnation
The nonprofit sector is one of the most vibrant and productive sectors. Often filling the gap left by tax cuts and reallocated funding. From out of school time programs to health and wellness initiatives; there are few who have not been touched by this sector and its workers - mobilized to do good work.
For all of its ‘good work’, certain members within the sector have perfected the art of talking about an issue without ever having to take action. Specifically, when it comes to equity and inclusion. Have things really changed or have we been fooled by the business of equity and inclusion?
What do I mean?
Think about the nonprofit where you currently serve; what’s it like? Think about your organization as a whole; the office culture, the staff, your values, org practices, the board, and volunteers. Are there still members of the team that remain silent during all-staff meetings?
Has the DEI committee made suggestions that have yet to be enacted; what’s the holdup? Are the values timely and reflective of the organization and the communities they serve? What kind of representation and inclusion do you have based on gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, and background/experience? (Rootid offers coaching and roundtable sessions to assist you with all of these areas).
Classic example: In the life of every nonprofit comms manager or development professional , you will have to create a campaign to raise awareness, supporters or capital. Know that as the designers of the message you have a big responsibility to respect the people you represent. What wording are you using when describing the demographics you serve? What stereotypes are your messages reinforcing? What style guide are you consulting?
These terms are often used to describe communities of color; at-risk, low-income; disadvantaged; under-served. Do these terms aptly describe the groups you are in service to - or are they the ‘go-to’ terms that make funders feel good about themselves? If your beliefs are inequitable - it's going to show up in your approach, your interactions, and definitely in your messaging.
The reason why many of the inclusive efforts have stalled is because mindsets have yet to change. All of the workshops and company observances will be performative if in your mind, non-white persons are still seen as ‘less than’ or beneath you. And if you don't believe this mindset still exists, let's revisit a recent event.
On a lovely spring day in May of 2020, a black man was birdwatching and minding his business (which is what often happens in cases like these); when a white woman was also walking through Central Park while talking on her phone—accompanied by her dog, who was not on a leash. Per the Central Park Conservancy,
“all dog owners should maintain at least six feet of distance from other people and animals and keep their dogs on a leash.”
What happened next is the heart of what I want you to pay attention to. The birdwatcher went to gently remind the dogwalker about the leash law and what ensued was nothing short of a tragedy. The dogwalker proceeded to yell at the man and threatened to call the police and let them know that she was being attacked by a Black man in the park while trying to walk her dog.
Thanks to the cell phone video, we were able to witness her outrage and see that she was in fact not being attacked, nor was he close enough to her to inflict bodily harm. Her outrage was not at being reminded about the law; it was the fact that an individual who she believed was beneath her, had the audacity to remind her of what was posted and known throughout the park.
Historical reference - In the United States, during the humble beginnings of slavery cerca 1619, black people were not citizens, but property to be bought, named, and sold. The culture of the time dictated under no circumstances could a black person assume an air of equality with a white person. Then when those well-meaning white creators of the law needed to gain more votes they made a provision in the Constitution called the 3/5th compromise. In essence, it stated that black people were not considered whole persons and the parts that mattered could be used for political gain (thus setting a trend for how black people would be used in the political system). So you see, for an black person to address a white person or give directives would be considered the most disrespectful act one could commit; punishable by beatings and/or death.
Fast forward to May 25th…... Are you seeing a pattern?
Amy Cooper, for all we know, could have just attended her company’s DEI workshop the Friday prior to the incident. She might have recently made a donation to a BIPOC-led organization in time for Giving Tuesday. But for all her good work - when confronted with a person who was unlike her in real life, the reality of her unchanged mind was on display for all the world to see.
Sadly, there are plenty of ‘Amy Coopers’ serving on boards and on the frontlines of many of our nonprofit organizations feeling good about themselves because they are achieving outcomes with a ‘we do good work for those people’ savior mentality - without really having to change their mind. (Though this is now a well-known example, it is all too common. White supremacy shows up in our culture in many forms. See Tema Okun article)
2022 - the year of your great follow through
‘follow through’ phrasal verb of follow
continue an action or task to its conclusion. "don't promise a reward and then not follow through"
In sports, it's the moment after the ball has been hit, encompassing form and power. In business, it's the phone/call email after an agreement has been reached to ensure all terms have been satisfied; and in leadership, its management executing on its plans. In every aspect of life, the ‘follow through’ is the most effective tool to ensure completion.
Which makes you think, if this principle is so easily understood everywhere else- why is it so difficult to understand when it comes to fighting for equity? If we truly want to shift mindsets there has to be an openness and a willingness to see that what you currently believe is skewed. A commitment to equity and inclusion must be an ongoing practice - ‘one and done’ just won't do.
ways rootid can help you get started in 2022
Sign up for a one-to- one consultation with rootid experts to design equity-centered brand & communications strategies for organizations
Register for rootid’s community roundtable and actively engage in hands-on activities and small group discussions with other nonprofit professionals, service providers and funders.
Add your name to our mailing list and stay in the know about upcoming events, resources and tools
If you start conversations about making sure everyone is included, you will have to revisit the conversations until EVERYONE IS INCLUDED. If you conduct an internal audit to see what you can do better, you actually have to use the data to make some improvements. If you conduct a listening tour with your audiences and you hear their experiences are more transactional than relational (rootid hosts various sessions to assist with this- SIGN UP HERE) you might actually have to change your perceptions and how you interact with your audience.
Building a diverse and inclusive team of individuals across an expansive set of demographic factors, expanding from race and gender (age, sexual orientation, gender, disability, education and/or experience, and geographic background) can help organizations to increase the likelihood of succeeding while avoiding many of the pitfalls that can come from a group of like-minded individuals engaging in a vacuum (or groupthink). Side Note - I have experienced this sort of foolishness before. I had a senior manager who only wanted to hire people who looked like she could go to yoga with them, for management positions...SMH.
As this new year begins - I am still wondering if all of the social justice allies we picked up in 2020 are still with us. And if they are - then now is not the time to be silent or weary. 2022 has the potential to become the year of the great follow through. It's time to let the curtain drop and turn the lights off on Allyship Theater.
It's time for those of us who do this good work to finish what we started.
"When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have to speak up. You have to say something; you have to do something." -John Lewis
Narrative Framing Virtual Roundtable Part 1, March 2021
Date: March 17, 2021 Time: 9am - 11am PST Location: Virtual (Participants will recieve the Zoom link once they have RSVP'd)
Join a group of nonprofit leaders & staff to explore narrative framing during a 2-hour Virtual Roundtable.
Watch the Storytelling Roundtable Presentation
We strive to co-create spaces of meaningful connection and belonging (these workshops are not webinars). We encourage and model frequent screen and body breaks. We believe collective learning leads to the most innovative and effective outcomes.
This is part 1 of a 2 part series that can be attended together or separately.
During this time of racial reckoning in combination with the global pandemic and catastrophic climate change, we must seize the opportunity to reinvent, reimagine and more effectively communicate a collective vision—a world of interconnectedness and collaboration, where those most impacted are prioritized and communications and technology are used to "sustain, heal and empower" rather than divide (Design Justice Network Principle 1).
The nonprofit sector is constantly evolving in response to the needs of our communities and planet—finding innovative and often grassroots solutions to our society’s most complex problems. Unfortunately, these same organizations are often forced to not only compete but are also starved of resources, professional development and collaborative opportunities to build, think and learn.
Furthermore, nonprofits, service providers and funders have been siloed by issue and geography, operating within a scarcity mindset—competing with each other for resources. This fragmented and competitive approach often sacrifices the needs of the communities suffering the most harm and cannot deliver systemic change. As a sector, we need to reframe our shared values, vision and work through a lens of anti-racism, equity, trust and mutual aid. We need collaborative, systemic-focused, transformational change in order to solve intersectional challenges at the individual, community and national scale.
Communications, is easily the most adaptive tool we have to promote anti-racist, inclusive solutions that center the communities most impacted. Shared communication strategy builds clarity around what is at stake and promotes a comprehensive vision to guide community stakeholders towards a common purpose.
We need to tell the right message to the right people at the right time, together.
Research repeatedly shows that those organizations with a strong focus on brand and communications strategy are, "stronger, smarter and vastly more effective." - Sean Gibbons, Executive Director, ComNet, The Case for Communications, Stanford Social Innovation Review
However, communications are often overlooked or forced to be an after-thought within organizations that are challenged by limited resources. This leads to less than equitable outcomes at best & harmfully reproductive outcomes at worst. “Today, communications is not just an opportunity for nonprofits; it’s a necessity. Whether we’re fundraising or trying to influence policy, how we reach the right person with the right message has changed profoundly." - Andrew Sherry, The New Communications Imperative, Stanford Social Innovation Review
Our internal data shows, and external studies support, that a focus on communications capacity building creates more resilient organizations as well as more equity-centered leaders.
Over the last 4 years, rootid—in collaboration with various community partners, as well as input gained through hosted workshops, surveys and individual stakeholder interviews—has co-designed and developed a suite of professional development and communications capacity-building experiences. The flagship of which is rootid's brand and communications strategy cohort model—a 5-working session experience paired with monthly office hours and rootid's 1-on-1 coaching that support nonprofit leaders' journeys toward the development of equitable, inclusive and strategic brand and communications. In conjunction with the cohort, rootid also co-hosts monthly roundtable discussions open to the larger community, where nonprofit leaders come together in a 'solution room' style format to discuss their challenges and work together to think, learn and brainstorm solutions to common cross-sector issues.
Quotes from organizations that participated in a few of rootid's programs.
“rootid showed us ways to go beyond a communications strategy, printed or web content, and instead get to the heart of our mission and impact which lies directly in human experiences of reentry and the daily barriers they face. By focusing squarely on elevating those experiences, we were able to come up with a thoughtful and strategic communications strategy that aligned with our mission and that brought the organization’s development and programs team together to streamline our work, elevate the voices of those we serve, and really demonstrate what really matters to the wider public - which is breaking down barriers to opportunity for all Americans with criminal records.” - Aiasha Khalid, Deputy Director, Strategy & Impact, Root & Rebound
“Our staff is overburdened, we are on the ground and have to focus on just doing what we do. Having opportunities to talk with other nonprofit organizations, see how we are all managing under the circumstances we are in, and even mentor one another, that opportunity is so helpful.” -Terri Forman, Executive Director, First Graduate
"rootid’s training allowed me to really understand my organization’s audiences and write messaging that actually worked. Everyone working in communications should do this, and they should do it now – the earlier you do this is better, because it will shake up your communications strategy for the better!" - Emma Baumgart, Senior Communications Coordinator, Elevate Energy
"We sometimes get stuck in a land of buzzwords and complex messaging, and rootid helped our organization unpackage who we are, why we matter, and how different audiences perceive our work. rootid ultimately helped us talk about our work in a much more digestible way that shows our unique value-- we can't thank their team enough!" -Maureen Silva, Director of Development & Innovation, Mandela Partners
It’s been a transformative experience for us as a nonprofit. I couldn’t recommend it more. -Erinn Carter, Co-Founder of Frailty Myths
It helped us build a roadmap that we can use in our work now, but also for years to come. -Ben, SFUSD, Restorative Practices
Join us in co-designing and developing a community-driven communications collective.