Why Communities of Practice Are Essential to Equity Work

“Diversity is being invited to the dance. Inclusion is being asked to Dance. Equity is allowing you to choose the Music.”― Cynthia Olmedo

Equity — just how important is it to you, to your team, to your organization? In previous posts, I’ve been sharing the deep, introspective work that is required for leaders who want to be guardians of equity. However, it can be frustrating when not everyone shares your sense of urgency on equity.

I had the opportunity to consult with an equity team recently who felt challenged by their sense of urgency. This group of volunteers agreed to take a look at equity issues within their organization and, from this bird’s eye view, make some recommendations. One of their first tasks was to help guide the hiring process of an equity officer. But then they found themselves doing a delicate dance. They needed to balance their own growing passionate perspective for equity while still supporting the new equity director, who would be taking a slower, more corporate approach to change. 

This group didn’t want their passion for equity to burn out so they asked me to come in and consult about how they might continue their work. I shared with them the concept of a Community of Practice and showed them what it could accomplish. They loved the idea, as it gave them permission to continue supporting one another as they worked on their passion while maintaining their distinct role and lens advancing the larger work of the organization.

There is also something incredibly powerful to be gained by doing equity work within a Community of Practice. In Communities of Practice, there are three essential elements: community, domain, and practice. Let’s examine how an intentional adherence to each of these three elements is essential to making lasting change in our equity work.

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Women Are Ready — But how can we support each other as we move forward?

“Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” — Muriel Strode 

Despite the pandemic, I recently had the fantastic opportunity to attend a virtual event sponsored by Conferences for Women and provide the attendees with pro bono coaching. If you know me at all, you know I love talking to women who are passionate about leadership. I got my wish as I met some amazing women dedicated to their companies, their careers, and their growth. 

My big takeaway from this conference: WOMEN ARE READY.

 

Women are ready to create a new model in the workplace. The traditional hierarchical model of work doesn’t appeal to many women today. Thankfully, more and more workplace systems acknowledge and support the growth of women in the organization. Some women are even fortunate enough to have women’s networks within their company where they can brainstorm and openly discuss the pros and cons of different workplace systems. If that’s not the case for you, keep reading to discover how you can find or create that kind of support.

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Transitioning Out of Fear and into Hope with Collaborative Learning

This has been a year of fear and no wonder with an unprecedented pandemic, insurrection at the Capital, growing tribalism, global warming, economic instability. But instead of getting sucked into and trapped by our fears, “remember, you don’t fear people whose story you know. 

That’s the next stanza of Margaret Wheatley’s poem, “Turning to One Another.” (To read the entire poem take a look at a previous blog.) I’ve been reflecting on this poem over the last few weeks and it finishes on a much-needed positive note.

Remember, you don’t fear people whose story you know.

Real listening always brings people closer together.

Trust that meaningful conversations can change your world. 

Rely on human goodness. Stay together.

We are stronger together, even with or maybe even especially because of our different opinions, backgrounds, and stories. We each have goodness within us and meaningful conversations with each other can reveal the goodness, the common purpose, and the stories behind what we care about.

In order to leave fear truly behind and find new solutions to our unprecedented challenges, we need to have an entirely new approach to listening and learning.

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Stop Accepting the Unacceptable and Create a Community Committed to Change

Community committed to changeNothing ruins my day more than an encounter with someone who says, “Well, it’s been like that for as long as I’ve been here and there’s nothing anyone can do to change it.” If you hear that enough times, you begin to doubt whether change is even possible. It makes me sad to see leaders and teams fall into this pattern of disempowering acceptance. 

It’s when you feel isolated and alone with a problem that you can find yourself accepting the unacceptable. This brings me back to Margaret Wheatley’s poem, “Turning to One Another.” (To read the entire poem take a look at a previous blog.) I’ve been reflecting on this poem over the last few weeks and this next stanza I find particularly motivating when confronted with the unacceptable.

Invite in everybody who cares to work on what’s possible. 

Acknowledge that everyone is an expert about something. 

Know that creative solutions come from new connections.

I love this part of the poem. I want to work with others who care to work on what’s possible. Margaret Wheatley reminds us that each person holds expertise and, collectively, we can come up with new solutions. That’s my vibe, I’m all about collaboration and the synergy of the group that spins one idea off of another until they land on a common direction. It’s powerful.

If you’re a leader, and you’ve observed an unacceptable situation, what should you do next? 

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Are You a Leader Who’s Brave Enough to Start a Conversation That Matters?

Unfortunately, many people shy away from conversations that matter. In the current political and social climate, it might feel too overwhelming to even try! However, if you want to be an influential leader that inspires your community, these kinds of conversations cannot and should not be avoided. This isn’t talking, tweeting, or shouting, this is conversing, and it comes from a place of vulnerability.

This subject came up for me recently when I read, Margaret Wheatley’s poem, “Turning to One Another.” (To read the entire poem take a look at my last blog, Appreciating the Power of a Collaborative Community — Now more than ever!)

The second stanza of the poem stimulated some thought-provoking questions…

 

Be brave enough to start a conversation that matters. 

Talk to people you know.

Talk to people you don’t know.

Talk to people you never talk to.

 

Be intrigued by the differences you hear. 

Expect to be surprised.

Treasure curiosity more than certainty.

 

So here are the questions that come to mind…

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Louise J Santiago, PhD
Executive Coach and Organizational Consultant

Where Leadership is Intentional Work

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