Category: Plenary Preview

BoardSource Expert to Share “Vital Voices” on Diversity and Inclusion at Plenary

As I talk to philanthropic and emerging leaders about diversity and inclusion there seem to be more questions than answers. Questions like:

  • Is organizational inclusion like a unicorn? Something that we dream of and want to believe in, yet doubt because no one has ever seen it in action?
  • Is inclusion a feeling, or can it actually be measured?
  • Who gets to decide if an organization, team, or board is inclusive? How is it measured?
  • Can an organization successfully address inclusion without diversity? Or diversity without inclusion?
  • How can an effort on diversity and inclusion support my organizational objectives without feeling like an added burden?
  • How can boards of directors model values of diversity and inclusion when we have specific goals and expectations (monetary/title/company affiliation) for our board members?

If you’ve asked yourself these or similar questions about your own diversity and inclusion efforts you don’t want to miss my plenary session at next week’s Annual Convening.

Join me, your peers and a  special guest to learn more about the challenges organizations face when working to drive diversity and inclusion as organizational principles through board leadership.

Vernetta Walker, director of consulting and senior governance consultant with BoardSource will join us to explore her recent observation of the impact of an organization’s policies, practices, and board culture and dynamics on its ability to successfully integrate diversity and inclusion as living organizational principles.

BoardSource released a report entitled Vital Voices: Lessons Learned from Board Members of Color (pdf), sharing the results of their first survey of board members of color. The report outlines the facets that help and hinder progress towards building diverse and inclusive boards.  Our discussion will also include special highlights from local “vital voices” taken from recent focus groups held in the Twin Cities with nonprofit board members and trustees of color.

- Tawanna Black, MCF diversity fellow and president of Innovations by Design, LLC

From Ruby Slippers to Results: Laying the Path to Inclusive and Innovative Philanthropy

Ruby Slippers

Ready to ditch the ruby slippers? Check out Tawanna's plenary at the convening.

There’s a lot of discussion and goal-setting around diversity and inclusion happening these days. Although positive, this talk frequently falls short when it comes to actuating those good intentions.

Unsure of where to begin, it seems that many of us feel stuck, clicking our heels together chanting, “There’s no place like diversity,” hoping well-intentioned mantras, if repeated enough, will transform the systems that we work within.

Sadly there are no ruby slippers, and no yellow brick road marking the path to the inclusive future that we’re working towards. The path that we are on must be laid by hand, brick by brick, and that process happens when those who have had real success in creating diverse and inclusive organizations share what they have learned so that we may listen, learn and follow.

If you’re a traveler on this path, I’d like to invite you to the plenary session I’ll be conducting on Friday, October 29 at the MCF Annual Convening entitled “Leveraging Diversity and Inclusion as Assets for Innovation.” This multi-media session will include insights from local and national leaders who are actively leveraging diversity and inclusion to create a more fulfilling and productive culture within their organization, and ultimately better grantmaking outcomes for their communities.

For a sample of what you will hear and discuss during the presentation, watch this video featuring Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.  In it Lavizzo-Mourey shares how their commitment to diversity has started at the top with transforming their board.

After the presentation there will be opportunity for you to engage in lively discussion among your peers regarding the most promising practices for leveraging diversity and inclusion in philanthropy. Leave informed, inspired and equipped to unleash diversity and inclusion as organizational assets in your own foundation or corporate giving program.

Ready to lay the path to a more diverse tomorrow? Start by commenting on this post.

  • In what ways does your organization put the values of diversity and inclusion into action?
  • If you’re an organizational change-agent, how do you help your organization stay true to its commitment to diversity and inclusion?

- Tawanna Black, MCF diversity fellow and president of Innovations by Design, LLC

Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard

Elephant warning sign.

According to authors Dan and Chip Heath, acknowledging the "inner elephant" is important when trying to drive change.

Chip Heath, co-author of Switch, will be the closing plenary speaker at the MCF 2010 Annual Convening. Want a little taste of what Chip will share with you if you attend? Check out Stephanie Jacob’s post, originally published at the MCF Philanthropy Potluck Blog.

In the philanthropic sector, we talk a lot about making change. “We are change agents. We strive to make changes in the lives of others to improve our communities.”

As much as we talk about making change, we also talk about how hard it is. “People are resistant or slow to change. Change takes so much work!”

According to a new book by Dan and Chip Heath, it’s not necessarily that change is hard. In fact, some changes are pretty easy to make or even happen without people noticing (for instance, did you think ketchup was still the number one condiment in the U.S.? Guess again!) In Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard, the Heath brothers explore why some changes are easier to make than others. The stories, tools, and advice they provide can be useful in your personal life, in your organization, or when you are trying to make changes in a community.

Dan and Chip start off by stating that there are two sides of the brain that inform how we decide to make changes: 1) the rational side that prefers logic and reason, and 2) the emotional side that caters to our feelings. When these sides work together, making a change is easier. When they work against each other, it’s much harder to make a change. The simplest example of this is demonstrated when someone is trying to lose weight. The rational side of the brain knows that to lose weight you should eat salads, but the emotional side of the brain really wants a cookie.

The authors take this premise to build on a metaphor borrowed from The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt. Imagine that the emotional side of your brain is a gigantic elephant that is instinctual and impulsive (“Mmmmm…cookie!”) Now imagine that the elephant has a rider on its back, trying to guide that elephant in a certain direction. The rider is the rational side of your brain (“Dressing on the side, please!”)

Using that image, it’s easier to understand why people make certain decisions when it comes to change. The elephant is very powerful and doesn’t always listen to the rider, which can lead them down the wrong path. On the other hand, the rider can sometimes over-think and over-analyze a situation, which causes the elephant to stall. But, when the rider and the elephant agree, it can be a comfortable ride in the first steps towards change.

The Heath brothers believe there are three things we can do to make change easier:

1) Direct the rider by finding the bright spots:

The rider spins his/her wheels when there is no clear direction. The rational parts of our brains want to know the facts behind why we are going down a certain path. The best way to find that path is not to focus on the negatives, but to ask: “What’s working well for us? And how can we do more of what works well? How can we be more like ourselves at our best moments?” Answering these questions can provide direction for the rider. When making a change, people want knowledge and guidance as to what clear, specific changes need to be made.

2) Motivate the elephant:

The elephant is not going anywhere unless it wants to and logic doesn’t always provide the motivation. We need to find out what motivates people emotionally that will trigger them to make the changes we are hoping for: “What emotions are coming into play when people are considering this change? How can we use these emotions in a positive way towards change?” The combination of motivation and direction is catalytic when advocating for changes to be made.

3) Shape the path:

Once the rider and the elephant are in sync, there still might be obstacles in their path that can make things difficult. These are things in the environment that can be adjusted to make the path easier to tread. Sometimes, it’s easier to change some of the obstacles in the environment than to change the character of the people we are working with: “How can we remove some of the obstacles that are making it hard for people to change?”

When we view the process by which people make decisions to change in this way, we realize that it’s not necessarily that change is hard, but it does take time. It takes time to gather the information to define the clear path. It takes time to find out what motivates people to change and then persuade them to act on those motivations to change. It takes time to clear the obstacles in the path to change. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not worth it.

Join the conversation: It’s often easier for us to understand the kind of information we personally need in order to make informed decisions (giving our rider directions) and how we feel about a certain subject (what motivates our elephants). When we think about making changes within our organizations or communities, it’s not always apparent what kind of information other people need in order to feel comfortable moving in a certain direction or how their emotions affect the decisions they make. How does your organization figure out what information to provide to lead people in a clear direction, and how do you motivate people to make those changes?

- Stephanie Jacobs, MCF director of member services

Image CC Adam Foster
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