In an effort to center our commitment to being an anti-racist organization and uplifting our values of diversity, equity and inclusion, BES underwent multiple listening sessions with our alumni over the past several years to understand how BES could better center equity in our work and better serve alumni, schools, communities, and students. As a direct response to our findings collected during the listening tour, BES supported twelve alumni and their schools in undergoing equity audits to identify equity gaps and areas of opportunities to better serve students, educators, families, and communities with two partner organizations – Beloved Community and Promise54.
On May 8, two participants – Danny Song (Believe Memphis Academy) and Mitch Flax (Valence College Prep) held a discussion on their reflections, findings, advice, and their next steps to addressing the equity gaps found during the audit.They spoke about the challenges that come with starting the process (analysis paralysis is real!), how they engaged and got buy-in (mostly) from their teams, and had a frank conversation about what it means to truly be an anti-racist organization, rather than an organization that uses the word performatively.
Some lessons from the conversation were:
- Learning is continuous – the more you learn, the more you realize how much you still have to learn
- We need to humanize the work – this work is really about people and we must remember that as we drive the work forward
- We have to move away from white dominant paradigms and build systems for change
- This work will be uncomfortable – not everyone will be driven by equity work, or interested in it, and even those who are will be uncomfortable sometimes. And that is ok. It just means you are taking the right steps. Lean into the discomfort and recognize that discomfort is a necessary component for growth.
- Audits aren’t always perfect, but starting is important – you have to start the conversation, start the changes, start thinking about how to improve. If you are reading this blog post and are interested, then you are ready!
Here are some strategies they recommend leaders deploy while seeking to make their organizations more equitable:
- Diversity starts at the board level – make sure you are looking at your board demographics and shift accordingly
- Ensure your leadership team reflects the diverse identities you seek to serve through your work
- Next, look at your staff with the same lens. Once you have a diverse team, be intentional about creating retention strategies
- Recognize that while diversity is important, it is equally important to build an organizational culture where individuals are respected, differences are valued, and people are allowed to bring their whole selves and feel included at work
- Be transparent about your compensation structure and pathways for growth
- Recognize when you, as the school leader, need to step out of the room so the real conversations can happen
Are you interested in taking the next steps for your school? We encourage you to check out Promise54 and Beloved Community websites. Beloved Community also created a toolkit for BES alum, which has a long list of resources to get your audit started.
We are so incredibly grateful for Danny & Mitch and for helping lead this event – their humility, vulnerability, and ability to speak both at the 3000 foot level and the up close and personal level of their audit experience. Thank you also to Thaly Germain, founder of Onward, and long-time DEI partner with BES, for hosting the event.