Shoulder to Shoulder: Take a Good Look…

One of the first steps we took with Danielle and Paul, our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion advisors from IPS Consultants, was the Intercultural Development Inventory, a cross-cultural assessment designed to build organizational cultural competence. Each CFWM staff person, Trustee and member of our Distribution Committee was asked to answer a series of questions on their own time and in complete privacy, and then meet one-on-one with a qualified administrator to review the results.

I felt fairly confident as I answered the questions – most of them seemed pretty straightforward. As an educated white person, growing up in a dominantly white culture and leading a mostly white organization, I was sure I knew what my results would show. Even after taking a semester-long class on racism, participating in anti-racism trainings throughout my professional career, attending webinars and reading many books, I was pretty sure I would fall short of where I wanted to be. 

I was right. I did fall short. And while that might not have been terribly surprising, it was still incredibly disappointing. I wanted to be further along the continuum of cultural competence. If I were, perhaps I could be more effective in my role as a community leader.  I could be more inclusive of diverse ideas, more welcoming of difference, and more effective in advancing equity and creating a more just world. But my results showed that I had not yet reached the “acceptance” mindset. To me, this means I am likely being more of a hindrance than a help.  My heart sank. How can I be the leader that I want to be and that my community needs me to be?    

That, I learned from Danielle and Paul, is precisely the right question to ask. And the good news is, cultural competence is something that can be learned. It’s a developmental model, a continuum. With the right approach, I can change. Anyone can change.

Of course, it isn’t easy. You have to be intentional and focused. Remember that you are going against the grain, against the system. And if you are assigned privilege in this system, it’s easy to ignore and set aside the work. Even with the best intentions, you can put it off.  One of the CFWM volunteers who participated in the IDI told me that he wanted an “accountability buddy” – someone to keep him focused on the work, help him set goals and work towards them. Others wanted more coaching, training, or books to read. Each of us has our own work to do, and each must do it in our own way. Yet we can easily get complacent and set it aside for another day – and that day might never come.

That’s why creating a plan is critical. I am putting my own plan together and leading the Foundation in developing its plan. Together, the CFWM team will identify the areas for learning and growth within our organization, and then together, we  will chart the best path forward to achieve that growth.  

Our next step is for our consultants to conduct a climate assessment that will include a document and policy audit, a stakeholder survey and 1:1 interviews.  From these data, our consultants will provide a report early in 2021 with recommendations for our action plan for growth.  I look forward to sharing this plan with you.