The Way Progress Works: Centering Equity

The Way Progress Works: Centering Equity

Author: Megan Karch


Late this summer, a few members of our team – Theresa Song Ichien, John Haskin, and Kristine Jimenez – sat down with Christina Hulet, host of Bainbridge Community Broadcasting’s Community Café, for an interview about IslandWood’s evolving efforts around diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). I invite you to listen to the podcast, which was published today.


The pace of progress towards being an inclusive organization is accelerating at IslandWood. While this is in part the result of a broader national awakening, there is also an increasing prioritization of this work by our senior leadership and board.


Since this interview took place in August, our plan for fiscal year 2019 was finalized with the following five organization-wide DEI goals:


1. Define How our DEI Work Connects to our Overall Mission, Vision, Strategy: While it may sound small, being able to articulate why equity work is a strategic imperative for achieving our mission is a critical next step for us. This effort is underway now and should be ready to share publicly early next calendar year.


2. Adopt an Existing DEI Toolkit and Adapt it to IslandWood: Recognizing the abundance of resources already in existence to support organizations like ours, last month our DEI Committee recommended Awake to Woke to Work for adoption. This toolkit is designed to help nonprofits build a race equity culture. Our Leadership Team will now undertake the work of adapting the toolkit to IslandWood.


3. Integrate our Cultural Capacity Professional Growth Plans into the Annual Planning of All Departments: Since 2015, all teams at IslandWood have completed annual Cultural Capacity Professional Growth Plans (learn more here). While this process has led to growth, it has largely been completed in isolation from operational goal setting. By integrating equity goals with operational goals, we will build in greater accountability.


4. Train All VP’s and Directors on DEI: We’ve noticed that the teams that are effectively reducing bias and advancing equitable practices are led by directors who are prioritizing this work for themselves and their teams. We want to ensure our leadership team has a shared understanding and commitment to equity work, and that they are on personal journeys to examine their biases, assumptions, and role in systems of inequity and oppression.


5. Incorporate DEI into our Hiring and Onboarding: Like many nonprofits who are trying to get a lot done with limited resources, our hiring practices are largely decentralized. Because of this, it’s possible that equity is a focus for one position, while not for another. This year we will establish norms that will include changes to the recruitment, interview, selection, and onboarding processes to ensure equity is operationalized throughout and across all teams.


We agreed to do this podcast and expose the often messy, painful, slow-moving, and exciting evolution in our thinking with the hope that it might be helpful for other organizations on the island to learn from our challenges and our progress. We will consider it a great success if we hear from donors, partners, and organizations on the island about their struggles and successes as well, because together we can do so much more.


I’ll leave you with a quote that was shared at our last DEI Committee meeting – a good reminder to all of us to keep advancing this work in ourselves and in our organizations, even as it feels imperfect:


“No matter what our intentions, everything we say and do in the pursuit of justice will one day be outdated, ineffective, and yes, probably wrong. That is the way progress works. What we do now is important and helpful so long as what we do now is what is needed now.” ― Ijeoma Oluo, So You Want to Talk About Race


Megan Karch is IslandWood’s CEO.

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