AMPLIFY
Published in

AMPLIFY

Deepening Global Health Corps’ Commitment to Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion

Editor’s note: Global Health Corps’ (GHC) Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (DEI) Task Force was initially created in 2019 and revitalized in 2020 with renewed vigor. In the spirit of transparency and collaboration to advance DEI within global health organizations, we are sharing this behind-the-scenes look at how we decided to deepen our focus on DEI, the challenges we’ve navigated, and the steps we’ve taken so far to make progress. While our journey isn’t perfect and we’ll never arrive, we hope our reflections can guide others looking to embark on similar initiatives and we invite inquiries or feedback at deitaskforce@ghcorps.org.

This post was authored by DEI Task Force Phase 2 members: Brittany Cesarini, Hannah Wood, Heather Anderson, Jean René Shema, Gabriela Lopez, and Mera Boulus Grozier.

On May 25, a video of George Floyd being killed by a white Minnesota police officer began to circulate and spark protests in major U.S. cities and across the world. In the following week, our team at Global Health Corps (GHC) responded by adding our organizational voice to the chorus of voices rightfully affirming that Black Lives Matter and condemning white supremacy. We issued a statement responding to the murder and curated and shared anti-racism and mental health resources with our community, many of whom are Black.

In the days that followed, we examined our broader institutional response to what was proving to be a widespread, long overdue reckoning with centuries of dehumanization of Black people, Indigenous people, and people of color (BIPOC) in the U.S. and far beyond. We reflected on and acknowledged that our record as an institution included some important progress as well as some significant missteps in the realm of racial justice and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) more broadly. We vowed to do better and to allow this period to be a serious inflection point for us to take a more intersectional approach to our work.

Throughout June, July, and August, we engaged in a series of formal and informal conversations, internally as a team and with our fellows and alumni, about GHC’s role in promoting racial justice and advancing DEI. Some of the conversations were painful as we processed grief and hurt; grappled with moments in our 10 year history where our actions (or lack thereof) caused harm; and uncovered a need for healing. Many of the conversations were productive, sparking ideas and connections to build out our racial justice programming, support and strengthen our community, and build on our foundation. All of the conversations were important for catalyzing efforts to deepen our anti-racism and DEI practices as an organization and a diverse global community.

A Two-Pronged Approach: External & Internal Focuses

Through this dialogue and reflection, our team agreed that ramping up our ongoing efforts to advance DEI would require a two-pronged approach focusing on more deeply integrating DEI internally in our organizational operations, culture, and policies and externally in our programming, communications, partnerships, and community engagement efforts.

These areas are deeply intertwined in important ways. For organizations like GHC — that is, those operating globally and trying to promote equity in the world around us — ensuring our own house is in order is a critical aspect of living out our mission. And because we at GHC are also building a community, ensuring our internal processes and team culture align with the values we espouse in our work is paramount.

Specifically, we believe that fostering DEI within our organization will directly impact our ability to advance DEI in global health more broadly. For too long, global health and development organizations have disproportionately focused on pursuing ambitious aims to make the world a more equitable place without examining how an internal lack of diversity, equity, and inclusion actually hinders that work. This tendency partially explains why a sector that strives to do good in the world often falls short or even causes harm.

Left: GHC fellows at a Workshop and Mixer in Uganda, 2019; Right: GHC alumni at a Black Lives Matter protest in Zambia, 2020

External Focus: Partnerships, Programming & Platforms

Our Community Impact and Programs Teams primarily work to establish and strengthen a wide range of partnerships and programming at the intersection of health equity, racial justice, and DEI for our fellows and alumni. In building out new programming to respond to current needs, the team is navigating the reality that our diverse community has varied levels of understanding and personal connections to issues of racism, white supremacy, and DEI more broadly. Building on an intensive feedback gathering process with our community in 2020, the team rolled out a suite of ongoing programs to support mindful, courageous, and inclusive anti-racist leadership. The following programs have already gotten underway in 2020 and early 2021:

  • Juneteenth Celebration. We commemorated this holiday as a community with RAPtivism artist and activist Aisha Fukushima, who performed original songs, delivered a keynote address, and facilitated a guided meditation and freedom poem activity.
  • PSiCHArt x Health Equity and Racial Justice. This virtual event provided a space for the GHC community to explore the intersection of health equity and racial justice through art. It was hosted on a digital platform created by alumna Georgina Denis’ tech start-up SURU Together and facilitated by alumna Eliza Ramos’ coaching start-up Circles International.
  • Black Leadership Academy with McKinsey. 40 Black GHC alumni of varying nationalities received access to world-class management training through this initiative.
  • Courageous Leadership Across Discord, Difference and Distance, led by Dr. Georgette Ledgister. This inclusion workshop will support community members to engage in transformative conversations with one another.
  • Sonder for Equitable Leadership, led by Natalie Patterson. Three sessions on radical honesty, decompression, and allyship will support community healing through authentic connection.
  • Mindful Leadership, led by Ghylian Bell. This six-part series will use a sustainable leadership framework rooted in awareness-based, trauma-informed, and indigenous practices to equip community members to be more mindful within their activism.
  • Racial Justice Hub on the Community Portal. This is a digital space for GHC staff and community members to share resources and engage in dialogue on racial justice issues.

Our Communications and Development Teams primarily manage our external platforms and messaging to key stakeholders. As we reflected, we acknowledged that GHC as an institution has infrequently leveraged the power of our platforms to take a strong stance against white supremacy, and we vowed to be more vocal and explicit. Our November 2020 statement on protecting the right to civic engagement to advance public health is a recent example of this.

More broadly, we pledged to thoughtfully consider how/when/if to respond to current events that indirectly impact health equity, given our long-standing commitment to social justice and intersectionality. We agreed to center one key question in our decision making in this realm: Can we respond in a way that allows us to practice moral courage, honor the diversity of our community, live out our value of sustainable resilience, and advance our mission?

Internal Focus: DEI Task Force

In 2019, some members of the GHC team launched our first-ever internal DEI task force. Despite initial momentum, the task force was stifled by members’ high workloads and full schedules, reflecting the need for a broader organization-wide conversation on how to prioritize DEI and ensure buy-in to the work at all levels. In 2020, with these learnings in mind, we decided by consensus to revitalize these efforts. We restarted the internal task force, this time with an increased focus on ensuring that our DEI work remained a priority. We agreed by consensus that the task force would meet weekly and operate in phases, with rotating groups of staff from across teams and countries participating on a volunteer basis.

Phase I of the task force began to meet in August 2020, at the beginning of our Fiscal Year 2021, and outlined key areas of focus for each of the phases:

Phase I also aligned on the following task force structure and norms:

  • Each phase should include participation from at least two members of GHC’s senior leadership team, at least two African country staff, at least two American staff, and at least one person from the prior phase for continuity. No limit on participants.
  • DEI meetings should be prioritized over other meetings and must have more than 50 percent of all participants in attendance to proceed.
  • Each phase will have a coordinator to set recurring meetings, prepare meeting agendas, and project manage the group to achieve the phase’s desired outcomes.
  • Task force members will send out high level outcome notes to all staff to build transparency and trust.
  • The task force will make decisions by building consensus wherever possible.
  • The task force will act in an advisory role (alongside GHC’s senior leadership team) to recommend action items to the CEO for decision making. Senior leadership team members in each phase should act as a liaison and ensure there is alignment for proposals put forth by the DEI task force.
  • Staff will hold the leadership accountable for their action, and leadership will hold staff accountable for their participation. Top level DEI outcomes will be reported to the Board.
  • For added transparency and accountability, if a proposal is turned down or put on pause, a clear understanding or conversation on how the decision is made should take place with the DEI task force and be documented for record keeping.

Looking Ahead: Assessment, Actions, & Benchmarks for Success

While much work remains, we believe our DEI task force and our guiding Vision will help us accelerate meaningful and sustainable progress on integrating DEI in our internal and external operations. This is critical to realizing our vision for a world where every person lives a healthy, dignified life.

As we dive deeper into this work, we commit to documenting and sharing a behind-the-scenes look at our journey to assess internal alignment with DEI, design and implement an action plan to improve, and monitor and evaluate our progress. While we won’t ever “arrive” in this work and will inevitably weather obstacles, setbacks, and missteps, we believe this kind of transparency will allow our community, partners, and supporters to both learn from our efforts and join us as accountability partners if they —you— choose.

Read GHC’s collective DEI Vision here and the steps we took to create it here.

Later in February, we’ll be launching a partnership with a DEI consultancy firm to support our work in Phase 3 of the task force and beyond. Stay tuned for updates.

Global Health Corps (GHC) is a leadership development organization building the next generation of health equity leaders around the world. All GHC fellows, partners, and supporters are united in a common belief: health is a human right. There is a role for everyone in the movement for health equity. To learn more, visit our website and connect with us on Twitter/Instagram/Facebook.

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store