Making space for the uncomfortable and making peace with the unknown: The importance of honest co-learning in racial equity work in global development.
By: The Racial Equity Index and The Better Org
In our anti-racism and DEI work in Global Development, we often speak to staff and leaders about the need for intention and purpose — to make meaningful progress on this journey we need to embrace the unknown and the uncomfortable and be prepared to engage in the critical work of learning, unlearning, and relearning.
As advisors and guides in this space, we hold ourselves to the very same standards and routinely make space for introspection and reflection on how we show up, how our values and principles are embedded in our daily work and the degree to which they reflect/reinforce the inequitable and unjust systems we currently exist in or the aspirations for change and difference that we advocate for.
The new collaborative learning partnership between The Racial Equity Index (REI) and The Better Org (TBO) fully takes this to heart, as we seek to learn more about the manifestations of racial (in)equity within the global development space, in a way that shifts beyond the industry DEI standard.
As a BIPOC-led Collective and a BIPOC-led Consultancy, we have both heard of the harmful effects of topically applied DEI solutions/recommendations/and strategies. We have heard of DEI interventions being used to erase experiences of racial inequity and discrimination and silence those who would speak out. We have heard of DEI interventions that fail to center the marginalized groups, particularly Black Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) at the center, which therefore disregard their unique experiences. We have heard of DEI interventions that cause more harm for BIPOC staff, by effectively failing to name racism, oftentimes leaving these staff members in more precarious situations than existed before the DEI intervention was introduced.
At REI we have deliberately chosen to center the experiences of BIPOC staff, leaders, consultants, and volunteers across the world in the build of our index. They are no longer the afterthought. As such our Index deliberately tracks indicators that this group has said are the most important considerations for them when assessing racial equity within an organization.
At TBO we have worked to ensure that our work is housed in a holistic, candid, and caring approach that supports organizations who are seeking to embrace transformation to step into the deep structures that underpin their cultures and ways of working, as it is only by real, candid, interrogation, and introspection about real assumptions of value, worth, and benefit can organisations truly make transformative change.
Our partnership will combine specific expertise in transforming systemwide practice through the advocacy and development of racial equity accountability systems. The Better Org is the first and only consultancy in the global development sector to partner with and have access to the tools developed by the Racial Equity Index. The collective members at REI acknowledge the intentional approach of TBO which stands out from other consultancies operating in the DEI space across the global development sector. Additionally, the alignment of values and care-centred approach between both organisations is something that matters to us deeply at REI and TBO.
Through our Co-Learning partnership, REI will pilot our survey tool we are using for the Index (which we will hopefully launch by Q2 2023). TBO’s use of our tool will allow us to assess our scoring mechanism and methodology in real-time, and input that feedback back into our survey and index build process. Our tool and research will allow TBO to provide global development organisations who have started their racial equity journeys with an additional dimension to organizational health and culture assessments for the organisations they already work with in an effort to that capture the depth and broadness of exploration into experiences and perspectives of race and racism, required but often missing within standard DEI audits and truly integrate racial equity into TBO’s already robust evaluation approach with organisations. As practitioners we are also hoping to grow and develop our approach to conducting assessments and introducing racial equity interventions within spaces that exist and operate outside of the cultural references and frameworks of the global north, recognizing that there are many, many ways to engage organisations in dialogue and interrogation around power, racial (in)equity and racial (in)justice.
One of the main reasons The Better Org and The Racial Equity Index have formed a learning partnership is due to our shared recognition of the need for much more candor, rigor, and care within racial equity and racial justice interventions in the global development sector. We recognize the need to promote different and better ways of knowledge creation and knowledge sharing, that are consensual and non-extractive. We hope that learnings from our partnership which we will share publicly contribute to broader social and systems change within the sector and in this spirit, we ask you to get in touch if you have thoughts and ideas as we begin this important work.
Established in June 2020, the Racial Equity Index Group is a collective of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) who currently work or have spent part of their career working in international development and are dedicated to holding the sector accountable through the creation of a global racial equity index.
Follow our work at TheRacialEquityIndex.Org