By Andine Sutarjadi: Director of Next Gen Initiatives
In response to the wave of the social and racial justice movement that catalyzed the United States in the past few months, 21/64 hosted a virtual conversation featuring the National Network of Consultants to Grantmakers’ Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Toolkit to discuss how philanthropic advisors and donors are incorporating this toolkit into their governance and grantmaking. Following the conversation, we began to explore how we as an organization can begin to include a DEI approach in our programming, governance, operations and outreach.
Throughout this process, we noticed that approximately 8% out of the more than 1,200 individuals we have trained as 21/64 Certified Advisors – from family foundations, community foundations, family offices, commercial gifts funds and other professionals from a variety of industries who serve high capacity giving individuals, families and family enterprises – identify as Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC).
We know that as an organization, we can do more to create an inclusive program and network, as well as increase our outreach and engagement with BIPOC identifying individuals in the philanthropic advisory space. In order to plan our next steps, I have been in conversation with BIPOC philanthropic advisors and professionals within our network and in the larger field to gain insight into how we can build a more diverse, equitable and inclusive approach, learning community and network.
From what I’ve been hearing and given the racial reckoning that is occurring in the philanthropic field and the country, I want to share what I have continued to learn from these conversations and how we are starting to incorporate these learnings into our work at 21/64.
As a preliminary approach to support BIPOC philanthropic professionals in our network as well as to listen and learn from their experiences, we circulated an invitation this summer to the 21/64 Certified Advisors network for BIPOC philanthropic practitioners and advisors to participate in a peer cohort experience. While people of color joined other peer cohorts, six individuals signed up to participate in one exclusively for people of color, and we met virtually once a week for four weeks. Although they all identified as women of color, they came from various professional roles (community foundations, wealth advisors and independent consultants) and cultural backgrounds (Black, Asian American and Latinx).
As my colleague Robyn Schein wrote last week, we found that this modality of learning was effective at creating meaningful relationships virtually within likeminded individuals. Moreover, the discipline that was created in meeting weekly in the span of one month provided the structure and expectations that contributed to the cohesiveness of the group as they worked to help each other achieve their goals.
As the facilitator for the Practitioners of Color peer cohort, here are some of my affirmations and learnings from the experience.
1. The Power of Intentionality
In order to facilitate this cohort with the care and intentionality it deserves, I knew that we needed a safe container that fostered openness and authenticity. So, we co-created our group agreements focused around confidentiality, sharing space and being “tough of ideas but soft on people” to help build a steady foundation for the peer cohort experience. Moreover, given the over-usage of the term “safe space,” I shared this poem called ‘An Invitation to a Brave Space’ by Micky ScottBey Jones which helped to encourage vulnerability and truthfulness in the interactions we had as a group throughout each session.
2. The Power of Storytelling
At 21/64, we believe in the importance of honoring and honing our narratives, both for our individual ‘self’ and ‘roles’. Therefore, as part of our participant introductions, I asked each person to bring a photo that illustrated their journey as a philanthropic professional or advisor, using that photo to practice telling their story of how they got to where they are in their current roles. To ensure that their stories aligned with the purpose of the peer cohort experience, I provided some guiding questions such as:
- Who were the people that helped inform who you are today in your role?
- What were the events that led you to your position today?
- What do you hope to achieve in your role and with those you work with?
This exercise affirmed how storytelling is critical to encourage others to feel comfortable showing up at each session, as their full selves, knowing that they share similar backgrounds, challenges, triumphs and aspirations in their personal and professional lives. As with 21/64’s What Am I Inheriting tool, we know that the more we practice telling our stories, the more self-aware we are about how the people, events and values that we inherited informs who we are, and therefore, the more prepared we are at showing up authentically in our work, life and philanthropy.
3. The Power of Authenticity
Given the work that we put in together as a cohort to create a brave space and foundation for openness and intentionality, I sensed a greater readiness early on in the experience to discuss many of the challenges that BIPOC philanthropic professionals go through in the field such as navigating racial tension and power dynamics with donors and colleagues as a BIPOC philanthropic professional and advisor. Therefore, as the facilitator, I prepared a session on navigating microaggressions in the workplace (here’s the article I shared as pre-reading posted by HBR on When and How to Respond to Microaggressions in the Workplace) combined with 21/64’s approach on how to stay calm and centered. We also shared the ways that we can psychologically and physically take care of ourselves as we navigate race-based trauma and issues in our work and lives.
4. The Power of Peers
The evaluation results and qualitative feedback that we received from cohort participants affirmed our hypothesis and purpose for this pilot, which is that there is power in facilitating connection and community. Especially in this moment and for our colleagues who need it the most.
We learned that BIPOC identifying professionals in 21/64’s Certified Advisors network valued having a group of peers to connect, share and name the challenges they are experiencing outside of their organization and especially if it relates to their workplace. And, because they have incorporated 21/64’s multigenerational approach into their work, being with others who have also been trained by 21/64 provided the opportunity to practice and exercise new ideas and concepts under the same umbrella of skills and a shared language rooted in identity and values. Furthermore, we also learned that the Peer Consultation framework served as a powerful tool that helped participants synthesize their colleague’s suggestions and input towards achievable outcomes.
At a time when change feels both difficult but yet also hopeful to achieve, facilitating this cohort reaffirmed the importance of community and an outlet to workshop the challenges and celebrate the triumphs that we experience as BIPOC philanthropic professionals.
In this historic week for the U.S., I’m wishing you safety and stability as we work to navigate what’s to come. No matter what happens this week, we at 21/64 will continue to listen and deepen our understanding of how our BIPOC identifying colleagues are surviving and thriving in the field.
Thank you for reading my learnings and affirmations. This is just the beginning, as I look forward to sharing more of my learnings around how these experiences will contribute to evolve 21/64’s work moving forward. I hope in the process of sharing, it serves your work as well.