Equity, Power, and Accountability

August 16, 2018
As part of our initiative to promote justice and equity within nonprofit communities, CNE is introducing a series of guest writers who have been grappling with what diversity, equity, and inclusion mean to them and their organizations and who have graciously agreed to share their insights. Our third guest piece comes from Eboni Bugg, Director of Diversity, Inclusion & Global Outreach at Mind & Life Institute.

Last summer, Charlottesville erupted in chaos following a series of violent attacks by white nationalist groups who descended upon the city. In the wake of those tragic events, I have provided consultation to nonprofits engaged in critical work to understand the historical and sociopolitical contexts within which these events occurred, determine how to mitigate their impact, and investigate how organizational structures may reinforce societal imbalances.

This work has predictably unearthed many challenges. I’ve seen agencies pour resources into training for staff, which is important, however, striving to become an anti-racist, multicultural organization also requires redressing power imbalances and developing metrics for institutional accountability. Cultural humility—an attitude of openness to another person’s cultural identity—can be a useful conceptual framework for guiding this process. However, a myth prevails that it is possible to transform organizations without transforming people. As such, many Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI) initiatives focus solely on infrastructure and policies without a thorough assessment of organizational culture which often undermines the change process.

Despite these obstacles, there have been opportunities for growth. If you are interested in transforming your organization, below are some practices of nonprofits that have been successful at doing so:

  • Understand that EDI efforts are not acts of charity, but rather strategies to enhance their capacity to fulfill their mission,
  • Engage in radical listening that elevates consumer needs and participation,
  • Seek to build capacity within their constituency to co-create interventions, and
  • Recruit staff, leaders, donors and board members that are representative of the communities they purport to serve.
Eboni Bugg, LCSW, is Director of Diversity, Inclusion & Global Outreach at Mind & Life Institute. Mind & Life Institute is dedicated to building a scientific understanding of the mind in order to reduce suffering and promote well-being.

Let us know how your organization approaches these issues and how we can help by filling out this short questionnaire. CNE is excited to announce a new Advanced Training series dedicated to creating more equitable organizations. Also, please be sure to check out our website for a curated list of resources related to diversity, equity, and inclusion in the nonprofit sector.

© Center for Nonprofit Excellence 2019

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