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WEBINAR: What is A Communicator’s Role in Racial Equity Work? How to use


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The Communications Network has developed a digital project to help foundation and nonprofit communications professionals apply the values and principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion to their daily work and operations.

The project includes:

  • A research report on the state of DEI understanding and efforts in foundation and nonprofit communications
  • Case studies
  • Practical tools to help foundation and nonprofit communications professionals apply the values and principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion to their daily work and operations

On this webinar, we’ll be joined by We-Collab’s Samia Mirza and Niiobli Armah IV to walk you through what is, what it offers, and how to use it in your day-to-day communications practices.



Sean Gibbons: Sean Gibbons from the Communications Network. Welcome to a Tuesday afternoon in February. Hope everyone is safe and well, and thank you for being with us.

As we come into the room, and we’ve got a full house today, over 700 people signed up to be with us, we have room for about 500 in the space. So if you’re having a challenge getting in or a colleague is, we are recording this and we will share this on our YouTube channel, just a little bit later on. But if you would and if you have been with us before you know this is our practice, go ahead in the chat and say hello to one another and be in community.

Practice this two‑word check in ‑‑ this is an idea we borrowed from Professor Brené Brown at the University of Houston. So your name, and then how are you doing right now. If you will toss that into the chat. You can see the chat bubble and we will be talking to one another over the next hour. Probably want to make sure it’s talking to everybody or it might say all attendees.

Ari, how are you?


Let me put on my specs.

Jillion, Catherine, Paula, Lamont, Sully, Kim ‑‑ you’re going and way too fast for me but lots of folks coming in from all over the place.

We’re grateful and happy to have you with us. While you’re saying hello, I’m going to give a quick shout out to all of our friends down in Texas. As you know, folks in Texas and southwestern Louisiana, there in Oklahoma and even parts of Arkansas have been having a tough go of it over the last couple of weeks. I have had the opportunity to check in with a number of friends from the last network conference in Austin, Texas. Good news is many are safe, many still uncomfortable.

In a moment or two, our colleague Kareem is going to put tools in the chat that will help you offer support to although of the good folks in the southwest and south central part of the United States. We are thinking of them and for those who might be able to be with us, you have been in our thoughts and we’re hopeful to be helpful if we can be. While we’re doing that my colleague, Tristan is going to toss up a screen for us to follow and run through a through housekeeping as folks are coming into the room. First, obviously you know this is a network webinar.

Next slide.

This is something I wanted to flag for everybody. The Clarence B. Jones Impact Award. This is named after Dr. Jones who was the speechwriter for Dr. Martin Luther King, who is also the attorney for a number of notable folks, among them James Baldwin. An incredible communicator and he helped to write the dream speech with Dr. Martin Luther King.

For the past couple of years, we have given out alone award in his name to celebrate communication for good that transformed the world. So it’s an emphasis on impact. The last couple of years we have had winners and we’re fortunate to Name the Truth Initiative, youth antismoking effort, the Florida Voting Rights coalition, and more recently A Step Ahead Chattanooga, an incredible organization working in Appalachian to destigmatize women’s health and reproductive rights.

This year we’re looking to add to that August list of nominees so we will be taking nominations until the end of April. If you have a recommendation you go to and we’re looking for wonderful nominations to highlight another organization and that winner will give a case study keynote at the next gathering. If you had take this forward.

Just to flag for you we opened up a listserv last year. This is free and open to anybody. You don’t just have to be a network member. But for us to be in community and problem solve together. If you’re keen to do that find of coordinates there and we will put them in the chat as well and welcome you to participate if you can get a flavor of some of the things we offer in the list, everything from job openings to how do I fill in the blank and there’s always an answer on the other side of this so grateful to everybody contributing and participating there. Mr. T., take us forward.

The other thing when I talked about the Jones Award I mentioned we would be gathering. We are. Please put this date in your calendar. I will have more details as soon as we know them but do know that we’re doing all good work trying to get ready for this and October 6 through 8, and we’re still trying to figure out our plans for next year. That will be coming up October 6 through 8th.

Mr. T, if you would take us forward. The other thing I want to flag for you, many of you know this all right. The Network doesn’t just gather once a year. We know it’s important, the cross‑colonization and the community we build together but we know that matters in the communities where you live which is why there are 16 cities where we have local groups active all around the country. You can find out more at ComNetwork local. We’re doing this all over Zoom.

Mr. T. if you will take us forward. A couple of pieces of housekeeping here. All of these events are coming up and they are available. Probably makes sense to show up if they’re in your back yard but everyone’s welcome. In Detroit, our friends will be gathering to talk more about the work we’re going to talk about today, DEI work, and Jess Zetzman will be on March 3rd. In Seattle in March you will see conversations that is going to happen around vaccination and COVID‑19. All great stuff and a welcome warm place to go to find folks working in the space you are.

Mr. T, take us forward.

Also thank you for to a few folks. Some of our leaders transition off. It’s a lot to always organize and bring together these are efforts. So to Anne, Lyda, and Tennille, thank you for your leadership and just especially over the last year with all of the challenges, they have continued to show up not only for us but for all of you and it’s really so we’re grateful to them.

I want to welcome two new friends, Cindy is down there in Texas and has been going through a lot, and we’re grateful for her for stepping forward. And our friend Emily has joined the D.C. group. Thanks to her as well.

That is the last of my housekeeping pieces. One last thing just to flag, as you can see Kenya is on the screen. She will be providing ASL services for the hour and our friend Alan is providing closed captioning. Should you need that you can find it at the bottom of the screen. It has that CC logo. Click that open and you can follow along.

And then finally we’re going to take some questions along the way before we hand it off to Neil. Questions ‑‑ I’m going to be moderating those and I will look in the Q&A box. Put your questions there. You can also vote for questions to make sure that we get to the questions most relevant to the most folks.

So with that, a lot of folks in the room with us today, so we will try to get to as many as we can but why don’t I stop yacking at you and hand this off to my friends Niiobli and Samia who I have had the great pleasure to get to know and work alongside. They will spend the next hour with us talking about work we’ve been doing together and how it could be helpful to you P thank you for being with us. See you in a little bit.

Why don’t y’all take it away.

Samia Mirza: Thank you, Sean. Hello. My name is Samia Mirza.

And I’m Niiobli Armah with We Collab.

We are here to talk about communicator’s role in racial equity work and the resource as well.

Next slide.

As we began this project as a team, we started from a place of acknowledging that communities have a power of storytelling and shaping the narrative of people, of communities, of situations, of identities. These narratives have the power to influence our biases, our perceptions and our opinions. All of which lead to how people are treated. What policies are put into place, who gets a promotion, who gets a graduate, who gets killed by the police, who gets to eat, who gets to have clean water, and the list if goes on.

It may sound like an exaggeration, but the fact is our systems are built on perceived values based on various identities.

And so, no, we don’t think it’s an exaggeration. We believe that communicates have a huge role in racial equity work. And today we want to tell you what we believe your role is and walk through the resources that we have been able to bring together to support your efforts. So on today’s agenda, we’re going to talk about the project background and process.

We will talk about the role of the community indicator.

We will walk through the ComNetwork website

And we will do a deep dive into one of the tools if we have time.

And of course we will take your questions and hear from you all as well.

Next slide.

Niiobli Armah: I want to start off and give background on how we got here. We did this project in community with a number of stakeholders so a shout out to the Communications Network DEI workgroup, M and R strategies and we worked together to think through the problem and develop the report and content and tools. Gray mercy was brought to go to do a scan of the field and talk to many of you so thank you for engaging with them, and proper Henry know was brought together to develop the website. We developed this together with being in community with diverse voices. That’s preview of what is to come.

Next slide.

So the question that we sought out to answer was what tools do communicators need to advance racial diversity, equity, and inclusion in their organizations and more broadly? We wanted to know what tools and resources you need, what existed in the field, what gaps were there and we wanted to have a deep discussion about antiblackness. Now, at the beginning of this project there was dialogue about how diversity, equity and inclusion are fundamental issues but what are we going to anchor on? And we shows of all of those had to anchor on race, not justify the moment we’re living we chose had to anchor on it because that’s where people get stuck. So I want you to brace yourself. Today we’re going to have a bias toward action and you should leave this webinar feeling challenged and also leaving it like you have tools to help you. Of.

Samia Mirza:

Next slide, please.

We want to talk about at process that we took in developing this resource and our thought process here. So we conducted an environmental scan. We were really looking to see what exists out there around DEI for communicators specifically. Not about DEI as concept but what are the resources, guides, research, articles, best thinking around the communications of these concepts? So we conducted this environmental scan. We also conducted a survey of the network membership, so the survey went out to all of you as a member, and the various organizations. We received about 146 responses from all different sizes of organizational and also different levels in the organization so from the leadership of organization as well. Next we conducted interviews. It was a diverse cadre of folks from large Foundations to community nonprofits to single person communications groups to, you know, a large communications team so we wanted to understand, like, what are the roadblocks approximate when it comes to communications for racial DE. I? What are the roadblocks, what has worked? What are different examples that you all use. And the last was we really wanted to aggregate all of the existing resources. So we looked at guides, we looked at presentations, et cetera, to understand what resources exist, where is the gap, and what can we develop to bring those resources together for you all.

Niiobli Armah: After speaking with you all here is about what we learned. 43 percent said their organizations did not have a clearly defined DEI value or goal. About 56 percent said DEI was not a supplies I have component of the communication strategy and about 58 percent said they feel they tonight have a strong understanding of DEI concepts. What this means overall about half of the organizations we looked at didn’t have an explicit focus on diversity, equity, and it doesn’t mean it’s knot top of mind but there’s not an explicit carve out or space or container for the work that needs to happen as we unpack antiblack issues and across the board.

Next slide, please.

Samia Mirza: There are four key findings that we were able to pull through all of the research that he did. There were many findings but these really rose to the top. The first one was that the role of racism was mostly absent from available DEI resources for communicators. So not to say that the role of racism isn’t present in DEI concepts as a whole but when it came to communications tools it really wasn’t available. There wasn’t explicit mention of it and explicit development of tools with that lens.

The second finding was that organizations have different definitions of DEI and that many communicators don’t clearly know what these to concepts are, and so the different definitions really kind of ranged from similar police it definitions to going much deeper. Not that they were all deeper, the definition wasn’t different but they each had different components of the lens they were looking through and how they were deconstructing the concept.

The third was that multicultural messaging promotes diversity, but that research also showed that some people don’t see themselves reflected in the message. So when we’re looking at color‑blind messaging, for example, we are all equal, we are all important, we all valued, versus multicultural messaging that we are all diverse, and equal ‑‑ we are all diverse and have value in our diversity. There’s value in blackness, value in whiteness, there’s value in all of the different diverse spectrum there. But what we found was that not everyone was able to see themselves in that multicultural frame and folks tended to go on the safer side of using color‑blind frame instead.

And then the fourth was that there’s a lack of data and metrics on effective racial equity communications, and this is a serious information gap, meaning there was a lot of message testing and word testing, phrase testing when it came to, you know, what resonates with democrats respect republicans or left versus right or rural versus urban but there wasn’t a lot of data or information about how do we change biases or when we use these phrase and words how did it shift the way somebody saw or interpret the different races. So there’s a lack of data when it comes to that. We took the information that we found and lots of recommending back and forth as a team many. We came to this product of the network DEI website. This website is an accumulation of all of the sources that we found. And it’s a way of looking at this topic, specifically from the lens of race and specifically tangible actionable ways that you as a communicator can embody and it bring it in your work. We’re going to go much more into detail about the actual website, but before that, we’re going to talk more about your role in the equity work itself.

Before we move on I didn’t know if you were trying to get in but I wanted to invite you into the suggestion.

Sean Gibbons: You guys go ahead. We have a lot of folks in the room and a lot to cover. We will take questions along the way. Is that what you want to pause for, questions or should we go ahead.

Niiobli Armah: No. We’re going to do questions at the end of the next session. I saw you leading in.

Sean Gibbons: No. I’m blind and just needed my specs to look closer.

Niiobli Armah: I wanted to anchor here for a moment. Often when it comes to racial equity issues, we don’t want anyone in the network to think that you weren’t the catalyst for change for this and this is what some of you starting to get at. This webinar will be very, very different if we were talking to program staff or the C suite but when it comes to what your real is, we want to evolve the thinking, the act, the access to tools so that you have a bias for its action. And so the next section of this webinar is us spending a little bit of time really unpacking what your specific and unique role can be. Lots of the tools are going to be complimentary to the next section so you can go back and reference them but there are about three overarching roles that laser focus on your profession, your expertise and your skills. So let’s go to the next slide.

Al the first role is the voice of leadership. What do I mean when I say the voice of leadership? You help craft their voice to the field, you help develop their majors so often you are the person most proximate to any of the content that’s going to come to them. So if we live in a world where the majority of Foundation lead rehearse white, we actually have to have communication professionals or equipped in resources to give them the tools they need. So you see two examples here of Melinda gates, or grants from the Hinds Foundation where obviously not just them as leaders in the field of philanthropy but they’re company equips them to inject content in the middle of a national crises that was relevant and on message, and everyone’s not going to get it right. But the point we want to focus on is your proxy. If you push a little, you’re a little more suggestive, then maybe leaders would be more bold about talking about these issues. Next what are the tips to do that.

I want to pause. You have the examples we can look to. The front from the Hinds Foundation. So we have examples of how Foundation lead rehearse using their voice, and I think one of the points I started to make that I want to double down on is that you don’t have to be a person of color to talk about racism.

So we have to give space and agency for people of color, black, Latino to have a seat at the table but it’s not get out offal jail card to double down on what you’re saying. So this idea of crafting leadership is making sure everyone in the organization is connected in a way where there is a voice for this and the catalyst can be the communications professionals.

We’re living at a moment at the end of last year, the corporate sector donated a multi million dollars to the issue of racial equity. Some of that is for moral reasons. But if we’re honest and blunt and canned which I hope we can be with this network, once folks saw what other associations were doing, once they read the press release, saw the moment, folks ran to the board room and said what is our stance? When are we going to double down? So were the communication professionals equipped and positioned W. within their Foundations to get the leaders to make bold commitments but to double down on those commitments and often you think this work needs to start in the board or it needs start on the program staff. I think what we’re saying is that it can start with you.

Yes, sir.

I want to jump in and point out another point on this slide here. Being aware that others model your behavior, so when the leader of your organization is making a speech or writing a statement or even social media, it’s a cue to the field about how we’re supposed to be talking about the topic, what words we’re supposed to be using, what is the a priority. And so as you’re crafting these messages, really being aware it’s not just a representation of your organization or the views of your organization, but it’s also a resource almost or a model that you’re providing to the field of how we’re supposed to be showing up in this space and how we’re supposed to be talking, whether it’s the words you’re using or the images, these are all cues to folks on how they’re supposed to also be modeling their communications.

Niiobli Armah: That is on point. As someone who spent more than 15 years in the community I often hear folks saying we have to center on the community. I agree with that. But the punchline, no one in community is ‑‑ I do not any grassroots leaders that may or may not be on this webinar now so let me push that even further. When we’re crafting a message for nonprofit leaders and Foundation leaders the person hearing that message is more often than not another Foundation leader. People who are actively imbed and had organizing on principle, right now all of the organizations that I know in Texas are trying to make sure that people without power, people without lights have access to food and water. They’re not on this webinar. So you should center the community in your content. The audience thing is how to I get the other organization to read what I’m saying, internalize it and double down on the commitment so that the community is the beneficiary. I just think that’s really, really important that we ‑‑ sometimes we make messages and tweets and speeches from the end user.

Quite often the end users are not plugged into our networks. We’re usually talking to each other. We need to be thoughtful that it’s not what is the community wanting to hear the Foundation to say. The community wants your Foundation to commit more money. What are the other Foundations going to hear you say that gets more resources to the community? That’s really important. Center our community but don’t think about the action that you influence for our other peers in this space.

We’re in a moment where narrative change is so important. Everyone’s always talking about narrative change. But before ‑‑ narrative change is the output of something. What we don’t talk enough about is shifting the mental model. If you shift the mental model ‑‑ a mental model is an expression of the thought process of how something works in the real world. There’s a science behind how our minds formulate perspectives and what we see, hear, and experience. So the goal of the ‑‑ the role of the communicator is to ensure that any messaging that’s coming from your organization is strong enough to shift the mental model about what someone has about a specific population. And because this project was rooted in antiblackness, we know in we shift the mental models there we will have beneficiaries in other areas first and foremost, who wants to be called at‑risk? Not me. Not you.

Samia Mirza not me.

Niiobli Armah: Definitely not the vigilant young people that have been on the front lines for this racial injustice. The problem is that we made a claim before we even got a chance to understand what they need. With this framing he is afraid of the network, wouldn’t send students on the work. And it’s not just that we talk about the aspirations. What’s important is that we don’t add more stigma that is already on communities. So you can say students in this neighborhood or part of the country but we don’t have to keep labeling folks with judgments before we talk about them. This is important for the communications professional because you want to help package and solidify causes and issues. So if you don’t internalize asset framing versus deficit framing, if you don’t internalize naming the aspiration before the population, you will never see a shift in narrative change. This is single‑handedly one of the most important things communicators can do is safetying the changes to help us get to racial equity that is more fully realized. Some of you jump in here because we have a lot to say on this one point.

Samia Mirza: I want to add to the at‑risk student part of it. There are two different shifts that we’re making. We’re shifting how we’re defining the student and the label where we’re assigning to them. But we’re also shifting where we’re assigning responsibility. So at risk student implies that the student has done something to make themselves at risk. It’s their responsibility that they’re at risk, versus if we just called in the student and then choose to describe the circumstances or the situation and we can, you know, choose to say because of policies, because of certain circumstances in the neighborhood, and define what those attributes are that the student finds themselves in. We’re now also shifting of the mental model of where the responsibility lies. It’s not on the student. It’s on the circumstance that the student then finds themselves in, the second one is around the unarmed black man phrase here.

So this is a term that has been very commonly used as a lot of the videos of police brutality have been surfacing. And it’s really become this phrase to denote innocence; right? Well, he was an unarmed black man so therefore he was innocent, and it’s used in a way to really support the victim, right, and their innocence but what the study found is that it’s assigning that we need to first ask the question, was he unarmed or not ‑‑ like there’s an assumption he may not have been approximate armed. And there’s an assumption if he was armed then he must have been guilty ‑‑ and gun rights, we know that’s not the case either. So the study found that in the last year since Ahmaud Arbery’s death, and this week is a year since his death, NPR mentioned the phrase unarmed black man 82 times. In the same time frame not once did they mention unarmed white man. Right?

So let that sit. 82 times in the year and not once unarmed white man.

Again that creates these associations in our mind of when we think of a black man that has been killed, was he unarmed? Was he not? Was he innocent? And we have to ask that question. So mental model shifts are about breaking these associations and really challenging how we are further defining and reinforcing stereotypes.

Niiobli Armah: We’re getting a lot of questions about this so I will answer one. There was a question about whether grants label them at risk, that’s in the language, the low‑income community. So I think the challenge that we have is we should definitely change grant language but when it comes to messaging the work that we do in the community, even if the grant said this is happening in a low income community, low income is not the only description of that community. Maybe it’s a historic community. Maybe there used to be civil rights leaders from the community.

So the message around it could say, you know, for the work that we’re doing of in Houston, Texas, you know, in the third ward, and then you name some asset‑based framing about the third world. It’s a resilient community. In spite of that here is what the data said. So the data can just say what the data says but you don’t have to call it on community.

You can use an asset‑based frame to name the place where the work is happening, obviously the data to say, here are the circumstances in which people are living under, which is the circumstances people are living under is different than calling them low income. So we have to use data, we have to get nor sophisticated. I hear the point what it says in the grant agreement. I would argue as a college person you could shift some of the language in the grants agreement. You can walk to the table with a different framing to show how you talk about the work on stop of that.

Samia Mirza. As a Foundation it’s important for you to think about the language in your grant agreement. Because that is what organizations end up having to use that language as well unless they’re able to break that and use different terminology.

As a nonprofit that is receiving a grant, it is also your responsibility to manage up a little bit and let them know that’s not how we define our communities. You can say this is how we define it and perhaps we should have a conversation about changing that definition at large for your grants. So I think there’s a way to push back on the terminology. If you know better help others know better as well.

You all are very well engaged looking at the comments. We talk about communities there’s a ton of space based work and we know that in any corridor of the neighborhood you could be in there, there’s a historic name for the neighborhood and new name based on recent development trends. Even doing a little more history or fact‑finding, if your leader is going to be in a community, he can say, hey, they may call this the Museum District but X Foundation or X Foundation, we don’t list third ward. Let me list the characteristics. You’re resilient.

Often social justice, ratio justice advocates use the word authenticity. I want do demystify what authenticity means. It means no matter who you’re talking to you have done homework before you talk to them and you’re not talking about them. Find out the assets of the community. What is the historical notion of that place. We know public policy has changed over time. The people in the community didn’t make it a low income community. They didn’t take away the grocery stores. That’s the result of public policy so we have to meet the people halfway there and showing that we understand the impact that is had, and I think this is a disconnect happening in ratio justice work. We have to acknowledge our history in our communications as we move through. so, yeah, let’s go to the next slide.

This is the last of three‑points and we’re definitely going to shift gears and talk more about the website but I’m pretty sure this is not going to be our last time talking to you. And after this we will definitely take some more questions as well.

So the whole idea of shaping your organization’s network. So we start off by talking about how you use leadership and voice, you know, because of your relationship with the leaders in the organization, are you prepared. Then we talked about the language that gets people attracted or detracted and how we can shift there. This last point is about the network. And when I say network, in all aspects of the network. So in order to make meaningful equity impact, like nonprofits and Foundations are going to have to change who is included in the work. Like who could we resource in this effort to change racial justice in this country?

And who you resource is going to range from the subcontractor to vendors and those connected to you, to put it in a place to do that work. There’s another aspect of this, who sees themselves in your work? So let’s take, for example ‑‑ I’m other sorry one of the other panelists may go on mute.

I’m getting a little bit of background. So who sees themselves in your work. So let’s hypothetically say the grants team has decided to say we want a diverse grantee pool. Well, great. We want more diverse grantees. The grant money has decided this and they’re emailing focus out to the network. If I’m a potential grantee, I do not they want a diverse pool.

But if I go to the website and I don’t see myself in your work it doesn’t matter how much the grant teams wants a diverse pool, if the work hasn’t been done from the digital to the comm team and the outreach teams ‑‑ in fact if I go to your social feed and I don’t see the language or words that identify with me I’m never going to put myself in that in group.

And we know Foundations and nonprofit are very insular but we know to get to the ratio change work they have to be more outwardly focused and bring folks along. That’s the inclusion part of DEI and we have to change who is attracted to and you say that’s what this is about. It’s about using communications to have diverse folks on our website, to have diverse language, to have new vendors and subcontractors that are approximate to the work so we can bring them in and resource them appropriately.

Next slide for the sake of time.

So we want you to be thoughtful about your website, the imagery, language and content. Be thought of how you write job descriptions. What are the skills you’re looking for. Who are you linked to do get those in more networks and get more diverse professionals in the field. And then prioritize the knowledge and lived experience.

Like there’s a specific quantifiable outcome from having someone in the room who has lived through the changes that your organization said it wants to see in the world. Like you can quantify that. Being approximate is not a term of allegory. If you want to change outcomes you should engage people who have lived through those outcomes. Or if you want to impact an issue in a neighborhood you should engage the people in that neighborhood.

So this idea about prioritizing equity, knowledge, and lived experience ‑‑ it’s a competency that’s not going to go A it doesn’t matter how uncomfortable you are. It doesn’t matter how many tools you say you don’t have access to and the board is still thinking about it. The check is signed so deliver. This is the country we’re living in so we’re going to have to train and teach, like this lived experience that black and brown people have, our white brothers and sisters are going to have to do understand it and engage with it because we’re all in this country together.

We can’t keep writing off lived experience. We have to figure out how do we [discuss] that in a way that honors people through dignity. So I’m going to stop going on a tangent but let’s stop, go to the next slide and check in on some questions.

Sean Gibbons: We have a number of questions. I will start with Sarah’s because it captures the Caroline had. I have been committed to removing deficit framing from our org’s this year. But we talk about student income levels which drives funders’ priorities. Do you have recommendations thousand communicate about low income households or communities impacted by divestment in a nondeficit framing model?

Niiobli Armah: Great question. I want to answer this and not go off on another tangent. There are so many other ways to better understand what is happening to community without just looking at income. If you look at Andre Perry’s work from the Brookings Foundation, he talks about the devaluation of the black home, how the black home as an asset is devalued month.

Wealth is another indicator that tells way more than just income because income is focused on employment.

There are other financial assets and debts involved which a wealth perspective will active you more. An example would believe if you’re working on ‑‑ say, for example, student debt alleviation, just looking at income is not go to tell you much. Income is just going to tell you what they make. If you look at the total asset portfolio, you’re going to say not just tell me how much income you make, tell me how much student debt you have. What other assets or collateral that you have so that the public policy solution solves more than a singular issue? So long story short, income is not the only predicter of what happens in people’s lives. I think there’s an old way, a traditional way of looking through, you know, statistical framework. There’s other data and metrics that should be part of the conversation that you use ‑‑ that you can use to describe what is happening with that population you want to serve.

Samia Mirza: I want to just jump in really quick. For those that do have to use income, if that’s a built into your model and you do have to use it, you can actually just use the data or the statistic; right? So families under the income level of $50,000 per household versus low income. It uses more words but, instead of just labeling them low income you’re actually defining what low income even is. Low income can mean a lot of different things and I think there’s obviously a government definition of it but not everybody knows that. And so just using the actual statistic instead of the label can also be helpful.

Sean Gibbons: When we talk about low income this is not the way ‑‑ there were a couple of questions about underrepresented, under served and the question about whether these are deficit frames. The answer is yes. If you’re starting with what someone is missing, that’s a deficit frame. There are other ways to approach the communications that are a little more aspirational.

I’m glad for the questions. We’re all in the problem solving business. Next question is from someone anonymous and says I work in a community announce where we prioritize trust baste making for BIPOC serving organizations and we centralize our storytelling about the impact of these nonprofit partners. That said our donor space literally 100 percent white and we do dinner professionals. How do we move beyond the white money funding BIPOC services.

Niiobli Armah say the last part again.

How do we move beyond the inherently paternalistic messaging of white money funding BIPOC programs and services.

Niiobli Armah: That’s a weighted question so I’m not going on a tangent. So we have to understand quite honestly the source of white money. And we knee that many Foundations in our country, there are some organizations that are starting to talk about this, tell you about where their money came from. And guess what, it’s not white money.

A lot of white money was built on the backs of black and brown people. If we’re honest in flan flop ick dollars, the American Medical Association has done the research and they came out and apologized about all of the health disparities they did, and we wouldn’t have the solutions to help disparity issues done on black women without sedatives.

We have been honest and follow the data. We’re just GI giving a return on investment and doubling down. Foundations are tripling what they’re doing, particularly if it’s a corporate Foundation. This is not a political statement. This is fact based. The information is there. So this is where in communication space we can get confused because we label things based off what folks in our network call it but if we open up our network a little bit more, we would understand that, like, oh, there’s tons of research out there about the origins of this money. So I don’t want to go on a tangent but in a short story I think we have to take a step back and acknowledge the source of wealth in this country and there would not be wealth without black or brown people. If we. You can look backside or forwards and the way we understand this, I think data is important but you have to label that with messaging. Let’s go to the next question.

Let’s do one more question. I know you want to move through the other tools and we will come back and to more. Last question is from Martha. How do we do communications work effectively and bring these new ideas in without asking bipartisan communication staff to have to effectively be are racism scanners for programmatic work and researchers. So many of us are writing the anti racism personas of our leadership and organization at great cost to BIPOC folks, how could we make this equitable if we can.

Samia, you can jump N what we shouldn’t do is walk away from this webinar feeling very, very empowered and then run back to you were organization and say, hey, black person, I was just on a webinar and I need to get you in the network, so go. Every black person who works on social justice Foundation issues doesn’t necessarily want to tell their lived experience so it can go on the poster. So first foremost let’s treat people with dignity and acknowledge all of our colleagues don’t necessarily have to give all of themselves in order for our organizations to grow. I can say the other thing and this is ‑‑ we have recently been taking an organization through equity training. And the organizations understand externally what they need to do to change policy and practice.

They haven’t internalized how they need to treat their colleagues, particularly black and brown, on how to get there. So we know the part of our brain that acknowledges history is different from the part of our brain used to make behavior change. So you can simultaneously understand these issues and process them and do absolutely nothing different in your job. And that’s where the disconnect is. So if you’re on the equity continuum and you have done the internal work you should ask yourself where have I caused harm, how am I approaching my colleagues, how am I approaching other people in this space and how do I become bold enough to have this frank conversation to make sure hat wham doing is additive and not re tract I have. There’s a longer answer but I didn’t know if you were trying to jump in on this question as well.

Samia Mirza: So I think that a couple of kind of tactical things how to avoid is always depending on your black colleagues or people of color colleagues the more you listen and hear, you’re going to better understand what is okay to say and what is not okay to say.

So, one, increase your own awareness and we will talk through the Web site to help you with that.

The second is going to be ‑‑ that’s what partnerships are for and what your vendors are for across well. Hire the right consultants and vendors that can be that spot‑check for you. It doesn’t to be your black colleague. They have their own job. They can’t always come and do a review for you and do a scan for you. Hire people. Like, hire consultants, make sure that the vendors that you hire, this kind of goes back to what we talked about ‑‑ the competencies that you’re hiring for. Often what happens is we will hire a white communications firm because we trust them, we know them, they have a big name, and then we will ask them to do equity communications, but they have no people of color on their staff. So now they have to build up their expertise in it.

So instead, why not find a firm that is led by people of color, that does have expertise in this? That’s another suggestion.

The third would be partnership. So depend and rely on the partnerships that you have. Build your network and then create had a space where you can have that back and forth with them and utilize those partnerships instead of your own staff.

Niiobli Armah: We have 10 minutes L I think we should transition to a quick overview of the website, just to end this section. I just want to round off with ‑‑ remember this is about communicators. You all have been grateful in putting organizations like frameworks in the communities that you can go to. If nothing else our goal is for you to be more conscious of the resources that you have. This website is one. There are many, many others. There are tons of resources in it. So I think we should spend the rest of the time going deep and navigating what is in the website so you can put it into practice because you have a lot of questions and we want to make sure you’re equipped and tooled.

Samia Mirza: Absolutely. Let’s jump into the website. We can just flip to the next slide here. So there’s really four major sections to the site that we wanted to pulled out as a resource for all of you and to continue these conversations. The first will have been the report that was developed. So all of the research that I mentioned earlier, we distilled all of that down into a report that can be found on the site. What I do want to say this is not just a report out to statistics; it actually has a lot of guiding themes, a lot of discussion questions, so it can be used as a tool in and of itself. There’s a lot of, like, considerations that as a coms team, considerations that you should be making. So I really encourage you to read that report. It’s not that long. I think it’s 15 pages or so.

But it’s a great tool for you to ground your work in.

Also a great tool to take to your leadership as you’re trying to become a catalyst for your organization. A great tool to take to leadership as well.

The next slide, we have a cadre of nine tools for you to pick from. These are tangible tools for the type of day‑to‑day work that the that you do. We thought as a communications expert what are some of the primary roles and products that you develop? And we wanted to provide you with tangible tips to think through for each of those. We have nine here. On the bottom right corner we built out a glossary as well. A lot of the terminology that is coming up and you have been posting we have a definition for those as well. So definitely check that out. Manufacture and we will dive into the tool section a little bit more as we go forward. On the next slide, we also have some case studies. To give you an opportunity learn from the what others are doing in the field. Like I said, we interview a lot of really, really great professionals and communicators so we wanted to make sure that you were able to learn from your peers. So there’s a variety of case studies that we have, everything from small organizations to large. There were stories about how far the communications firm or the communications team really drove the organizations change. There’s conversations about how leadership drove that change into communications. So kind of all of the different angles of the work there.

Then the last section is going to be around the resources that we have. So we wanted to provide resources beyond just the communications piece. What we found was there are so many resources out there. There’s not a lack of. We didn’t want to recreate brand‑new resources. We wanted to pull our favorites around one communications for good. So these are specific resources in the field that are made for communications around DEI. Some with the racial lens but others just around DEI.

There’s organizational change. So being a catalyst for your organization, we felt it was important for you to understand DEI from an organizational perspective as well. So what are all of the different ways an organization comes together to make that change?

The last someone racial equity. So one of the things that we firmly believed as we were building this site is that racial secretary not just a checklist, not just a matter of blushes; it’s really a matter of understanding and embodying the issues and then being able to articulate that back into the field and to the world. So what we wanted to do was really encourage you have as communicators to become well‑rounded. You all know thousand to create social media works in all of your coms work. That’s not what we’re trying to teach you. We’re say be an expert in the issues and areas of your organization so that you as a communicator can show up with your best‑foot forward and be able to articulate that message best.

And just the last slide we were going to go into a deeper explanation of the tools but what I do want to talk through is how to use those nine tools that we have ‑‑ or eight of them specifically. These can really be used, one, as a reference point. So you’re developing an internal communications so you can go there and do a quick reference of ‑‑ these are nine suggestions of things that I need to consider. So let me pull through them and make sure I made these considerations.

The second way to utilize the same tool as is a discussion tool. Within your teams or organizations you can really say, well, you know, these are eight tips that they have provided on internal communications. What are we doing so far? How does this connect back to our work? What do we need change in our organization to be able to communicate internally in this way. Third is an assessment.

What you can say is, these are nine tips we have can use. And what do we have. What plans can we use to incorporate these other into our day‑to‑day work or teams. Then the last is the catalyst for org change, I think you have heard us say that a lot because we really do believe in the power of communications to be that catalyst.

So using these tools to have conversations with leadership, to say, hey, we want to talk about these issues in this way. But that has an implication in the way that we grant. But that has implication in the way that we partner with organizations. So it really becomes, because we’re talking about it in this way, forcing us to change how we act and do and show up to make that in line with each other.

So that’s the website. We really hope that you all go, use it, give us feedback, we would love to hear from all of you and we will be hoping to evolve this as we go on in time. But I’m really excited for y’all to dive into it. Sean, I will pass it back over to you.

Sean Gibbons: We have run out of time. Do we want to make a moment for just one question as we go out the door? Is that all right?

Samia Mirza: Let’s do it.

Sean Gibbons: Gang if you’re looking I’m looking in the Q&A box and who voted for the top question. Let’s see here.

Carrie has a good one. How do we strike the balance between taking a bold stand on anti racism issues while acknowledging our org is in the early stages of this work, in this listening/learning stage. I want to ensure we approach it with humility while being unequivocal in our commitment? So how do we own the fact many of us are still in a learning stage. We want to be in the right place but we don’t want to be presume issues that we have done all the work if we haven’t gotten there yet.

Niiobli Armah: I couldn’t stand when teachers would tell me this but I think the answer to your question is in your question. You do exactly that. We don’t understand all of the issues. We’re going to mess up. We’re probably ill equipped but we’re trying. The reason is because this is the issue of our time and history isn’t going to kind for us. So to get ahead of this we’re going to dig deep, open our doors and we’re going to try and try and try because that’s what the moment requires. Be extremely honest about where you’re at. When people overnight made commitments to racial equity and wrote soliloquies on who they are were, folks got mad. It’s. We talk about asset training, what are your aspirations for the work? Where do you want to go? And we had a little prerogative and say we’re facing pushback. That’s the only way, face it head on. If you try to hide ‑‑ if you sew images of all of the things that you can go back and recategorize, that’s not sufficient. Just be honest.

Sean Gibbons: That is probably the place we need to leave it, honesty and kindness are incredibly important tools.

So with that thank you for the kindness from Niiobli and Samia. We will be back again because this is a conversation that needs to continue. We didn’t solve it in an hour as you can well tell. They will be back with us and also to Kenya and Alan for providing accessibility services, ASL from Kenya and CART services from Alan.

We will be back. We have a webinar coming up early next month about how to write emails. Chances are you already know this but your emails are all too long so we’re going to talk about that. And Samia will be back. If you want to go deeper and have a chance to discuss it with colleagues that may be a good place to look.

So with that, I will let everybody go. Be safe and well and we will talk to you all soon. Thank you for showing up. This was our largest webinar ever if that tells you any indication that folks are clearly keen to learn and get a little bit better and we’re joining you on that journey. So expect more from us and hold us accountable.

Thanks, everybody.

Be safe and well. Cheers.


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