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Contending with Race, Change and the Challenge for Collective Action

Updated: Jun 10, 2022

Building Resilience, Inclusiveness and Anti-Racist Organizations

Celeste Sloman Photography

We are at a crucial juncture in our collective humanity where the need and desire for change are profound. Humanity is contending with COVID-19 as the second wave rages on. The call for racial justice, defunding police in major metropolitan centres to upend police brutality on black people; and the renewed focus on organizations to move from ‘checkbox’ diversity and inclusion initiatives to transformational strategies to upend institutional racism beckons.

The world as we know it is not in a state of ‘inertia’, it is in a state of upheaval, which seems to be the constant, wherever you are. The challenges and complexities we face, are not to be viewed as obstacles, but as opportunity and pathways for fundamental change, innovation and social responsibility. However, the question is — Where do you stand concerning racial inequities, police brutality, systemic racism and the health inequities, now that the COVID-19 pandemic has placed a glaring spotlight on the latter? While I am not expecting an answer in the rhetorical sense, it is more from an introspective lens, given that there are no simple formulas for serious and significant change. However, as Eric Young noted in the foreword for Getting to Maybe: How The World is Change, “if you’re willing to open your mind to the nature of [change], you will discover a world of possibility”. I am of that realization, amidst the upheavals and complexities we are contending with collectively in our societies, that more than ever we need change-makers; and building on Nelson Mandela’s perspective “It seems impossible until it’s done”, I am committed to being an agent of change.

This year, I have seen glaring indignities and brutality meted out on black people from Breonna Taylor (USA), Ahmaud Berry (USA) and George Floyd (USA); Regis Korchinski-Paquet (Canada); João Pedro de Matos Pinto (Brazil); Christopher Alder (United Kingdom); Adama Traoré (France); Willy Monteiro Duarte (Italy); Walter Wallace, Jr.(USA); amongst others, to the senseless shooting of Jacob Blake (USA) which reverberates in the annals of my soul. I’ve had some life-changing experiences, however, I have not seen such grotesque indignities, state-sponsored vigilantes and paramilitarism that would upend the peaceful coexistence of our livelihoods and obliterate our existence. There is a sense of urgency for our humanity when we are faced with destructive and destabilizing forces. In the midst of the foregoing, I am amplified by my purpose and decision not to be enraged, instead to be engaged in meaningful action. I co-founded a purpose-fueled organization with like-minded individuals to champion a ‘new humanized social contract’ The New Humanity Initiative™. We invite you to join us on this journey that we consider one of humanity’s greatest social change project.

“We must interrogate the systemic and cultural norms that embolden, normalize, and indemnify police violence. More importantly, these norms must be reconfigured to recognize that the murder of one individual sends waves of trauma throughout a community.”

Makada Henry-Nickie

The impact of the gift of working with a dynamic team of amazing individuals committed to social change led to the inaugural Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in the Community Conference for The New Humanity Initiative™ in collaboration with Canada CFOs Inc, to start challenging conversations in a courageous way on the themes of racial justice, anti-Black racism, equity, diversity and inclusion in Canada. The inaugural conference attracted over 700 registrants from business, government, education and society along with participants from several countries, who shared their perspectives, the journeys and the need for change to engender a more just and inclusive society. The commitment is to move beyond performative activism and discord, to solidarity with BIPOC individuals and bring recognition to the gravity of challenges they faced. We as a collective society have to contend with addressing the challenge of change.

Inaugural Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in the Community Conference Poster

Resiliency, Inclusivity and Change

"When we listen and celebrate what is both common and different, we become wiser, more inclusive, and better as an organization.”

Pat Wadors

The symposium-styled conference theme was ‘Resilience and Inclusive Societies’ to engender wellbeing for our citizens and societies from the lens of perspectives on policy, planning, and progressive programs on equity, diversity, inclusion and anti-Black racism. A highlight from our keynote session espoused the crucial point that to engender a more inclusive society our speaker noted that, “in strengthening societies [to be more inclusive] requires greater integration of underrepresented groups and their participation in decision-making that enables access to quality education, community and social programs, healthcare, leisure and progressive employment.”

The panel discussion included perspectives on ‘How do we deal with anti-Black racism in the corporate structure and society? The learning from the diverse perspectives shared, resonated with our representatives from municipal government talking about ‘the lack of representation of Black people in government….and they [both] being the only Black members of their respective councils — and both said that it is up to Black voters to help change that, and have their voices heard.’ The Conference Board of Canada highlighted that “companies need to think strategically about their inclusion efforts to support their diversity; doing this can lead to a positive impact on company culture, innovation, and the bottom line.”

The conference hosted a ‘Fireside Chat’ with Dr Wendy Cukier from the Diversity Institute at Ryerson University who shared findings from the Diversity Leads 2020: Diverse Representation in Leadership: A Review of Eight Canadian Cities Canada released August 2020, that highlighted the lack of Black and Indigenous faces on boards and foundations, has helped to perpetuate the racial inequities; and “that Black leaders are deeply underrepresented on boards across Canada and are even outnumbered by other racialized groups, highlighting a need to continue tracking this population as a distinct group.” This is amidst McKinsey & Company reporting in its Diversity wins: How inclusion matters released in May 2020, highlighting that “..racially and ethnically diverse companies are proven to perform 35% better, 87% better at decision making and are 1.4 times increase in revenue.”

The recognition that there is need for exemplary leadership in how government, businesses and society collectively respond beckons. How do we take action to address the problem of racism and racial inequities? It begins with leadership that is visionary, intentional and accountable — as gargantuan and intractable as the challenge may seem. To build an antiracist culture that promotes equity, inclusion and belonging that respects the dignity of BIPOC individuals and incorporate intersectionality, requires us to start having the challenging and difficult conversations. That might just be one of the pathways to creating the new normal that is needed in moving the dial forward on racial equity, systemic racism, inclusion and belonging. Dr Wendy Cukier highlighted that to move from performative allyship to solidarity with BIPOC individuals, “I think in terms of what we need to do to make change ….. we need to name racism…and own that…and name the problem…along with the societal problems of representation.”

Organizations need to build consensus and confront the challenges of institutional discrimination that impacts the BIPOC individuals and communities; “and stop paying lip service and putting their monies where their mouth is” as Dr Cukier opined. Kristina Remederios, Chief Inclusion and Social Impact Officer, KPMG Canada noted that organizations need to take a step back and look deeper into the work that needs to be done, ‘not just talk, but to sit back and listen so that black employees can have a voice in the workplace, and start listening to their voices.’ Review talent and recruitment processes, policies and planning, and how through collaboration build Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) that allow Blacks to incorporate KPIs, and funding to strengthen, that was also echoed by Meryl Afrika, President, Canadian Association of Urban Financial Professionals.Nadine Spencer, President of the Black Business and Professional Association highlighted that we ought to look at opportunities from an empowered perspective for Black professionals, given that “we have been missing that over the past 400 years”, by creating programmes through a cultural and nuanced lens that incorporates race and the equity lens.

“Companies with the most ethnically diverse executive teams — not only with respect to absolute representation but also of variety or mix of ethnicities are 33 percent more likely to outperform their peers on profitability.”

McKinsey & Company

The conference provided an opportunity for us to explore and promote perspectives to help reshape, refine and refocus and for the collective to create a platform for meaningful action with thought leaders from varying sectors of our society. The New Humanity Initiative™ recognizes that we have a truly innovative opportunity to foster an approach and commitment to bring a metissage of minds, hearts and voices that combine courage with empathy and intent to move the dial forward on systemic racism in ‘Our Home and Native Land’. The recognition is not lost on us that we are coexisting in a world where the compounding effects of the pandemic brings uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity to organizations and individuals as a whole. However, the new normal beckons, we are here to help leaders and organizations to be on a course that brings a genuine commitment and recognition of the need for intentional actions, sound strategies and genuine accountability to be able to confront their contextual realities, steer themselves and their organisations onto a new pathway to engender and amplify collective success.

“The real challenge for organizations is not figuring out “What can we do?”, but rather “Are we willing to do it.”

Robert Livingston

Responding to Change and Building Collective Action

To build transformational change and diversify organizations it is a process that requires commitment, strategic intent and most importantly, thoughtful, sustained and real action. Leadership Ashley McGirt, Licensed Mental Health Therapist shared need to “create policies that promote an anti-racist culture, address microaggressions, and discrimination in the workplace.” She proposed that leadership “create a policy around racism just as there are policies in place to prevent sexual harassment.” This would signal that the organization is serious about its commitment to listening, amplify change and exercise bold leadership in tackling racial injustices and institutional racism in the workplace. This is another pathway to help in protecting BIPOC individuals from having to experience reliving racial trauma that is inimical to their health and wellbeing.

The New Humanity Initiative’s commitment is to the pursuit of the advancement of racial equity, access, inclusion, belonging and engender anti-racist organizations. Through our R.A.C.E.S. Model™ for Change we build on a shared commitment for both individuals and organizations to thrive in their communities by recognizing consensus on equitable outcomes and lasting transformation that centres our humanity — and the roles we play in everyday life — personal, professional and social. Through the exploration and examination of each stage of the model, it helps us to understand how our differences impact and enrich the communities we live, play and work.

The R.A.C.E.S. Model™ for Change comprises stakeholder engagement with senior leaders working together to achieve outcomes-based solutions and complementary inside-out approaches that allow individuals and organizations to thrive through integration and intersectionality. This builds on the initiative’s deep commitment to racial equity, access, inclusion and belonging that is interwoven in our collective efforts and our work through the following:

Recognition — Roadmapping our Reality, Relationships and Resistance To foster real change, the need to acknowledge that there is a challenge and create a pathway to resolve is crucial to building feedback.

Awareness — Awareness Audit and Amplifying Intentional Actions Building on a process that is designed to understand collective values, awareness and actions.

Causes — Communicating Concerns and Building ConsensusIdentifying the sources and/or factors of racial inequities. Articulating concerns and building consensus around the challenge.

Engagement — Enlivening Empathy and Equity through Exploration of Meaning Fostering a culture of change with engagement as a crucial element by employing empathy, communicate expectation where the voices are heard, honoured and valued.

Strategies — Outcomes-Based Solutions and SuccessFacilitating pathways that amplifies actionable strategies and intent that leads to solutions and collective consensus to foster changes in attitudes, norms, behaviours, policies, procedures and practices.

The focus of our R.A.C.E.S. Model™ for Change is to understand that change is complex, however developing the attitude and aptitude to develop new mindsets and policies for change. The experience and life trajectories of BIPOC individuals; and having leaders visioning beyond the financial statements to stakeholder engagement is part of the intended outcome to upend systemic racism, institutional discrimination and state-sanctioned violence; that have deliberately deprived BIPOC individuals from enhancing their economic and social mobility.

By championing change, leaders and society as a collective benefit immensely as McKinsey & Co highlighted that when organizations craft inclusion and diversity as a source of competitive advantage, and specifically as a key enabler of organizational growth and competitive edge.

We are committed to building on the gleanings and the learning from our inaugural event and our programming to engender collective responsibility to embrace equity, access, inclusion and belonging as the ‘new normal’.

The New Humanity Initiative™ and Canada CFOs Inc. are hosting a virtual immersive — Leadership and Change in Accounting in Accounting and Finance | EDI in the Community Conference on Economic Mobility on November 12, 2020. This event will take a progressive approach to equity, diversity, inclusion and belonging in the accounting and finance sector, with the agenda focusing on strategies, intentional actions and outcomes to engender change and build a mindset to drive new ideas, improve wellbeing, learning and positive culture. Click here to claim your complimentary ticket and share with our amazing cast of thought leaders, speakers, moderators and supporters. Looking forward to seeing you!

© 2020 Hugh Anthony, PhD | The New Humanity Initiative

About - Hugh Anthony, PhD, Contributor

Hugh Anthony is a storyteller, speaker and strategist, who believes ‘stories are humanity’s currency’ and shares his passion for people, places and the prolific experiences that intersect living, lifestyle and culture. He utilizes storytelling to help leaders create and curate their stories to deepen understanding, elevate their brand and amplify impact to move them from success to significance.

Hugh Anthony is Head of Strategy, Culture and Inclusion at The New Humanity Initiative, a social enterprise that builds on a collective mosaic to deepen racial equity and create inclusive organizations to inspire communities of learning. He holds a PhD from the University of Waterloo with specializations in leadership, culture and the management of service. Hugh is also a former teaching professor at the Toronto Metropolitan University’s Department of Geography and Environmental Studies and has taught at the University of Waterloo, University of Technology, Jamaica and the University of the Commonwealth Caribbean and served as Executive Director for a social service non-profit charitable organization. He resides in Toronto, Canada.

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