2020 has been a challenging year in many ways, both for organizations and individuals. The global COVID-19 pandemic has forced us into isolation at home, seeking to each other and to the outside world via our computers and smart phones. This has created a virtual stage for the calling out of social injustices, especially those captured on video. That was the case with the cruel murder of George Floyd, a Black American man whose life was ended under the knee of a White police officer under the watch of his law enforcement colleagues. For so many of us, this event, alongside other deaths of Black people in the United States and in other parts of the world, caused all sorts of feelings: anger, sadness, disbelief. But it also prompted us to action. We began to ask ourselves, “what can I do differently?” and “what more can we do more as an international organization about inequality and social justice?”
One of the first things ANDE did was to set up an internal diversity task force, with a mandate to discuss internal and external challenges and opportunities related to diversity in all its forms, and make recommendations to our senior leadership on actions that should be taken to advance this cause within and beyond ANDE. The group is led jointly by us, two associates who identify as Latina women, and is composed of about fifteen staff with different backgrounds — women and men, White, Black, Latinx, Indian, African, younger and older — that came together as one group dedicated to advancing our own understanding of social justice and taking concrete steps to promote it in our organization and in our field.
Together, we came up with a long list of challenges and opportunities, both internally and externally, and did a collaborative prioritization exercise. One of the items that came up as a short-term priority was to elevate underrepresented voices, giving our staff the opportunity to express their own reflections on the subject of diversity and inclusion.
We understand that ANDE, as a global organization with staff in more than ten countries across four continents, is in a unique position to promote dialogue and provide a platform for people of all backgrounds and levels of seniority to share their thoughts, experiences, and recommendations related to social justice in their own cultural contexts. One of the most important things we have learned in our group discussions so far is that context matters. In the past few months, we have been meeting on a weekly basis to actively listen to each other, gain new perspectives, educate ourselves and share our own thoughts, needs, and questions related to diversity. It has become clear that we need to take a nuanced and open approach, being mindful that we are all in this learning journey together. We have also learned that it is extremely important to create a safe space and allow people to feel comfortable to share their ideas, ask questions, and have uncomfortable conversations.
With these learnings in mind, and given that our Annual Conference this year included a track on diversity and equity in action, which sparked productive conversations among our membership, the Diversity Task Force has formalized an open invitation for all ANDE staff to contribute to an ongoing reflection on these themes as they relate to our work. We purposefully made the invitation broad, asking staff to discuss the topic of diversity as it pertains to the sector, their regional chapter or department, their experience in a general professional level, or in response to a specific event. These articles come from our staff and are not part of an editorial strategy, but rather an organic initiative led by individuals who want to contribute their unique perspectives to our collective understanding of important diversity-related topics.
We hope the articles prompt you to reflect, have conversations, and perhaps even inspire you to do something similar in your organizations. Thanks to the staff that have used their voice to bring critical topics to the forefront of this critical work. Conversations are always the catalyst for change, and we look forward to engaging in this ongoing dialogue.
In this series:
- Our Lived Experiences as Women Navigating Equity and Equality in India
- Development and Power