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Normalizing Inclusion: Why Culture Matters in Post-Election America

Since the election, it has felt as if we are living in unprecedented times. While we have long been challenged by divided politics, we are now experiencing something far more dangerous: the normalization of bigotry, xenophobia, racism and misogyny on a mass scale. Marginalized individuals and communities have had to deal with this prejudicial thinking for far too long. Many have fought to change the systems and mindsets that perpetuate it. But it continues to be an uphill battle. Today, individual citizens and those in power are openly making these prejudicial values mainstream. Regardless of our political leanings, we must unite to fight against these prejudicial values. This is an opportunity to fight for the values we seek for our country.

As we settle into the new political reality, we are rolling up our sleeves to partner with leaders to navigate the uncertainty and work differently. Some of this work will undoubtedly entail different forms of collaboration; new fast, flexible funding mechanisms; greater support for grassroots movements and advocacy work; and practices we can’t conceive of today. A crucial component of this work must be about our values and culture.

culture-definitionWe at Community Wealth Partners have studied how culture within organizations and collaboratives can lead to better social outcomes. We’ve learned that a culture that explicitly names values and specific behaviors is more likely to realize dramatic results. Culture is often revisited during strategic shifts as new sets of behaviors are needed to achieve new levels of progress. The shift we face today is a seismic one as decades of work in the nonprofit sector may now be called into question. Now is a time to revisit the culture we need for ourselves and our organizations in order to shape the culture we want in society.

It starts with recognizing the bigotry, xenophobia, racism and misogyny within ourselves. Despite our commitment to our missions and the best of intentions, all humans hold forms of subconscious bias. We must get serious about investing in understanding implicit bias within ourselves. These are not easy conversations to have, but are necessary. These are conversations we are beginning at Community Wealth Partners.

Simultaneously, we must take a hard look at our organizations’ cultures. Many organizations have values, which are defined simply as “what we care about.” Beyond that, organizations must identify concrete behaviors they want to see resulting from core values. As we think about the values and behaviors we want for our organizations, now is also an important moment to co-define values with our communities and understand how our organizations’ values can influence societal values. To avoid normalizing bigotry, we must name the behaviors we do want normalized in our organizations and in society at large.

norms-values-behaviorsAs you revisit your culture, consider these questions:

  • How might you make an explicit connection between the cultures of your organization, your community and your country?
  • How might your work influence societal norms and shape American culture?
  • How are your values and behaviors helping you achieve the results you desire?
  • How might you build diversity, equity and inclusion into your culture?
  • How might you integrate culture into your systems and practices so it is lived on a daily basis?

Every day we work in partnership with nonprofits and foundations to fight the biggest systemic challenges that face our country. We are driven to make this country a place where all people—of any race, ethnicity, gender, religion, socio-economic status, sexual orientation, ability, age, immigrant status and country of origin—can thrive. We at Community Wealth Partners are honored to work with so many fearless leaders throughout the sector who have dedicated their lives’ work to building healthy and sustainable communities, ensuring quality education for all, and ending homelessness, health inequities and structural racism. Every day, working alongside our partners, gives me great hope because in that work we experience the good in humanity. Across this country, there are tens of thousands of organizations with values grounded in empathy, compassion, humility, learning, equity, inclusion and the bold optimism that positive change is possible. Their work teaches us how to put others first, seek to understand, yearn to improve, act without judgement and start from a place of good intentions and respect. It also teaches us that we must act on those good intentions—something that requires risk-taking, a learning mindset and the drive to move beyond hope to implementing solutions.

The social sector’s role is to define civil society, and we’ve been given a big opportunity to lead. We can direct civil discourse and claim the values needed for our country to be a place where everyone can thrive. We can and will stop the normalization of bigotry, xenophobia, racism and misogyny now.

We would love to hear what you are doing differently in your work in post-election America. Share your thoughts below.

Photo courtesy of #WOCinTech.

Sara Brenner

About Sara Brenner

As President, Sara Brenner leads the firm’s consulting business. Sara helped develop and is implementing the firm’s new strategy to solve social problems at the magnitude they exist, while leading a sales team that grew revenue by more than 45%. Sara oversees the implementation of the new strategy-aligning products, impact measurement, and talent initiatives with a results-based culture to deliver exceptional value to partners. With over 15 years’ experience in consulting for nonprofits, for-profits and the government, Sara worked extensively in the health and human services including at the Advisory Board Company and The Gallup Organization. See Sara’s full bio

One Response to "Normalizing Inclusion: Why Culture Matters in Post-Election America"

  • Upali Magedaragamage
    August 22, 2017 - 12:21 pm

    I am from Sri Lanka and I am a development activist. Your article is excellent and very useful to me in my work. Ours is a country that had a 30 years civil war and post-war divisions and mistrusts remain seriously. They are fanned by the power hungry politicians for regaining power. We as the CSOs have a very serious role to play in changing the mindset of the communities. This is not an easy task as the political literacy level is below 20% although the general literacy level is 90% among men and women. As you very correctly stated, we should direct the civil discourse in order to claim the values needed for our people and the country.

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