For 2021, Exercise, Experimentation and Exploration Continues
On my daily walks, I smile when I see this sign: “Unassumed Use at Own Risk.” It seems to sum up 2020 for me. There were a lot of unknowns that required us to think differently, be flexible, and take risks. Reflecting back on my response to the insecurity of 2020, I learned a lot and will take those learnings into the new year.
Early on in the pandemic when my work with clients was put on hold, I used that time to expand my volunteer work with non-profits and speak to leaders about their challenges and needs. I also stayed in touch with like-minded colleagues to share my experiences, learn from them and brainstorm ideas. Those conversations helped me identify some of the pain points experienced by non-profit leaders and I began to explore opportunities to support our new working reality.
Throughout this time, I also focused on self-care and exercise. I kept up with my martial arts training, took up walking, jogging and a bit of yoga. All of those activities helped me to maintain a level of calm, patience and an optimistic attitude.
“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence. It is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare." Audre Lorde in A Burst of Light and Other Essays
When work resumed, like many, I experimented with online tools and delivery models, and piloted new service offerings. I began to facilitate conversations around race, systemic racism, anti-Black racism, equity and intersectionality. I have done this work before, but prior to March 2020 the interest and the demand for learning sessions that explicitly named anti-Black racism was extremely limited. Through this work, I learned more about the challenges that leaders and teams were experiencing as they examined their own practices and policies through an anti-oppressive and equity lens. I heard the following challenges from leaders:
I don’t have the knowledge or expertise to facilitate conversations about anti-Black racism, systemic racism and equity – where do we start?
I’m afraid of making a mistake and making things worse for staff – how do we do this work in an engaging and meaning way?
What comes after you start a learning process related to race and racism? How do you make sense and meaning from this and apply the learnings to your day to day work?
I continued to explore and develop frameworks to help leaders overcome feelings of overwhelm, fear and not knowing where to start – I began to think of myself as a way-finder, GPS or catalyst to get organizations to the starting line. Developing tools and resources around empathetic listening, holding space for uncomfortable conversations, and sharing a common language and model for thinking about race, anti-Black Racism and equity are now part of my toolkit and service offerings.
I am entering 2021 with an optimistic and curious mindset. I’m taking the learnings from 2020 and these 3 E’s – exercise, exploration and experimentation – and using them to sustain emerging areas of work.
My self-care habits fell off a bit this fall as my work ramped up, so this area of my practice needs to be prioritized again. For 2021, I will continue to exercise and practice self care, explore complexities related to building equitable and inclusive workspaces, programs and services, and experiment with models and processes that move organizations from the status quo way of providing services to creating decision-making and design processes that result in equitable outcomes for equity seeking groups.