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  • Writer's pictureChanel Grenaway

Evolution of Purpose: Why Your 'Why' for Equity and Inclusion Should Evolve

Updated: Jul 11, 2023

An important question to explore on an ongoing basis

On May 11, 2023 Amira Barger published an article in Nonprofit Quarterly entitled The Business Case for DEI Reinforces Anti-Black Sentiment. One of her main arguments is that organizations that focus their diversity, equity, and inclusion work solely on profit or the bottom line have missed the mark and in some cases are causing more harm than good. As noted by Barger, “The business case for DEI reinforces the anti-Black sentiment, systemic exclusion, and underrepresentation embedded in capitalism.” I agree that focusing on profit or innovation as the reason for diversity and inclusion initiatives doesn’t address the collective shifts in understanding and behaviours regarding power, privilege, oppression, and patriarchy that are required for systemic change. I would also add that it is important to know that your “why” changes as you learn, unlearn, and examine the legacy of colonialism and the roots of anti-Black racism.

The reason why you start to learn about systemic racism and the experiences of oppressed people, and the reason why you decide to build an anti-Black racism practice, are likely going to be different because of your new learning, reflection, and positioning. I would go as far as to say that as an individual and collective team, you need to review your motivation, your goals, and vision on a consistent basis. If you take ownership of your knowledge trajectory, and if your collective beliefs shift and begin to inform your practices, then your reasons for partaking in this work will naturally evolve.

It's for this reason that I choose to work with leaders and teams that are at different points of learning and engagement. I recognize that your entry point is influenced by your own lived experiences, your social location, and previous exposure to concepts such as decolonization, equity, racial justice, anti-racism, and what might be going on in your organization or externally in your community or sector. So while I do work with leaders and teams who are highly motivated (at the start) by the research that says more diverse teams create innovative products, programs, and service insights, what I’m more curious about is how they respond to conversations about white supremacy culture, decentering whiteness and the redistribution of power. Are they willing to examine their privilege, power, and the organizational systems that maintain otherness and exclusion? Are they willing to walk the talk when it comes to changing default behaviours and dismantling systems?

I’ve been working with some leaders and staff teams for 3 years, they each started with a different why, and over the years they have collectively revisited and expanded their why to include a deeper understanding of equity-centred leadership and a commitment to continuous reflection, action, and accountability.


Chanel Grenaway & Associates Inc. is committed to helping leaders, staff teams and boards stay relevant and aligned with their anti-racism and inclusion goals through continuous learning and practice change. Do you need support to start or accelerate your equity practice and outcomes? Happy to hop on a call with you to see how I might help. Let’s chat.


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