In a recent NationSwell event on antiracism, Dr Ibram X. Kendi — Founding Director of the Boston University Center for Antiracist Research — urged us all to consider “not what’s wrong with people, but what’s wrong with the power and the policy?”
Over the past few weeks, we have been hosting a series of events on racial equity and justice. Our aim is to foster spaces in which the leaders in our community feel empowered to share insights and practices that help to advance the movement for Black lives and address the systemic inequities within the sectors and institutions in which they have power. 
Throughout all of our convenings, one message has come through loud and clear: In striving to foster diversity and equity within an organization, it is not enough to simply hire more diverse talent and innovators — you must also create a culture of belonging where everyone can thrive without compromising their identity or values.

So how do you cultivate a ‘culture of belonging?’ Here are the top ten insights and practices from our community:

  1. Transparency is not the same as inclusivity. Find ways to go beyond sharing information and decisions, to helping others be involved in the process. This could mean a rotating staff board — in any level or department — participate in executive team meetings, to bring new voices into the decision making process for the business.
  2. It’s easy to forget to focus on your internal culture when you are designed to serve outside partners & clients — so be proactive and set a standardized cadence to pause and reflect on your culture and practices with the team.
  3. The goal is not homogeneous acceptance — in fact, it’s often the opposite: encourage questioning of decisions and policies to allow people to move from “fitting in” to feeling a sense of “belonging.”
  4. One way to ensure cognitive diversity is to solicit feedback from the youngest/newest/most junior people at your organization to see how they are experiencing the environment and culture.
  5. Revisit your employee handbook. It should not be a static document, but a living, breathing reflection of your values.
  6. Employees should not have to earn your trust — put the onus of building trust on leaders who hold positional power.
  7. Empower affinity groups /+employee networks with allyship and resource them. They alone cannot change the workplace, so support their work with the education, training, events and manager engagement the organization needs.
  8. Remote working exposes us to the challenges and distractions traditionally kept “outside the office,” so approach every interaction with empathy and sensitivity.
  9. Get comfortable with surrendering power. If you are asking yourself “Where do we draw the line?” in ceding power, recognize those feelings may be rooted in fear of your perceived loss instead of you and someone else gaining from a more inclusive space.
  10. Interrogate whether the jargon you use at your organization makes sense to everyone across your team. If needed, co-develop or expand a shared terminology so it accurately reflects your organization’s values and goals and allow your team to align around language.

If you’d like to learn more about cultivating a culture of belonging, take a look at these resources recommended by our community.