Be sure your DEI efforts produce real results — not just performative ones.

At The Nava Center, our mission is to increase equity. As a licensed clinical psychologist focused on treating trauma, I know that providing accessible, affordable trauma treatment is one way to reach this goal. But what are some of the underlying issues that cause trauma?

There are familial issues and abuses of all kinds — these might be what you think of first when you hear the word “trauma,” and of course, that trauma is detrimental to survivors as well as their loved ones. But what about the widespread trauma perpetrated daily through systemic racism? Make no mistake: Racism is trauma, and it is impacting millions of people, multiple times, each and every day.

For trauma experienced by one person or a small group, there are innumerable possibilities for interventions. But how do we treat the cultural trauma that has existed in the United States for hundreds of years — a trauma that isn’t even acknowledged by everyone?

To me, the goals of somatic abolitionism are integral to equity work. However, as part of the nonprofit sector, I worry that our actionable outcomes are lost as a result of institutionalization, especially in terms of the ever-present DEI trainings. That is, there seems to be a disconnect between what nonprofits say they want and what they actually do.

The Problem with DEI Trainings
How many of you have been to a DEI or unconscious bias training, or perhaps participated in a task force dedicated to change?

While working in academia and for other nonprofit organizations, I sat through over a dozen training sessions, workshops, and “fireside chats” about changing culture. And yet, after those one-off meetings, trainings, and workshops, nothing ever changed (perhaps unsurprisingly): My colleagues and clients continued to experience daily harm. As a white person, I knew that I needed to take a more active role in making change, but I also knew that I needed to be working in a system that supported change-making, not just change-talking. When the system is only committed to band-aids or performative actions, trauma continues to occur.

Attending trainings that have no goal setting (along with follow up meetings) is performative. There. I said it.

Here’s another one: Having a speaker talk to your organization about how to decrease microaggressions or appropriate language usage is not enough.

DEI work takes constant and consistent practice. Is it exhausting? Of course. Does that make it unnecessary? Absolutely not.

After all, folks holding marginalized identities do this work all day, every day, often because they have to — whether they want to or not.

Read the full article about making DEI work in nonprofit organizations by Dr. Jessica Shore at Blue Avocado.