A couple of years ago, I attended a national conference of government officials focused on advancing racial equity in their communities. The conference began with a number of local government leaders engaging in an informative but rather conventional panel discussion about their local strategies to address racial inequity. The conversation was well on its way to being “just another conference session”– until a Black woman in the audience raised her hand to speak.
She wasn’t from a local government, but she had been invited to the conference by a government representative who thought she could offer a helpful, unique viewpoint, based on her lived experience as a person of color living and working in a community plagued by racial inequity – the focus of this conference. She raised her hand after listening to the panelists for about 45 minutes, introduced herself as the owner and operator of an “inclusive yoga studio” in her community, and made a simple request:
“I appreciate this discussion very much. I would just ask that as all of you talk about these plans and strategies, please make sure that you’re not just creating goals and dashboards that fit your needs but don’t help our communities.”
I recognized the critique immediately – and the panelists did as well. Her comment – and its well-placed frustration with government-driven solutions that aren’t steeped in the self-identified needs and desires of the community – changed the direction of the conversation immediately.
But it’s not just about insight and perspective – it’s also about power. Boards need to go beyond inviting input from those with relevant lived experience – they need to share power by ensuring that these lived experiences are embedded into the composition of the board itself – with all of the rights, responsibilities, and power that board membership brings with it.
Read the full article about the board governance and racial equity by Jim Taylor at BoardSource.