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How to Practice Organizational Integrity, Part 1: Be Explicit About Culture.

Many HIV-focused organizations are struggling with diversity in leadership, where the leadership is primarily white, or male, or straight, or otherwise homogeneous. It’s time to change the culture of our organizations, and embrace a culture that fully supports those most affected by the epidemic to thrive and do brilliant work. In this three-part Organizational Integrity blog series, Kaytee Ray-Riek explore steps organizations can take to become more inclusive, and ultimately more effective.
Many HIV-focused organizations are struggling with diversity in leadership, where the leadership is primarily white, or male, or straight, or otherwise homogeneous.

And the impact of this challenge is real. Our organizations aren’t as effective at serving those most impacted by HIV -- queer and trans people of color -- when people from those communities aren’t in leadership roles. The problem is not that there aren’t qualified applicants (a study just came out debunking that myth). It’s that our organizations (and the leaders in those organizations) aren’t doing everything we can to notice how our culture makes it difficult for people who are marginalized to thrive, and make changes to the culture to be more inclusive.

It’s time to change the culture of our organizations, and embrace a culture that fully supports those most affected by the epidemic to thrive and do brilliant work. That’s not a shift that can happen overnight -- funders have specific requirements, and we can’t just fire everyone who is currently in a leadership role who isn’t from the most affected communities. But there are things we can do now to make our organizations more inclusive, and ultimately more effective.

This is the topic a group of eight people explored with me this spring, as a part of AIDS United’s Organizational Integrity webinar series. This three-part blog series explores some of the topline lessons we learned.

Everyone, no matter where they fall in the organization’s hierarchy, has experienced being out-of-sync with the mainstream culture at work. But some people are more likely to experience it more frequently (especially those who are culturally different from the leadership of an organization). The more out-of-sync you are with the mainstream culture, the harder it is to do your job. Why? Because you’re so busy navigating a set of unspoken cultural rules and trying to figure out how to act that you don’t have a lot of mental energy left to do the work.

Let me state the obvious: This doesn’t mean that in order to avoid cultural challenges, organizations should just hire a bunch of clones. That would be awful, not only because it’s discriminatory, but also because it means the organization would almost certainly be failing at its mission.

Organization leaders need to pay attention to the ways that people are feeling marginalized, and take proactive steps to make the culture more inclusive.

So how do you do that?

For those of us in the mainstream in our organizations, we most likely don’t really think much about what the culture is. It’s just obvious, because it is familiar. But for people outside the mainstream, it’s constantly present because we’re crashing into it left and right.

The first step is to make that culture explicit. What are we? How do we want to work together, and work with our clients? And then you figure out where you are compared to where you want to be, and take concrete steps to bring your culture more in line with what you want it to be. This requires an openness to doing things in a way that may feel unfamiliar to you, but that’s good. The best cultures stretch everyone a little bit, and no one too much. If this is something you’re interested in exploring, I explain more in detail how this can be done is this free guide.

Next week, we’ll discuss specific skills that organizational leaders can use to help encourage an inclusive and equitable workplace. We’ll be posting links to those lessons over the coming weeks, so check back soon for more!

Continue reading:
Part 2: Providing Support When People Are Hurt
Part 3:Notice Implicit Bias, Especially in Hiring

AIDS United provides free technical assistance to organizations through our Sector Transformation program and CDC-funded Getting to Zero Capacity Building Program. Learn more here.

Kaytee Ray-Riek is an organizational culture expert who provides training and technical assistance to organizations to build an organizational culture rooted in equity. Reach out to her here.


Posted By: Guest Blogger: Kaytee Ray-Riek, Organizational Culture Expert - Friday, September 08, 2017



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