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Posts from the ‘Diversity’ Category

A Solopreneur for Good

MN Women's Press LogoYesterday I picked up the July edition of Minnesota Women’s Press, and it was fun to see my mini-essay published in the “Your Thoughts” section.  Here it is:

Choosing the Life of a Solopreneur

When I left my job, I never could have guessed that being a solopreneur was my professional dream.

I had worked in organizations big and small – from a Fortune 100 company to small creative shops – and I thought I needed structure to stay focused and productive.  Plus, running my own business seemed scary.

Oh, how wrong I was.

As a solopreneur I’ve discovered new talents, expanded my skill-set and embraced the ultimate benefit of working on my own:  Choice.

I choose my clients.  They are smart, dedicated nonprofit leaders.  And I share their passion for their missions.

I choose my schedule. I research, plan and write when I am sharpest, whether that’s before sun-up or on Saturday – when others are frantically running errands on their prescribed day off.

I choose my priorities.  Sometimes caregiving for my elderly mother.  Sometimes enjoying a week-day matinee.

Go solo.  You’ll have no regrets.

Thanks to all my nonprofit and foundation clients who make my life interesting and fulfilling.  And thanks to Minnesota Women’s Press (plus all the ethnic media in our region) for sharing new voices and perspectives in this, and every, issue.  Check it out online.

Design Thinking While You Work

Charities Review Council design thinking

At the Charities Review Council Annual Forum 2014, participants engaged in design thinking exercises about disruptive philanthropy.

When I ran into a former colleague recently, she asked me what I liked about freelancing.  Without hesitating, I commented on how stimulating it is to work with such a diverse group of nonprofit and foundation clients.

As I explore fields that are new to me, I meet fascinating people, and best of all, I get to apply what I learn in unexpected ways that benefit my clients — and my community.

For instance, before I was introduced to CornerHouse in Minneapolis, I knew little about child and adolescent abuse.  Plus, I was completely unaware that this local agency is known worldwide for training of forensic interviewers, or that it is the only children’s advocacy center in the country that is offering healing home visiting services to children and families dealing with the aftermath of abuse.

Experience the Creative Rush
So in the course of just a day or two, I’ve written about families recovering from trauma, grocery delivery services for seniors, and rural broadband access, among other topics.  Shifting from one subject to the next, I see surprising connections between ideas and audiences, and new communications strategies emerge . . . it’s a sort of creative rush.

And it feels like that creativity allows me — in my own small way — to participate in the  local “disruptive philanthropy” movement.  The Charities Review Council team members — who championed the movement at their annual forum last fall — defined disruptive philanthropy as:

“a transformative event or moment, an act of giving and relationship building that is a departure from the status quo. It may not be easy, endorsed or comfortable, but it is necessary to inclusively create a shared vision, a new sustainability, innovation, imagination and growth.”

Personal Design Thinking
In another way, my work on behalf of my clients and their beneficiaries feels like a personal design thinking exercise.

During participation in the Giving 2.0 MOOC last fall, I heard David Kelley from IDEO speak about design thinking in philanthropy and use of the Human-Centered Design Toolkit.  Its underlying premise is that problem-solving in philanthropy must be preceded by deep empathy for the people who will benefit and close engagement with them in “need-finding.”

No matter what how you describe it, I feel happy to zig and zag while I work, using my neurons to connect seemingly unrelated dots . . . and making my small contributions to the third sector and our greater community.

Potholes on Road to Women’s Equality

Rocky Road to Women's Equality

The measurable obstacles on women’s road to equality cause set backs for our children and families, too.

When I attended a Women’s Foundation of Minnesota “Road to Equality Tour” event last week, I was reminded of a conversation I had with a boss many jobs and many years ago.  It went like this:

Me: “Why is John paid more than I am?  We have the same title, work the same hours and produce the same amount of copy every week.”

Boss: “Because John has a wife and kids to support.”

Me (out loud): “Okay.”  Me (silently): “That doesn’t sound right, but I better not say anything more or he’ll fire me.”

True story.

The Unexplained Women’s Pay Gap
Supervisors today may not be so blatantly biased, but discrimination still causes a significant pay gap for women.

According to the latest “Status of Women & Girls in Minnesota” research, published by the University of Minnesota Humphrey School’s Center on Women & Public Policy in partnership with the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota,  white women earn 20% less than white males.  Asian American, African American and American Indian, and Latina women earn 26%, 38% and 43% less than white men.

Why is this data so important and so alarming?  Because working mothers are increasingly the primary breadwinners for their families.  Nearly half of white moms are the  main wage earner in their families, and 60 to 80 percent of Latina, African American and American Indian moms bring home most or all of the bacon.

So, maybe we should put an ironic twist on my  former boss’ (convoluted) logic:  Women today should therefore earn more — not less — than men, right?

Underpaying Women Hurts the Kids, Too
Another report finding I found shocking is that over the last decade the number of Minnesota families with children living below the poverty line rose 64%.

That means more than 80,000 families struggle to cover essential needs . . . food, housing, transportation, child care and more.  Hmmm.  It’s not hard to see the connection between the poverty rate and another research fact:  That 36% of Minnesota’s homeless population are children with parents and unaccompanied minors.

More on Women and Leadership, Health, Safety and Economic Status
The 2014 “Status of Women & Girls” research is rich with eye-opening economic data, plus much more on safety, health and leadership.

I found the statistics on women in leadership particularly compelling because of their potential correlation with women’s diminished economic status. For instance:

  • Since 1998, gains in women’s political representation has flat lined in Minnesota.
  • In female-dominated sectors (e.g., nonprofits and education) where 70% or more of the workforce is women, more than 70% of the top leaders are male.
  • For every 50 new independent directors who are added to Minnesota’s corporate boards each year, only about a dozen are women and virtually none are women of color.

We Can Smooth the Bumpy Road
I admire the Women’s Foundation and the Humphrey School for raising up these data that mark the giant obstacles on the road to equality.  And I also commend their unflagging efforts to create pathways to prosperity for women and girls.

Be sure to read the last section of the research report (pdf).  It features practical, actionable steps you and I can take to change outcomes for women today.  Think of our actions as filling the potholes on the road to equality.  Together we can build a smoother road that benefits everyone —  women, our families and our communities — here in Minnesota and beyond.

Photo cc Amanda Slater


Who’s an Environmentalist?

Center for Diversity & EnvironmentWho do you picture when you hear “environmentalist?”

Someone fit and wholesome, wearing earthy clothes and hiking boots?  A young man?  A young white man?

Marcelo Bonta wants you to imagine another — more inclusive — image.  He is executive director of the Center for Diversity & the Environment and founder of the National Environmental Professionals of Color.

Bonta’s mission is to change the complexion of the environmental community.  At this week’s annual member meeting of the Minnesota Environmental Partnership, he appealed to the audience to step back, look around and listen.  What, he asked, can each of us do to transform institutional cultures to be intentionally inclusive instead of unintentionally exclusive?

People of Color Care More about the Environment
Why does diversity and inclusion matter in the environmental movement?  Of course there’s an overriding moral imperative and there’s the well-documented demographic changes in the U.S. population, but there’s also the business case:  engaging people of color and other diverse individuals in the movement dramatically increases the chance of success.

Bonta cited research that indicates that people of color support environmental issues at substantially higher rates than white populations.  Plus, voters of color support greater financial investments (including from their own pockets) in conservation.

So getting everyone engaged in the conversation and working together will broaden the base, build critical mass and enrich the movement.

Bringing Whole Selves Benefits the Cause
To attract diverse constituents and foster inclusivity, Bonta advocates a holistic approach . . . creating organizational cultures that encourage individuals to bring their whole selves to their work to protect the environment.

Remember who you originally imagined as an environmentalist?  Sometimes the picture looks like this:

Are  John Griffith and his California Conservation Corps crew members afraid to bring all their talents to their work?

Maybe Minnesota environmentalists aren’t ready to break out their dance moves, but Marcelo Bonta hopes they’re ready to break into some diversity moves that will bridge differences and create a welcoming, integrated atmosphere for all communities — from Native mining activists, to Hmong farmers, to African American  urban teens, to . . . everyone who cares about conservation and environmental protection, justice and health.

Bonta advocates intentional leadership, ongoing learning and listening, informed action, and a balance of head and heart to create new multicultural pictures of “environmentalists.”  Here’s to seeing that picture in Minnesota.