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BALLE’s Equity Journey Continues

Reflections from a BALLE staff training

As part of our organizational commitments to prioritize equity, BALLE welcomed Esteban Kelly, a worker-owner at AORTA and Executive Director of the U.S. Federation of Worker Coops, to facilitate a day of learning with the staff. Our goals were to explore the ways that power and class dynamics show up in the organization.

One key visual that was explored was a pyramid that identified the relationships among key terms used in this work, Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity.

Our training included the Equity Pyramid, which includes Diversity at the bottom, as basic Representation across different demographics; moving up to Inclusion, where different voices intentionally, actively Participate; up to Equity, where Power is held by historically marginalized, under-resourced voices.

Breakout groups focused on different tiers of the pyramid, from Diversity and basic Representation; to active Inclusion and Participation; to Equity, where Power in all forms is held by those who have had the least access in the past. Staff noted they had often considered diversity as less “powerful” or “important” as equity. This exercise helped us to see that all three are important, in relationship to each other. Diversity is required for equity. Inclusion is a bridge to (and not the same as) equity.

We reflected on how an understanding of these terms might shift BALLE’s approach to our work. How do we broaden the diversity of voices we engage, in particular the wisdom from our Leadership Network? For example, in our organizational statement on equity, critical gaps and questions were raised by Fellow and board member Tomás Durán and Fellow and Network Weaver Harper Bishop. How do we successfully invite participation, and ultimately, share power in making decisions? What practices might we change to ensure real equity for staff and Network leaders, with more agency to contribute and guide our shared efforts?

One provocative line of questioning was around the term “privilege.” Our trainer and facilitator, Esteban, shared his struggle with using the word, because it centers the outcome of exploitation and extraction — a concentration of wealth and/or power — rather than the acts of exploitation and extraction. We considered what it might look like to shift from a frame of privilege to one of responsibility; and to consider the moral aspects of evaluating how to leverage wealth and influence. While there was no immediate, clear alternative offered up for the language, the inquiry remains alive for BALLE staff.

Although we covered a lot in a day, everyone agreed, in many ways we barely scratched the surface around deeper issues of power and class.

Some questions that the staff will continue to reflect on for the future:

  • How do we continue to bring in more voices and perspectives to advance our understanding of equity, across age, class, ability, sexuality, political beliefs, and other dimensions of difference?
  • Whose work is it to educate white people about systems of oppression? What are healthy models for delivering direct, specific information that addresses “white fragility” and successfully bypasses triggers of shame and guilt, to allow real understanding and inform behavior change?
  • How does gender influence our organization and the work, today and in a future where non-binary, gender-fluid leadership is increasingly prevalent, and as more women hold power?
  • What is BALLE’s role in both leading and challenging the field of new economy builders, while modeling with humility and vulnerability? How can we best serve other leaders on the journey to consider what equity and sharing power looks like individually, and in organizations?

We hope that sharing about our journey inspires others to continue on their own, and welcome comments and feedback to BALLE’s statement on equity and our 2018 commitments to prioritize equity at the personal, organizational and collective levels.

Categories: Prioritize Equity