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What We're Reading: Workplaces of Belonging

The personal is political. These past two years have made that abundantly clear. NCG’s Leadership, Culture, and Community team also knows that the professional is often deeply personal. Our workplaces must be able to hold all of that. The workplace can, and should be, a place of community, where we bring our shared humanity in service of flourishing and healing, where we can, together, reimagine what is possible for us all. Perhaps it’s no longer about work-life balance, but about integration, flexibility, and boundaries, as work and life are more interconnected than ever. 

Our work aims to support you, our member community, to build containers where we can lean into growth, learning, adaptability, deep and generative listening, and accountability, and where we can ensure that philanthropic dollars serve communities most impacted by systems of oppression. Having been socialized within systems of white supremacy, systems which have also shaped and dominated philanthropy's ways of being, we want to build new ways of being together in teams bound by a common purpose.  

Through our work, we aim to cultivate:  

  • An awareness of how racial (in)equity plays out in personal, interpersonal, organizational, and structural realms by fostering opportunities to enhance self-awareness, self-reflection, and self-regulation; 
  • Humility, balanced with a right-sized embrace of personal and collective power;  
  • Courage to speak up when oppressive acts happen in the workplace and, then, courage and imagination to mend and rebuild together, creating new systems and ways of being together; 
  • Integrity between internal culture and external actions; 
  • Embodied practices for dealing with individual reactions (including, but not limited to, uncertainty, grief, rage, overload); 
  • A balance between urgency and stamina and patience, which are needed for the long-game; 
  • An appreciation of the centrality of relationships in our work, and how they can transform us, our work, and our impact;  
  • An appreciation of the pause, the slowness, the in-between spaces, and what we can hear there; 
  • Accountability as an act of love and care;  
  • Accessibility; and, last but certainly not least 
  • Well-being for the entire sector. 

Together, we can transform systems of white dominance, with the aim of engendering more belonging, trust, accountability, and sustained change. This work engages the mind, heart, hands, and body; all are necessary for the transformative and lasting change that beckons us. As a white woman socialized to be disembodied – to prioritize my head over all other forms of intelligence – I am learning about the fountain of wisdom that exists in all of our bodies to support us to weave new culture together, a culture free of domination, oppression, and other forms of dehumanization.  

Below, I offer some wayfinding resources I’ve been turning to recently. These resources have supported NCG’s work as we aim to support you, as we continue to work remotely, as we move toward hybrid remote/in-office existence, as we weather the exhaustion and burnout resulting from ongoing crises faced on the daily, and as we champion NCG’s Equitable Recovery Framework.  My invitation to you, as you explore these resources, is to interrogate the role urgency plays in your life and work. Urgency, a feature and symptom of white supremacy culture, especially stands as a major obstacle to centering relationships and pausing long enough to discern our right next move with skillful means.   

I want to acknowledge, as well, the powerful edition of What We’re Reading that my colleagues Melissa Nop and Alice Y. Hom put out last month, on healing justice. And how central healing is to building thriving cultures and communities right now.  And also acknowledge my colleagues Caitlin BruneMelissa NopAlice Y. Hom, and Kayla Ballard who contributed to this piece and on whom my work depends, and who nourish my spirit in countless ways.  

1. The Power of the Pause  

Octavia Raheem, CTZNWELL | In this podcast, Octavia Raheem speaks to the essential nature of rest. Rest in order to listen, rest to counteract burnout, rest to cultivate courage. She asks, is the way we’ve done things in the past the way it has to be going forward? If we can slow down, and listen into the pauses, we can hear what else is possible.  

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2. On Somatics and Social Justice

Staci K Haines, CIIS Public Programs | The first 30 minutes of this podcast both explain what somatics is and the relationship between somatics and social justice. 

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3. Holding Change: The Way of Emergent Strategy Facilitation and Meditation

adrienne maree brown, AK Press |  “To hold change is to make it easy for people with shared intentions to be around each other and move towards their vision and values (facilitate), and/or to navigate conflict in a way that is generative and accountable (mediate)… The basic definition to grasp here are that facilitation is making it as easy as possible for groups of people to do the hard work of dreaming, planning, visioning, and organizing together; and mediation is supporting people when conflicts or misunderstandings arise that make it hard for them to hear and understand each other.” 


4. Going Pro-Black and Building Pro-Black Organizations 

This first article explores the disconnect between the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors, and the second digs deeper into what it means to “build an organization where punitive action [is] not at the crux of everything you do as a Black person.”  

Going Pro-BLACK, Cyndi Suarez, Nonprofit Quarterly 

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Building Pro-Black Organizations, Liz Derias and Kad Smith, Nonprofit Quarterly 

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5. The Great Resignation: A Call for Change in Organizational Culture  

Ophelia Akanjo, Nonprofit Quarterly | How organizational culture influences burnout and attrition, and what we should be paying attention to in order to build workplaces that care for their teammates.  

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6. The Case Against Loving Your Job

The Ezra Klein Show | This thought-provoking podcast dives into the great resignation, the foundational critique of work culture, the role of work in our lives as we do work that matters and that we love, and whether work will, or even can, love us back. Around minute 34 is where it starts to relate directly to the nonprofit/philanthropic sectors, and it gets really provocative there. Anyone want to host a podcast club on this one with me? Reach out!

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7. How We Return and Why it Matters 

Brené Brown with Priya Parker | If the “return to normal” is anything but, how can we imagine and reimagine our workplaces as places that welcome our full humanity, both in our grief and as a source of leadership for what we know is craving to be birthed?  

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