For 25 years, Leadership Development in Intergroup Relations has invested in social change through supporting the development of leaders who embrace difference. In 1992, the city of Los Angeles was embroiled in racial tensions. The brutalization of Rodney King at the hands of LAPD, the murder of LaTasha Harlins alongside shifting demographics in various parts of Los Angeles, signaled a deep need for communities to understand each other both through their similarities and their differences. These realities shaped the initial need for community work that focused on bringing community leaders together from different racial and ethnic groups together to develop skills that would enable them to support their communities to move through challenges, address systemic oppression and struggle together for a more just society. This is the legacy of Leadership Development in Intergroup Relations (LDIR). As we look back over our work, 25 years after graduating our first cohort, it’s clear that a lot has been accomplished but that there remains a lot more to do.
LDIR alumni have gone on to become leaders in the city of Los Angeles and beyond, developing connections and relationships that would serve them well beyond their four to nine months time in our LDIR programs. These relationships and this investment in social change is necessary especially in this precarious time with a federal administration that is working very diligently to remove and disrupt protections that have been hard won and have allowed communities on the margins to have more access to resources and services. LDIRs you have done a wealth of service and work to bridge gaps, heal wounds and shift culture. WE NEED YOU NOW to amplify the reach of that work and to support LDIR in doing the same. As we witness a staggering number of hate crimes across the nation alongside policy changes and instituting decision makers who have troubling track records for supporting marginalized communities, we know that now is a time for action, now is a time for us to come together and strengthen our work to create change, a lasting change that moves us closer and closer to equity and to justice.
We know that our alumni, networks and communities will show up For the Love of Justice because as Janet Mock shares in Redefining Realness, My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love and So Much More, “telling our stories, first to ourselves and then to one another and the world, is a revolutionary act. It is an act that can be met with hostility, exclusion, and violence. It can also lead to love, understanding, transcendence, and community. [It]…helps to empower [us] to step into who [we] are and encourage [us] to share [ourselves] with those around [us].” We look forward to to hearing your story, revitalizing our LDIR story and empowering our communities.
In August, LDIR had the opportunity to work with supervisors at the Children’s Bureau to support them in exploring how diverse identities within an organization influence approaches to difference and the impacts that has on an organization’s culture. We spent the day engaging in challenging but fruitful dialogue. One participant reflected, “It was the moments of discomfort that actually moved me the most.”
Participants were especially impacted by the introduction to cultural humility. The practice of cultural humility encourages people to be aware of and acknowledge their own barriers to understanding another’s culture. It helps to mitigate the distinctions between learning about another culture, relating to that culture or being a part of that culture. As the Children’s Bureau team discovered, this approach to navigating diversity is one that can create a culture of embracing difference.
If Donald Sterling had the opportunity to become a LDIR, what would be different? LDIR participants learn to understand the way their positions in society shape how they interact with others and, in turn, how others interact with them. As a LDIR, Sterling would have had a chance to think about, discuss and understand the way his life was shaped by being able to afford to own a NBA team, being able to walk through the world without being negatively impacted by his race, and being able to benefit from his gender. This type of deeply personal reflection could have opened Sterling up to understanding the ways our different experiences–and intersecting identities–impact us. Sterling could have reflected on and changed his interactions with friends, colleagues, and the Clippers team with a critical awareness of how he has had a different level of access to resources.
Besides growing awareness, LDIR would have helped Sterling to build the skills needed to create equitable professional and social environments for those around him. LDIR would have helped Sterling understand that action is necessary for change. Sterling could have been a powerful ally, advocating for change that was informed by Clippers team members, women colleagues, LGBTQ peers and more. If Sterling were a LDIR, we would have a different NBA.
If every team owner in the NBA were to become a LDIR, the league would be stronger. When you understand that leadership requires self-awareness, you are positioned to create major shifts. Employees, players, and fans could have stronger investments in teams and the league, knowing that the leaders in the NBA understand the impacts of their power and are invested in building strong teams and relationships across difference. There is so much to be gained from having LDIRs at all levels, not the least of which is healthier work places and personal relationships. If all team owners were LDIRs, maybe no team would ever feel compelled to warm up hiding their logo.
After 23 years, the LDIR program is changing its name! Yes, we are. We’re changing our name from Leadership Development in Interethnic Relations to Leadership Development in Intergroup Relations. A subtle change, we know, but intergroup better emphasizes our commitment to working on issues beyond race and ethnicity. We are committed to an approach that values addressing the many ways that people identify as human beings – and have experienced injustice. Addressing intergroup relations also allows us to better express the way that collaboration actually happens in our communities. The “I” in LDIR may have changed, but our mission to equip individuals and organizations with awareness, skills, and the action steps necessary to foster inclusion and equity, remains the same.
In addition to our name change, we have also changed the way we do our work. Many of you know that for over 20 years we have been known for our signature six-month training programs. They were intensive, requiring a commitment of time that was not always feasible for those who wanted the skills and learning experiences that we offer. After much thought and a year of field testing, we are embracing a new training format and taking a new approach. We now have a public calendar, accessible to all on our website, that allows for easy registration for our one-day and half-day sessions. We have taken the themes and issues that have been at the core of our training and have made them more accessible for an expanding audience.
Lastly, if you haven’t noticed, we have refreshed the look and feel of our website. Check us out. So, in 2014 LDIR has a new name, a new approach, but our same commitment and values. Spread the word!
It can be difficult to take care of ourselves while we work towards change. Wellness needs to be reclaimed and as people working to create change we need to understand that our emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being is intrinsically connected to the sustainability of our communities and movements. We must hold spaces for healing, building accountable and authentic relationships, facing conflict and resolution, and transforming ways we work together. We must integrate collective models of wellness into our work cultures so that we can maintain wellness both within and outside our change work. It is with this in mind that we offer this Wellness Resource Guide as a tool to help mainstream wellness into our movements and our lives.
What are the roots of your leadership? Are you prioritizing creating change in your work as a leader? Take a look at “Characteristics of Social Change Leader”, to learn what it looks like to lead while centering social change.
The distinctions between authority, power and influence can be unclear. Having clarity on the differences between them can help us understand our working relationships better. How does authority impact how I interact with a co-worker? What does power look like on my team? How does influence play a role in our decision making? Understanding how authority, power and influence inform our interactions strengthens our ability to work well together. To learn more download, “Who Has the Power?”