After 5 years at LDIR, our program manager Povi Tamu shares their reflections and learnings from doing LDIR work in the community
Identity matters. In over five years of doing work with LDIR, the most consistent lesson is that our identities play a huge role in how we experience the world. No matter the group I’m working with and no matter the issue we’re focusing on, time and time again people’s race, gender, sexual orientation, class or other identities that shape their access to resources are a big factor. Humans need to make assumptions to survive, when that is overlaid with social constructs like race and gender and then informed by stereotypes societies produce via these constructs we end up with a lot of implicit bias that winds up shaping small and large aspects of our lives. Whether we’re working on building a strong team through increasing communication and conflict management skills or figuring out a strategic vision, identity matters.
As more and more leaders come to understand the impact and the need for a wide range of different voices and perspectives, they also must do the work to dissect and understand why those choices were missing in the first place and what role they’ve played in that absence. Our participants are consistently impacted by taking the time to reflect on their own stories and to hear the stories of their colleagues. Sometimes it’s the lack of difference that is most apparent and sometimes it’s extreme difference, in both cases leaders and their organizations are strengthened by their awareness of who is on their team. Rather than becoming “colorblind” or ignoring difference, our clients are most successful when they develop practices and a team culture that embraces difference.
Teams that embrace difference are able to communicate better and move through conflict in more skilled ways. They are well equipped to recognize and move through assumptions. They understand the value and the challenges that come with different communication and leadership styles. They are able to not only work towards a more equitable society but have stayed to build one.
I’ve learned a lot on my time with LDIR and there’s more to be learned. People’s capacity to challenge themselves, change and grow continues to be the most rewarding lesson.