The following is a case study that illustrates the steps outlined in Part 2 of our series on receiving feedback.
You’re the field director of a statewide LGBTQ organization and you’ve spent the last two months drafting and refining your team’s goals for the following year. You’ve consulted with your staff and executive director, and you feel like you’ve finally landed in a good place. Two days before your ED plans to bring the goals to the board for approval, a field organizer approaches—with some hesitation—and says: “I’m not sure that the goals are achievable.” After you probe a bit, she shares: “I feel like in order to get to those numbers you laid out, we’re going to end up using tactics that won’t really build authentic relationships, and we’ll end up just tokenizing the Latinx community.”
You say: “Thanks a lot for sharing. I’m going to sit with this for a second so I can process what you just said.”
- “Can you tell me a little bit more about that?”
- “In what ways does this goal feel tokenizing?”
- “Have you encountered this situation before, either at our organization or elsewhere?”
She might say: “In our plans for next year, we didn’t talk about any targeted outreach or relationship-building efforts, so it just feels like you added Latinx people to our goals because it’ll make our organization look more diverse, not to build power for the Latinx community. I’ve seen this happen before on other campaigns. Also, as one of the only Latinx people on staff, I know this work is going to fall on me, and I don’t want to put my relationships on the line to tokenize people.”
Repeat-back (not refute-back!).
You say: “Here’s what I’m hearing: you think our goal to turn out a certain number of Latinx people at each Lobby Day could be tokenizing. It might come across as disingenuous if we do targeted recruitment in communities that we haven’t built relationships or done meaningful work with. So, even if we meet our goals, we wouldn’t have built power with or for Latinx folks. Also, I’m hearing that this puts you in a really tricky and uncomfortable position.”
Engage in the feedback
Share and tie together.
You say: “I know you really value being deeply inclusive and building power. I think we both want to make sure that the Latinx community is both represented in and also has real power to influence our work. One thing I’m feeling anxious about is that we have some big Lobby Day goals, and I’m feeling a lot of pressure from our coalition partners and campaign leadership to make sure that we have a crowd that reflects the diversity of the legislators’ constituencies. I was actually thinking that setting these goals would be a forcing mechanism to make sure we’re not leaving anyone out, but I can see how this comes across as tokenizing. I also understand that you feel pressure to deliver on the goals we set, especially if they are going to impact your community.”
New paths are possible.
You say: “Could we keep the Lobby Day goal, but amend it to say that a percentage of our volunteer leaders should identify as Latinx? This way, in order to meet that goal, we’ll need to do some concrete work in the coming months to actually develop and train leaders. Do you have other ideas for how we could do this?”
She might say:
“I think we should also outline some activities in our work plan so that we are doing targeted and thoughtful outreach in the months leading up to the Lobby Day. I also think we need to make a plan for bilingual training and interpretation for volunteer trainings going forward. And, if this is going to be a big part of my work, I want to lower some of my other goals so that I can realistically achieve this one.”
Learn with and through an equity and inclusion lens
Examine how it went.
During your next check-in, you ask: “How do you feel about how I handled your feedback?” Then, you debrief the Lobby Day and make plans to revise the volunteer training.
Remember the iceberg!
You start to think about ways to be more welcoming and inclusive of Latinx people at your organization, including translating campaign materials and offering interpretation at your upcoming Lobby Days.