June 2, 2021
We’re well on our way with the national search process for a new Executive Director, and we want to say a big THANK YOU for your support in the process and in sharing the job posting. During this time of transition, Guild staff has been working daily to continue our movement towards becoming an anti-racist organization. As we build a practice of transparency and storytelling about this journey, we’d like to share some changes to our executive leadership structure that we have implemented.
We have removed the word “Chief” from executive leadership titles. In multiple conversations with Indigenous and First Nation peoples, we’ve heard varying thoughts on whether the use of “Chief” is harmful. We believe that if it’s harmful to one, then we shouldn’t use it at all. We have decided to eliminate the language of “Chief Officer” from the titles of our executive leadership team. Now, Heather Ikemire is the Deputy Director of Learning and Engagement, Adam Johnston is the Deputy Director of Operations, and CEO has been retitled to Executive Director (this is reflected in the job posting).
We have expanded the executive leadership team to include the position of Deputy Director of Equity and Human Development. Ashley Hare (previously the Director of Leadership Development) has been promoted to this role. Ashley is the first self-identified person of color to join the Guild’s executive leadership team.
Below, Ashley shares their personal perspective on these changes, and how the changes relate to larger patterns within the nonprofit world—as well as recommendations to other organizations considering making similar shifts:
Hi Guild Fam! This story started off in an unexpected way. I had told myself I would never work for a white institution again. After tasting freedom for a few years, as a Black queer co-founder of an arts organization and a consulting firm, I was approached to join the National Guild. Being a former member, having facilitated whiteness and equity trainings for the Guild, and having met staff and board members, I was intrigued. In short, I decided to join the Guild’s journey of becoming an anti-racist institution, and here’s why:
When you’ve been a freelance racial equity consultant (or just a Black person in America) you can see the patterns and can write the script with your eyes closed. Let’s begin: An arts organization gets called in for racist practices, so they save face by hiring consultants to facilitate a couple of trainings. No other action needed, they think. However, problems persist, so the arts organization decides to “take action” and spends an exorbitant amount of money on a racial equity assessment of their organization from outside consultants, even though Black and brown folxs have told them for years where the troubles lie. Then, being shocked by the results, the organizations pours out more money for a few more trainings. They are now tens of thousands of dollars in the hole, with no structural change to be shown. Usually, the story stops here.
What I'm seeing now are white funders, nonprofits, corporations, and cities hiring a Racial Equity Officer, or Equity and Community Engagement Director, or Executive Assistant with a Racial Equity focus. However, these positions are placed into the organizational hierarchy in such a way that they have no power to enact systemic change. No decision making power. No public voice. No board relationships. (Plot twist: One day, hierarchies will be dismantled because they are inequitable.) The Guild is nowhere near dismantling hierarchies. So, understanding these dynamics, we at the Guild are experimenting with something new. It may not work, but we are staying flexible to change. Here’s a breakdown of what we’re doing to start:
I was originally hired as the Director of Leadership Development, as part of the programs team, with ONE. LITTLE. BULLET. in my job description stating “Liaison to racial equity work of the Guild”. Also a scripted move of a white institution. Hint: Don’t do this in your organization. If you are serious, do not place it as one bullet in the job description for a Black or brown staff member to see through.
So….that didn’t work. Anti-racism took over half my job, which we knew it would.
I originally reported to the Chief Program Officer (now retitled Deputy Director of Learning and Engagement), who in turn reports to the Executive Director. We moved my position up to the same level as the Deputy Director of Learning and Engagement and the Chief Operating Officer (now retitled Deputy Director of Operations). Now all three of us are in the executive team, working directly with the Executive Director. One step removed, as opposed to two. (Plot twist: There are still inequities in this model. Another conversation for another time. But a reflection point: How does a person of color on an executive team—the other members of which are white—have to move differently?)
Here’s the intrigue: we reframed my new position as Human Resources, or what we are calling Human Development. In most workplaces, HR is the dreaded department that acts in the interest of the institution, not the employee. The majority, if not all, of organizational racial inequities lie in the practice and policies set by HR: staff recruitment, hiring, performance reviews, compensation, promotion, and retention. As Deputy Director of Equity and Human Development, I have the authority to reexamine the Guild’s written policies and create new practices that hopefully improve work culture and support the Guild membership.
I work directly with the board as a liaison to the Racial Equity Committee, and participate in other board subcommittee meetings, to push forward the Guild’s efforts to become an anti-racist organization in alignment with our racial equity guiding principles.
Along with collaboratively expanding human development practices for staff and board, I am also helping support human development through leadership development programming like CAELI and CYD’s National Young Artists Summit—aligning personal growth practices internally and externally at the Guild.
Is anyone out there doing similar work? I’d love to create a community of practice together. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published: June 02, 2021