As the world is becoming more complex with media and tech innovations, discriminatory practices also become multi-layered to perpetuate inequalities. The COVID-19 pandemic has exemplified how needs of marginalized groups remain unaddressed.
Authentic inclusion needs to be intersectional because human experiences are multidimensional and embedded in complex social, political, and economic systems. Recognizing and valuing the diverse experiences and perspectives of individuals who have been marginalized can create powerful impact. Below are three reasons why organizations and institutions should practice intersectional inclusion.
Many organizations find it hard to engage with stakeholders because they respond to community needs through a single-issue or one-dimensional lens. They may collect data and classify people’s responses in pre-set categories. Even the most experienced nonprofit leaders tend to operate on stereotypical knowledge about what community stakeholders need. But there is a delicate balance between being familiar with the context and being open to new knowledge.
Intersectional inclusion ensures that the table can be expanded to include those who have been left out in previous conversations. It is a healthy practice to always pause and ask who is not at the table. Does the demographics of participants represent that of the community? If not, why so? Sometimes the reasons may include a lack of understanding and lack of explicit language to outreach that group.
Without accountability structures, even the best equity practices cannot yield fruitful results. Meaningful accountability addresses who holds the power and resources. Including a diverse group of people with intersectional identities can ensure their access to voice, choice and power.
Organizations and institutions that practice intersectional inclusion are more likely to be perceived as credible and legitimate by their stakeholders. They demonstrate a self-awareness of power positionality, and a commitment to addressing social inequalities through a systematic lens about accountability.
In sum, equity-centered organizations should stay true to their values and practice intersectional inclusion by bringing voices from marginalized communities to the forefront of decision making. A committed intentionality about this approach can bridge divides. Both internally and externally, mission-driven organizations should incorporate intersectional inclusion into their accountability structures.
Converge designed the Power in Place© course curriculum specifically for supporting organizations that are prepared for racial justice work and community power-building. This 6-week course provides a comprehensive learning experience around a theoretical framework on Power in Place, as well as how to operationalize the Theory of Change. In operationalizing this framework, Converge also provides training for coaches to help nonprofits align community-wide planning to center long-term efforts in shifting and building power, both at the organizational and community levels.