Three months ago, our Co-Chairs Libby and Joanie initiated a leadership evolution of Philanthropiece. After a long and careful transition, I have the honor of stepping fully into the Executive Director position. One of my main responsibilities during this past month was to coordinate the hiring process for our new Operations Manager. I am so pleased to announce that we have offered that role to Laura Soto, and she has accepted. As one of Laura’s references said about her, “she is articulate, fierce, and ready to fly.”
One of Laura’s references mentioned that “Philanthropiece would be a great home for her to continue to learn and grow.” I haven’t been able to let this escape my mind: what did she mean that Philanthropiece would be a great home? Home might conjure up the image of a safe haven, a cozy, welcoming place, a landing spot where one can be who they are without judgement. Is this Philanthropiece, I wondered? In so many ways, I believe this image of Philanthropiece to be true. But, of course, that belief comes through my own lens, one that I am increasingly aware has to do with systems of power and privilege. I cannot not help but leap next to a neurotic image of home. Home is where one might be unfairly judged for all they do or say; it can be unhealthy at best, and dangerous at worst. It can be something that one runs from or that one is thrust from. It could as well be a place that is nice but not inspiring. It may or may not have a functional roof or a concrete foundation. Home might not exist at all.
While I am fairly certain that the former definition is the one used in the reference, it also gave me pause. How do we ensure that Philanthropiece is indeed the best version of home, the version that invokes deep connection, encourages authenticity, promotes diversity, and summons understanding and love? I don’t purport to have the full answer, but I am confident that it lies somewhere within the approach that we have had from the outset of Philanthropiece, particularly within global contexts. It’s about entering lightly and humbly, listening to even (especially!) the quietest voices, and embracing both the pain and the laughter of community.
My Philanthropiece colleagues have taught me that this idea of home also has much—if not all—to do with inclusion. As a staff, we have been meeting weekly to explore, discuss, and take action on the theme of inclusion. Daily, we are engaging in workshops, reading books, listening to podcasts, and (re-)establishing our organizational culture to reflect an intentional commitment to creating an inclusive environment for all folks who Philanthropiece impacts. This starts with our team, and we are asking ourselves difficult questions:
What are we doing to make sure that everyone feels included? What are we doing to create a brave space for all to speak out? Who isn’t included in our work, programs, or leadership? What assumptions are we making? How do we address microaggressions that show up in our environment? What are our organizational values and how are those infused in all Philanthropiece actions ?
The answers are evasive. Hour-long discussions can leave us more confused than ever. My answers seem to change daily. But we have a saying that we like to use in the Philanthropiece Barn when we sink into a messy discussion: “This is the work.” At this time, the work of integrating inclusion into all that we do is the work of Philanthropiece. It is the work of building relationships, of co-creating, of empowerment. It is the work of of growth, of transplant, of germination.
It feels slow. It is slow. When change isn’t visible, it’s easy to feel like you’ve stalled. But, as the cliché goes, it’s all about the journey. There is no finished product we’re producing; Philanthropiece will never be done improving. For now, I’m content knowing what’s just one step ahead of us. As we move forward to June, the theme of inclusion will be infused throughout our organizational practices, our relationships with our teams and communities in México and Guatemala, and our design of our local initiatives. It will take all of us to do it, to do it right, to do it with courage. This is the work, and we’re working on it.
Katie Doyle Myers is Philanthropiece’s Executive Director. She’s passionate about poetry and currently, this one by Norma Johnson is her favorite. Edited by Raye Watson.