Black History Month always comes with a lot of discussions, articles and panels that talk about diversity. But what experience has shown is that it always leaves a large group of people feeling frustrated, anxious and unsure where to go with their desire to actually create change.
After the beautiful memes and quotes settle, the HR email and day off are long gone, what is someone in a regular, non-HR or diversity and inclusion role left to do?
Our advice is to make something and ask for permission later. The past few years have seen a trend of mid-level employees creating their own programs to support diversity and inclusion. These programs are soulful, new school and totally different than ones that tend to come from the traditional HR or diversity and inclusion groups.
We have been lucky enough to be a part of two such employee-started initiatives, and we can say that when a group of us get together with passion and a mission, it is magic. Change occurs, bonds form, and you truly start moving in the direction of change together as a group. So in hopes of encouraging others to create their own self-started, new school diversity and inclusion programs, here are some tips to get a program off the ground.
Find agency soul partners
Find the people that believe in sparking a diversity and inclusion change, that want to put in the hours, that will send articles and ideas and general good energy to each other to keep things going. This will be the foundation of your entire plan. People that believe in something and are moving in the same direction is one of the most powerful things in this business.
Strategy and insight
Find the white space in your agency in regard to diversity and inclusion. Is it that your agency is lacking people from different cultures, different ages, different socioeconomic statuses? Push the boundaries of what inclusiveness can mean and don’t just assume it is color or race.
Have a brainstorm with your team about what you want to achieve then decide how you can solve that problem with an action plan. You could create a monthly meeting, a community outreach program or a video that educates. But start with the what you want to achieve first, then make it happen.
Create a sharable plan
And do so in PPT or Keynote format so that it can be shared with anyone in a simple visual way. Clearly state the purpose and what it will achieve so when the time comes, higherups can quickly get it. A white paper gets lost on desks and unfortunately does not get read.
Find high-level sponsors
Connect with people that can greenlight things like studio time, peoples’ hours, etc. This will be needed to get your assets ready.
Let leadership know
Once it is all ready and almost launched, tell leadership. Believe me, the strategy of “it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission” will be your friend here. Leadership will love your initiative, and getting leadership involved early adds friction, meetings and points of view you don’t need. Create first, show the world later.
Launch the program
This is the best part: working with the people, places and ideas you came up with. It is like magic in real-time. You will get to see your workplace change in front of you, and you will know that you helped do that. Nothing is better than that.
The long-term bond you will make with your soul partners will strengthen you in ways you never imagined. The good you do for your communities will fill a side of you that advertising simply cannot. So go forth, make great things, ask for permission later. You, your agency and the universe will thank you for it.