Notes from the First Wave: Becoming More Inclusive, One Community at a Time

We’re now almost two months into the OF/BY/FOR ALL First Wave - an experimental 6-month program with 20 bold community organizations working to become of, by, and for their communities. Today, we want to share a bit about our strategy for helping these organizations become of, by, and for their communities - and how we’re structuring the First Wave.

We believe the path to involving “ALL” is paved with successive, deep commitments to specific communities. Every community is different, and when it comes to people who haven’t historically participated, there’s a lot to learn about their goals, strengths, fears, and desires before jumping in. There’s trust to build and relationships to deepen. As you forge stronger connections with one community, you build skills that will help you involve many others over time.

For this reason, we’re focusing the program around helping organizations go deep with one community, while building skills they can use with any community. The basic flow looks like this:

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First Wave organizations started by honing in on a very specific community to involve. In October, we provided a series of tasks to help First Wave organizations define their existing and desired communities. Then, each organization honed in on just one desired community. Latinx families in a six-block neighborhood. Parishioners at a specific church. Formerly incarcerated community college students. Each organization chose a community that would require them to stretch and grow.

At the end of October, each team committed to involving a specific number of people from a specific community by March 30, 2019. Why did we push for numerical targets? We believe that authentic community involvement can and should be measured in nuanced ways. We also believe in the power of hard numbers. If your goal is for people from a given community to feel welcome, or to partner, or to lead, they have to show up and be counted.

We were agnostic about how many people each organization committed to. All newcomers have value. In the First Wave, we have one organization that pledged to bring on 2 people from a desired community - one as a staff member, one as a trustee. On the other end of the spectrum, one organization set a target to involve 1,000 people from a desired community in their programs. We don’t have an opinion about which of these targets - 2 or 1,000 - is “better” for building more inclusive institutions. Both have value and will change these organizations in different ways. Collectively, the 20 First Wave organizations committed to involving 2,885 new people by March 30, 2019. We expect that after this first pledge (which covers about 5 months of work), they’ll either expand their pledge or make a new pledge to another community.

Now, we’re helping the First Wave organizations achieve their goals. We’re customizing tasks for organizations depending on their focus. If an organization wants to involve new partners, we’re offering tasks to help them launch those partnerships from a place of mutuality instead of exploitation. If an organization wants to hire people from new communities, we’re offering tasks to help them shift their hiring and HR policies. If an organization wants to welcome new people in their doors, we’re offering tasks to help them build relevance and true invitation for those specific individuals. Along the way, we’re asking First Wave organizations to track progress towards their goal, so we get a sense of how these tasks are fueling their work (or not).

Over time, we expect First Wave organizations will start making their own tasks. We expect individual organizations to start setting up community advisory groups, programmatic initiatives, and policy changes. Some of these user-generated tasks may be shared with the entire First Wave, so that the program is itself of, by, and for the community of users.

We know these organizations are all committed to change. But we can’t prescribe what form change will take. We’re providing the basic tools and practices to get moving in the direction of community involvement. The communities - in partnership with the organizations - will take it from there.