Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Accessibility, and Belonging: An Alliance Experience

Tammy Dowley-Blackman
TDB Group

The Mississippi Alliance of Nonprofits and Philanthropy (The Alliance) was created in 2019 as a vehicle of statewide partnership and support.  To ensure its team’s ability to perform at its highest level, the organization explored diversity, equity, and inclusion as a cohort participant with the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation.  The team understood that embedding equity in an organization didn’t stop with one learning experience and sought to find a group to support their efforts.

Since the spring of 2021, our team, Tammy Dowley-Blackman Group, LLC, has partnered with the Alliance to provide comprehensive programming with our usual customized approach.  Our company helped build the infrastructure (the people, the financial models, protocols, and systems) that enables teams to execute short- and long-term growth plans.  After many years of garnering experience, we used a case study process to create the TDB Group Truss 

Framework, similar to that used by architects.  We have distilled the strategic and infrastructure planning and execution into four key steps, The TDB Group Truss Framework: assessment, mapping, pathway, and benchmarking. The Alliance team had two goals for this project, to create space to deepen the learning beyond the early work with the Winter Institute and to take action that would lead to greater organizational accountability.  We expanded beyond the typical orientation of diversity, equity, and inclusion to include accessibility and belonging to meet the goals.  The Alliance sought to help its team and partners understand how to mitigate barriers to accessibility and ensure all community members are confirmed in their sense of belonging and value.  We used The TDB Group Truss Framework to complete the following scope of work:

  • Collaborative thought leadership with the Advisory Board
  • Engagement of a multitude of nonprofit and philanthropic partners
  • Community stakeholders
  • Research to identify national examples of similar programming
  • Review and creation of organizational documents and policies to ensure equity lens
  • Design and delivery of five learning sessions focused on shared language, bias, microaggressions, allyship, and ongoing management of DEIAB
  • Design and delivery of webinars to share the learning with statewide partners

Key Takeaways:

  • This process has allowed the Alliance to receive feedback from its community about their needs and ideas for ongoing collaboration
  • The Alliance’s work has focused on creating systems the team and partners can use long-term
  • By working to create a shared language, the Alliance team is committed to individually and collectively ingraining equity in all of its work
  • The review of policies ensures the Alliance’s hiring, partnerships, and programming are representative
  • The ongoing education and training provide the Alliance team, Board of Directors, and members the tools to develop action plans that will assist in sustainable change
  • None of the work is meaningful if it isn’t coupled with accountability

It has been a pleasure to provide strategic advising to the Alliance.  There is still a great deal of work to be done.  One of the biggest lessons of this work to embed systemic equity is realizing that a commitment to real change means that the work is never complete.  The Alliance team has invested time and resources in this DEIAB journey and is prepared to continue to learn and act for the benefit of the sector.

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