Want a More Powerful, Diverse Team? Three Steps to Get Started


cohort of fellows

NOTE: This piece originally appeared on LinkedIn

In the past seven months since EP published our report, From Intention to Action: Building Diverse, Inclusive Teams in Education to Deepen Impact, I’ve talked to Alumni, partners, and others in Greater Boston about their desire to put good intentions to work and build more racially diverse and inclusive teams.

Last month, some EP team members had the privilege of talking with the team from education nonprofit 826 in Boston during their annual all-staff retreat. They carved out a day to talk about diversity and inclusion, and to put a plan down on paper to build a more racially/ethnically diverse team and volunteer base.

Like so many of us, they want to move from talk to action – something we’re also trying to do at EP. Here are some lessons we learned that day:

1 | Make it important. There are a lot of ways individuals and organizations can make diversity and inclusion work important, and they start with dedicating time and space to talking about it. 826 put the discussion and ensuing work to create a plan on the agenda of their national retreat. They dedicated a good chunk of their retreat to it, and all of us in the room could feel how important it was to the 826 team. Every 826 team member listened and engaged with us. (What I saw that day echoes the fifth recommendation in From Intention to Action to ensure ongoing dialogue in organizations committed to moving from Intention to Action.)

Similar to Peter Drucker’s famous quote, “what gets measured gets managed,” making time for something makes it important. (Maybe the new quote there is: “what gets scheduled gets prioritized.”)

2 | Start where you are, not where you want to be. Talking about race, diversity, and inclusion isn’t often easy or comfortable for many people, especially if it’s new. Sometimes it feels better to simply jump to where we want to be in our diversity and inclusion work, instead of spending time figuring out where we are. But self-assessment and reflection are a critical first step for organizations (and for us as individuals) to ensure we start this vital work right.

There are a lot of aspects to building a more racially diverse and inclusive team that include understanding why diversity is powerful and important, unpacking our own unconscious biases, knowing how to attract, grow, and retain leaders of color, and much more. To understand where you and your organization are, the From Intention to Action report has an Organizational Audit Checklist to get you started.

3 | Make diversity intentional and inclusive. In talking about diversity, we at EP use the phrase “intentional diversity” as we seek to convene people with all different personal and professional backgrounds as well as races and ethnicities.

For example, in Boston, when my team sits down to plan out who will speak to our Fellows, we start out by identifying powerful leaders of color. That is, before we do anything else, we make sure that our Pioneers will hear perspectives and insights from leaders who look like the children we serve and who bring critical perspectives on and insights about our work. As a result, we’ve been successful in bringing our Pioneers together with incredible leaders who’ve shared critical insights, expertise, and experiences that will make all of our Pioneers better leaders.

For our panel discussion with 826, four out of five of our panelists were people of color. Here, too, we intentionally convened a racially diverse group to ensure that different perspectives were heard.

Building and supporting racially diverse teams is the responsibility of all of us who work in education. We owe it to ourselves, each other, and the young people we serve to ensure that we’re empowering racially and ethnically diverse teams to transform our entire public education system.


Jacqueline Bennett Jacqueline Bennett (2010 Graduate School Fellow) is the Acting Director, Greater Boston for Education Pioneers. In this role she oversees partnership and fellowship services for the Greater Boston area. An EP Alumna, Jacqueline came to education and EP because she believes that all children are capable of success, and ensuring the right people and the right supports are in place will allow this success to happen.


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