A framework for action in response to moments of crisis and outrage
The team at OFBYFOR ALL have created a framework for organisations to map out immediate and longer-term actions, both externally with your community and internally with your team.
This blog post was a full-team effort, driven by extraordinary leadership by Black staff members and staff members of color on our Programs team: Raquel Thompson, Mateo Mossey, and Lauren Benetua. It was also informed by courageous, creative actions of many Black people and people of color in civic and cultural organizations around the world. We see you. Thank you.
Now is a moment for organizations to act - even if you may not feel completely prepared to do so. This moment is one of collective suffering and uprising caused by white supremacy and racist violence in the United States. And there are catalytic moments of loss, pain, and activism in every community - moments when we have to decide whether and how to respond institutionally.
These moments can flare up suddenly, but they are connected to ongoing, long-term crises. White supremacy and racist violence has a multi-hundred year history, and it’s not going to end tomorrow. Neither is the coronavirus, climate change, or other major global issues. Sometimes, organizations choose not to act because it feels too overwhelming to stop everything and develop a response. But silence can be deafening. These crises impact our communities and our staff. They deserve attention and action.
It might take time to figure out the longer-term goals your organization wants to contribute to, but that should not stop you from taking immediate action right now. Many cultural and civic organizations benefit from legacies of racism and white supremacy. Not acting now is a form of complicity with white supremacy. If you want to build an organization that is of, by, and for your community, you need to build capacity to respond when members of your community call out.
For that reason, we want to offer a framework that enables your team to act. This framework can help you map out immediate and longer-term actions, both externally with your community and internally with your team.
Externally, you can think creatively about how to contribute your assets to advance justice and change. All our organizations have assets to share. Perhaps you want to stand in solidarity with black people and people of color, and you have a megaphone you could use to do so. Perhaps you want to proactively shift assets from your white organization to Black-led organizations. Or perhaps you want to help advance the movement directly by joining in and speaking out.
|Immediate external action might look like:|
|Creating anti-racist reading lists at your library that center Black authors.|
|Hosting exhibits (online or in person) that highlight Black artists, histories, and narratives, especially ones that explore experiences of police/structural violence.|
|Creating playlists (podcasts, videos, music) to contribute to people’s ongoing education about social justice movements, anti-racism, and solidarity.|
|Issuing a statement on social media standing against racism and racist violence.|
|Making a donation to Black-led social justice organizations and/or bail funds for jailed activists.|
|Offering bathrooms, water, and safe space to activists taking action outside your building.|
|Longer-term external action might look like:|
|Working with affected people in your region to collect and show the complexity of people’s responses over time - not just at the moment of crisis.|
|Canceling your organizational security contract with off-duty police and building an alternate safety model rooted in restorative justice or non-violent communication.|
|Forming a partnership with a Black-led social justice organization to co-create new programs together.|
For external action to be meaningful, it must be grounded in internal action. That starts with making space and centering the experiences and priorities of Black staff and staff members of color. This matters immediately in the moment, and it matters in terms of longer-term commitments you might make.
Moments like these may start outside your organization, but they affect your internal team too. Black staff members and staff members of color may be struggling not only with what’s happening in the world but also how white supremacy shows up in your institution (and in similar institutions where they’ve worked in the past). Some staff members may feel alone, unsafe, or retraumatized if there is no internal response to a major issue their community is facing. Others may feel disheartened or betrayed if there’s an external response that isn’t coupled with internal action.
When it comes to internal response, you don’t have to wait for your organization to change a policy to take action. Many of these actions can be done individually, colleague to colleague. If your organization is not taking action, you still can. It will strengthen relationships and set you up for the work ahead.
|Immediate internal action might look like:|
|Naming as early as possible that this is an extraordinary situation. You may need to put projects on hold to create space to be able to care for each other and address the moment.|
|Creating space for individual, 1:1, and group reflection.|
|Sharing a heartfelt and authentic internal statement with all staff.|
|Announcing effective immediately that every Black staff member and staff member of color receives an additional allocation of paid time off.|
|Amplifying and taking forward any and all requests from affected staff.|
|Proactively offering to immediately take on the work of affected staff - in private, without needing to be asked.|
|Providing affected staff members with additional paid time off to rest, process, and take care of themselves and their community.|
|Giving staff permission to use work time to participate in movement work or respond to external calls to action.|
|Freezing non-essential projects, clearing the deck, and/or redistributing work away from those who are most affected (without fear of retribution).|
|Longer-term internal action might look like:|
|Providing financial resources and support for staff members of color to form affinity groups (or employee resource groups) that meet during work hours.|
|Enabling staff to use a percentage of their work time to spend on anti-racist direct action and/or personal education.|
|Using professional development resources for anti-racist and race equity trainings.|
|Adopting an accountability and incentive program for all staff to be literate about race, racism, and white supremacy.|
|Rethinking your paid time off policy to proactively provide more paid leave to people who are likely to be affected by racist violence in the future.|
|Building skills you see colleagues of color contributing at work, so you can stand in when they need to rest.|
|Creating an organizational giving program to donate to organizations nominated by people of color on staff.|
|Setting a target (personal or staff-wide) for a number of uncomfortable conversations to have each quarter, tied to concrete consequences like bonuses or employee reviews.|
|Working with your board on a public advocacy policy to make it easier to issue public statements quickly when needed.|
Want to start using this framework at your organization? Here’s a simple google slide you can copy and use to map external and internal actions you might take. You might choose to adopt some of the actions listed in this article, or you may choose to find your own path.
We’re using this framework ourselves at OF/BY/FOR ALL even as we’re developing it. For us, external immediate action looks like making a public statement, creating this new content, sharing it with you, and holding workshops on it with Change Network members. Internal immediate action looks like holding space for each other, pausing other projects, and giving staff members of color additional paid days off. And we’re holding ourselves accountable to deeper work in the future as well - both internally in staff policy and externally in our programming.
Whatever you do next, we hope you do something. Moments like this can open up opportunities for us to unlearn harmful practices and radically imagine new ones.
When you build a roadmap for external and internal response, you’ll feel more equipped when these moments arise. And you’ll set yourself up to build an organization that is more responsive, resilient, and supportive of your communities, inside and out.
If you’re feeling unsure about what to do, lean into your discomfort, listen to your colleagues of color, and take action that feels authentic to you. Don’t worry about “missing the moment.” It’s never too late to start dismantling white supremacy.
Special thanks to our Programs Team for their rapid response in co-creating this blog article and resource.