13 lists of ways to learn and show up as antiracist* in this world

*Let’s start with the term “antiracist,” since I know this term alone causes many to go on the defensive. A common thing I hear from people: “Hey, I’m not racist! Are you saying I have to be explicitly not racist or else you’re going to label me racist?! That’s ridiculous.”

First, I hear you. Truly. Nobody wants to be accused of being something that is a bad thing. Being racist is a bad thing. And most of us aren’t consciously racist. And if we consciously knew we were being racist, well-intentioned people would hopefully want to learn and fix their behavior.

We are racist unless we are actively antiracist. Ibram X. Kendi explains: “There is no such thing as a “not-racist” policy, idea or person. Just an old-fashioned racist in a newfound denial. All policies, ideas and people are either being racist or antiracist. Racist policies yield racial inequity; antiracist policies yield racial equity. Racist ideas suggest racial hierarchy, antiracist ideas suggest racial equality. A racist is supporting racist policy or expressing a racist idea. An antiracist is supporting antiracist policy or expressing an antiracist idea. A racist or antiracist is not who we are, but what we are doing in the moment.”

Systemic racism is baked into America. It’s so baked in that as a white person, I often don’t see it. It has taken me years of deep listening, learning, and unlearning to see just how baked in it is, and even still, I have plenty of blind spots and more growth to do.

If I didn’t continue to listen, learn, unlearn, and misstep, the truth is I’d probably be fine. My life would continue to be ok. That’s white privilege. White privilege has led to white supremacy culture, which Showing Up For Racial Justice defines as “the idea (ideology) that white people and the ideas, thoughts, beliefs, and actions of white people are superior to People of Color (POC) and their ideas, thoughts, beliefs, and actions.”

If the terms white privilege and white supremacy culture feel unfamiliar or uncomfortable to you, I understand! Like the term “racist,” these can feel loaded and accusatory. But, these are important concepts to understand and sit with. It’s ok if they raise tensions for you; that means you’re probably doing important reflection on the complex society we live in and the identity you hold in it. My list below will be relevant to you only after you start from a place of understanding these terms. White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack by Peggy McIntosh and The Characteristics of White Supremacy Culture as excerpted from Dismantling Racism: A Workbook for Social Change Groups by Kenneth Jones and Tema Okun are two accessible starting places. Neither is long; both will feel weighty. As you read these pieces, I encourage you to not try to “solve” your whiteness, but to sit with it and reflect on how it has affected your presence in the world.

A triangle describing various forms of overt and covert white supremacy.

This graphic has been oft-adapted and shared, and I believe offers helpful examples of white supremacy, especially for well-meaning people who are just starting to learn about this term and all of the ways it plays out in society.

Next, please watch this Public Address on Revolution, shared yesterday by Rachel Cargle. It powerfully grounds us in the current moment to encourage action.

I promise, we’re getting to a list of lists. But before we do, I want to offer three more thoughts:

  • Video technology has helped immensely to capture and widely share racist, and often violent, acts. But, these acts are not new, and we shouldn’t need video “proof” to believe that this happens every day, everywhere. And, while consuming such videos may be a learning experience for you, consider how resharing them may be traumatizing to others and serve to uphold racial hierarchies.
  • “News cycle care”–which is what I call it when people speak out on social media about how awful George Floyd’s death was and how we have to do better, and then they “go back to normal” until the next senseless murder–isn’t good enough. In fact, it’s damaging. We need to be regularly checking in with our friends and colleagues with intersectional identities; we need to be regularly learning, giving, speaking, and acting in line with the change we want to see; we need to be centering black, brown, and native voices in whatever type of work we do. It’s not enough to care only when the headlines care. Also, remember that part of care is not putting the burden on non-white friends to do your work for you and thinking about how you phrase what you say.
  • Antiracist and social justice work can be absolutely exhausting. As indigenous leader Tim Fox shared the other day, “[this work] is generational. It doesn’t happen through a five year strategic plan. The systems and mindsets have to change, and we have to plant seeds for the next generation that will inherit our positions of leadership in the world.” With this long view, we can remember that it’s not a sprint, but that it’s work we need to do steadily at our own speed in our own ways. Self care–and accessing community care as able–are essential to this work.

This blog post will already have had holes and things I could have framed or said differently. But an important piece of working every day toward being antiracist is not sitting in silence. We can’t be so afraid of getting it wrong that we pretend like nothing is happening, and that our siblings of different races don’t hear that deafening silence.

We exist in shared humanity. Antiracist work is ongoing until society transforms to be fully just and equitable. To embrace what true shared humanity looks like, we all need to take antiracist action.

There are people far more knowledgeable, thorough, and thoughtful than this Jeneralist can be, and voices who should be centered far more than my own. So, the below is a list of 13 lists authored by some of those people and platforms that will break down a variety of ways to learn and show up as an antiracist in this world.

  1. Stop Killing Us: A Real Life Nightmare – an article (with a list embedded) by Tamika Butler
  2. Anti-racism resources for white people – a mega-document of resources compiled by Sarah Sophie Flicker and Alyssa Klein
  3. 6 Ways to Activate Beyond Social Media – an instagram list by @jezzchung
  4. Mapping Our Roles in a Social Change Ecosystem – an instagram list shared by @terisasiagatonu and created by Deepa Iyer
  5. 5 Ways To Take Action For All Non-Black People – an instagram list developed by @theconsciouskid
  6. Shareable Anti-racism Resource Guide – compiled by Tasha Ryals
  7. 26 Ways To Be In The Struggle Beyond The Streets – shared by Racial Justice Rising
  8. Raising engaged anti-racist children – a twitter thread by @thecathyshow including resources from many terrific organizations
  9. A World Of Activism: How You Can Get Involved – a list by the Cultures of Resistance Network
  10. 75 Things White People Can Do For Racial Justice – a list compiled by Connie Shutack
  11. 6 ways to be antiracist, because being ‘not racist’ isn’t enough – an article by Rebecca Ruiz featuring Ibram X. Kendi’s thinking
  12. 10 Simple Ways White People Can Step Up to Fight Everyday Racism – a list compiled by @privtoprog, via the #ShowUp movement
  13. How To Be Actively Antiracist – a list compiled by @goodgoodgoodco on instagram that draws from many brilliant writers and activists

You’ll notice that most of these are simple formats and social media based. While not all of my readers are on social media, this is content everyone can access. (And, for those of you who are on at least one social media platform, start following people with different identities and listening to what they have to say.) While the bite-sized nature of social media can often miss nuance, it can be helpful for simplifying giant challenges into manageable pieces. That is my aim for readers of this blog—there’s action to take today that you shouldn’t have to sit and think about for weeks.

Within these lists, there are ways for you to activate in a way that meets you where you are. You don’t need to be an expert to start contributing to an antiracist society.

7 ways to increase personal happiness during COVID-19

The right half of an envelope featuring four stamps: The Voice of America, Little Women, the Pony Express, and a statue of Liberty air mail

I am taking the Science of Well-Being course through Coursera and Yale (free! highly recommend!), and a valuable reminder it offers is that doing things for others significantly increases happiness. For the first time, we’re forced to think about how to practice this at a distance. Here are 7 practices to increase your happiness by being kind to others from a distance:

  1. Send snail mail. It’s easy and cheap. You don’t need fancy stationery; in fact, my favorite quarantine letter I received was from a friend on printer paper and sticky notes in a #10 envelope. I’ve been sending many on postcards I’ve gathered through past travels and shared memories from those places. Your letter can be short just to say hi; it can be emotional and deep; it can be jumpy with fragments of information that you might not otherwise share (“Today I saw a person walking backwards down my block like it was completely normal.”) It can pose questions; it can acknowledge something in your friend’s life; it can lament not being in more frequent touch. You can decorate with original art and stickers and colorful markers and washi tape, or keep it as simple as pen on paper. You can even use fun vintage stamps.
  2. Let people know you’re thinking of them. A text message, phone call, or comment on social media can go a long way. Especially now, we can tell a lot about how people are experiencing the world based on what they publicly share…and what they don’t. If someone is expressing how hard things are, share an empathetic thought. “I see you; I’m sorry; you are loved.” If you haven’t heard from someone in awhile, it’s great to send a funny or cute gif. For friends working on the front lines, and those who always seem high performing, they need extra love and kindness right now. Thank them for their work, their energy, their advocacy.
  3. Post a message on your window. I’ve seen so many terrific messages in neighbors’ windows, from “Thank you helpers” to “You look like a million bucks today, even with the mask on!” People are looking around and taking notice, and this is such an easy thing to do. Also, look into local neighborhood window games specifically for kids, like the widely-adopted teddy bear scavenger hunt and participate when you can.
  4. Convene a virtual celebration. Graduations, birthdays, (cancelled) weddings, babies, awards…there’s a lot to celebrate. Cards and texts are nice, but real moments should feel like real moments. Whether you send out a paperless post for a zoom party or ask people to all sign a kudoboard, going the extra mile underscores special moments. Equally importantly, this may include celebrations of life when people pass away; grieving is so often done around people, and is particularly hard right now. Ask people how they might like help with group gatherings to grieve and celebrate life together. A note about all of this: when you have more than a few people together on a virtual call, you need to facilitate the time so that people have opportunities to speak and a clear idea of what is going to happen. For a friend’s birthday party for example, I asked attendees ahead of time for a song recommendation, and then shared this agenda: “Hellos and how you know know Sarah, roasts or toasts from whoever would like, she’ll light her own candles and we’ll all sing, we’ll have a dance party to our medley, then there will be a game.” It helps people know what to expect and respect your role as someone who will keep things moving.
  5. Volunteer. There is so much work that can be done right now. You can look for opportunities to help your neighbors via NextDoor or posting signs, sign up with a nonprofit via sites like VolunteerMatch or Catchafire, donate plasma, look for specialized calls for vulunteers based on your expertise, or even just reach out to your own network to see who needs help. There’s a ton to do. I helped one nonprofit recraft their communications to tell stories about how its programs are still strong despite the shifting context.
  6. Offer to watch kids. Those of us without kids or other caretaking responsibilities have plenty of our own challenges, but we do have the luxury of occassional “me” time. If you’re in a neighborhood with yards, offer to watch the neighbor’s kids in the next yard. If you’re states away from friends with kids old enough to chat on the phone, offer to spend some time with them hanging out so your friend can drink her tea in peace. And, depending on you and your family’s comfort level, offering in-person babysitting, especially for kids of essential workers, is an incredible gift.
  7. Tip and treat to coffee/wine. When you order food out, tip better than you ever would. If you’re ordering packages regularly, consider tipping your delivery person. If you’re a fan of the USPS like I am, leave a tip for your delivery person. (How? Just put it in an envelope and tape it outside before they usually arrive.) Similarly, Venmo a friend out of the blue to get themself a bottle of wine on you because you. Or pay for the next person’s coffee at the curbside coffeeshop. (They won’t even hear you do it when they’re six feet away!)

There’s a lot to feel anxious, stressed, mad, and scared about in this world always, and especially right now. But, you can feel all of those things and hold in the same moment some happiness. That happiness, at least for me, refuels me to gear up for the long road ahead.

How else are you being kind to others to increase happiness?

8 things I tell people looking to transition to the nonprofit sector

A wooden sign reads "mission-driven land" sits in green grass. A thought bubble says "What's it like over there?"

At least once a week, I find myself reading a version of the same email. The gist: Hi! I’m looking for a change and thought the nonprofit sector would be a great way to give back and make a difference. [Relative stranger] suggested I reach out to learn more. Can we connect?

I used to always patiently reply to these and offer a 30 min call (especially when people asked thoughtfully); it’s good juju. During those calls, similar themes and questions surface. Work culture, pay, transferable (and not) skills, and getting networked are top topics.

This post is selfish—I’ll send it to people asking some version of this question so that I can start saying no to calls with less guilt. But, it’s also an invitation for others to comment with what they would want people to know, too.

In no particular order, here are 8 things I tell people looking to transition to the nonprofit sector:

  1. Don’t come to this sector just because you want to do good. You can do good within any sector. You can dip your toe in the nonprofit sector through board service or other volunteerism. But don’t enter the nonprofit sector to spark your personal feel-good moment. Nonprofits benefit from staff who deeply believe in their missions. They also benefit from staff who are prepared to invest themselves in the work for the long haul, and who are willing to bring humility and learning above quick solutions. It’s a great sector, but make sure you’re entering it in true service of, and in community with, others. And if you are, know that you’ll be able to contribute to lots of good work.
  2. You will meet incredible people. This could be true of any industry, but I think it’s particularly true for nonprofits. People are driven and passionate, and often push each other to be better humans. They have diverse interests and often non-linear career paths, which makes for fascinating conversations. My ‘philanthrofriends’ are people I don’t need to explain things to; they just get it. I’m inspired on a regular basis by the people I get to work with, and you will be too.
  3. The work is always urgent. (And that’s often your own fault.) This is a fairly common thread of nonprofit culture, and also notably white supremacy culture. People wear multiple hats and work extra hours with intensity, often to meet deadlines that seem to never stop coming. But, as I hear from many colleagues, a lot of those deadlines don’t have to be there; we create them as individuals and teams because we see our missions as urgent and important, and we structure our work accordingly. Even outside of work hours, we often partake in events, conversations, and fundraisers linked to other nonprofits in our ecosystems. It can lead to burnout; setting boundaries is really important. I always recommend The Happy, Healthy Nonprofit by Beth Kanter and Aliza Sherman and FRIDA The Young Feminist Fund’s guides to self-care as important references.
  4. You can get creative with your compensation package, and it’s (generally) going to have a cap. Senior leaders for the biggest nonprofit organizations can make very, very good money. At smaller and mid-sized organizations, they still do well. Working in the nonprofit sector can be a viable way to make a living. However, you should also be realistic. The budget of the organization (publicly available information) will dictate salaries. Especially in junior or mid-level roles at smaller organizations, these salaries will generally be less than what might be earned in analogous roles in the private sector. Before exploring a role, you should find out the salary range to see if it works with your living expenses. In negotiations, you should bring data to benchmark against. You should also be ready to negotiate for other things that would be valuable to you, such as a cell phone plan, additional paid time off, remote work days, and bonus incentives. Especially when an organization knows that they’re not able to pay the full salary that you are worth, they are more likely to explore alternative compensation.
  5. Get networked, but also do the work. Part of getting in the door with a job is often knowing someone who can endorse you. Part of doing your job well is often knowing people who can help you navigate the work by sharing experience, knowledge, resources, and other connections. So, you’ll need to make an effort to meet people and show curiosity about their story. But, you also need to put in the work yourself. Do not rely on other people to teach you what you need to learn, or to clarify vague pathways. Bring ideas along with questions, and show efforts to make progress on your own. If you ask someone to pass along your resume, offer something of equal value to them. Yes, people tend to be kind in this sector, but that kindness will quickly wear thin if you don’t put in what you ask others to do for you.
  6. You’ll need to navigate and reflect on your role in (fraught) power dynamics. I’d think about this from three angles: the structures, the culture, and acting within and outside of norms. (A) Nonprofit budgets come through a combination earned revenue, grants, and other avenues. The money from philanthropy in particular was made on stolen Native American land that was built on the backs of enslaved Black people and now is doled out in (mostly) five percent increments by (a majority) of white philanthropy leaders. The power dynamics brought by colonialism and capitalism and reinforced by the nonprofit sector’s structure are real. Most simply, this can result in an environmental nonprofit questioning “should we take money from so-and-so foundation whose investments are all in big oil?” More complexly, it’s why BIPOC-led and BIPOC-serving organizations receive less funding. Another structural angle: nonprofits form when community needs aren’t being met through other sectors. There’s often tension between the scope of mission, what the organization can feasibly deliver on, and why government isn’t meeting that need in the first place. (B) There’s the funder-nonprofit power dynamic and then internal power dynamics to understand that mirror the above context. Grant application processes, meetings, measurement and reporting requirements, site visits, and communications are examples of places where power imbalance is particularly visible, grounded in the differential of who has money and who wants money. Within organizations, there’s tension between oft-expressed collaborative culture and deep hierarchies. “Shared leadership” and “opportunities to take ownership” are phrases that can be authentic but more often than not masquerade for creating more work at personal cost. And many BIPOC and LGBTQ+ staff still are at a disadvantage under many leaders. The sector of doing good still does not host equitable opportunities for all. (C) Simply doing your job will more likely than not make you complicit in various power dynamic structures. You will experience tensions related to “professionalism”, values, roles, and your broader context. As top-level advice, I believe it’s crucial to build in space every week to reflect on your experiences, seek advice where it is helpful, and plan your personal navigation strategy. It’s also important to pay attention to structures and decisions aimed to tackle power imbalances, like foundations giving more than 5%, increasing their cap on indirect expenses, and eliminating grant reports. (Vu Le’s #AwesomeFundingPractices hashtag is a good starting place.) This will likely turn into a follow-up blog post.
  7. Bring your curiosity, patience, hacks, empathy, and writing skills, but check your accredited expertise at the door. There are so many terrific skills that you have that will translate fully in a nonprofit environment. What I find most often is non-transferable from other sectors is the skill that you lack humility around. It’s the thing that you’re a pro in, went to school for, or published articles about that gives you your swagger. When you enter a nonprofit setting at any level, you need to ask questions, listen, and learn. You can’t have all of the solutions right away; you will alienate people and buy-in matters. And often, you’ll miss a nuance or unique point of context that can change everything. Spend time outside of “solve” mode to absorb everything you can. You do not need to agree with everything you read and hear, but you do need to recognize that others will have insights that you haven’t been around to have. This is especially true when working in less familiar contexts or with identities that do not mirror your own.
  8. Nonprofits aren’t a monolith. Like with any job hunt, ask yourself, and them, key questions about the things that matter to you. The vast majority of nonprofits are teeny tiny organizations, but there are also big organizations with (at times, shockingly) costly line items on their 990s, and everything in between. Budget matters, but so do mission, leadership, values, approach, hiring, governance, partnerships, culture, and context. Don’t make any assumptions about what will be; even this generalist could offer counterpoints to everything in this post. The sector cannot be generalized, and you’ll need to be your own detective as you respectfully investigate each specific organization.

6 steps to writing and sharing a land acknowledgement

Many tall buildings behind construction equipment and a road

A land acknowledgement is sharing a statement of appreciation for, and history of, the land on which you are standing.

It is often done by way of a greeting or opening when welcoming people into a shared space. It grounds the engagement to come in the place itself, and often evokes feelings of gratitude and grounding.

It should also remind us of complex histories and identities. It is a reminder that land was stolen by colonizers, and that the places we now occupy have evolved in ways that have displaced people, plants, and animals.

“I wonder if much that ails our society stems from the fact that we have allowed ourselves to be cut off from that love of, and from, the land. It is medicine for broken land and empty hearts.”

Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants

“To acknowledge this land on which we stand is to acknowledge truth. To acknowledge truth is to acknowledge connection and disconnection. To acknowledge connection and disconnection is to acknowledge the Nations who care for our mother. To acknowledge our mother is to acknowledge truth. To acknowledge truth is to acknowledge that truth is at the forefront of the conversation.”

Monique Aura, Oneida Nation, via Whose Land’s Why Acknowledge? page

Land acknowledgements are often initiated and shared by Indigenous people. But, my hope in writing this post is that it encourages more people of all backgrounds to write and share your own land acknowledgement. It’s a powerful practice to engage in, and doing so invites others to do the same. Together, we can make connection to the land more of a common practice once again—drawing from, and returning to, Indigenous wisdom. Personally, I have appreciated using this practice as a tool to learn about histories that we weren’t taught in white-washed school curricula, and to think more deeply about the interconnection of people over time.

Here are 6 steps to follow to writing and sharing a land acknowledgement:

  1. Put your screens away and do some thinking. Reflect on why you’re doing a land acknowledgement, what you hope to learn and share, and what the place you live in means to you. Make it personal. The process is as important as the final statement itself, so you want to solidly ground that process.
  2. Do your place-based research. Learn whose land you’re on through tools like native-land.ca, whose.land, and by reading local histories. Learn how to pronounce tribal names and words. Find out who Native leaders in your community currently are, and watch content that they are publicly sharing or reach out to them to learn. (And if you do ask for guidance and wisdom, offer compensation.)
  3. Recognize how a Native telling of history is very different than what’s taught in most schools. Through a project between Native Americans in Philanthropy and Candid last year, I realized just how much history I never learned, and how much I heard a version of with very different words. You can’t learn it overnight, but spend time reading up and getting comfortable using accurate descriptive language to talk about what happened to Native peoples. (Note: for those of you starting to do antiracism work, this really important! Whenever you dig into identities different from your own, get ready to unlearn and relearn through different experiences.)
  4. Put the pieces together. How does your research relate to your unique perspective, and to the gathering that your acknowledgement will open? What can you share that will provide proper acknowledgement and meaning? How does your personal identity tie into what you will share?
  5. Create space and time to share. Do not rush through a land acknowledgement. Build it into your agenda, and also leave space to share what it is, why you’re doing it, and invite questions if those in attendance may be unfamiliar. It’s important to build understanding and share learning as a part of this process.
  6. Reflect and do more. Land acknowledgements should not be check boxes that you check off to say ‘I am now an ally to Native people…done!’ You’re not done. Think about how you will use what you learned to spark more learning and engagement. (Note: I am making a donation to the Native Governance Center upon publishing this post; they were a resource to me when I was first learning about this topic. Donating resources is a great way to support Native communities.)

I’ll close with an example of a recent land acknowledgement that I delivered at the start of a virtual keynote panel for PEAK Grantmaking’s conference. I wrote this using the tips shared above, and it is entirely my own words and perspective. I still have a lot of learning to do, and hope to continue to think about and evolve my framing over time. This is where I’m at in my learning and process now.

Many tall buildings behind construction equipment and a road
Photo taken in from what is now called Seattle. February 2020.

I am going to start by acknowledging the land on which this session was meant to take place and the land that we’re all occupying as we share space today on Zoom. 

Today, I’d like to pause to acknowledge the traditional and unceded land of the Coast Salish people, including the Duwamish People and the Suquamish People past and present. The land we each stand on, wherever we are, holds deep history, including success, pain, missed connections, fruitful partnerships, life, death, abuse, genocide, prayer, growth, discovery, and community.

Land carries memory. Growing up, Indigenous land was talked about solely in the context of the casinos being built down the road. Indigenous peoples were talked about in the past tense, like characters in a story from long ago and not like my neighbors, even though they were. I remember walking a beautiful trail to a waterfall in town and learning there about the Mohegans and the Pequots. Land carries memory. As a global pandemic looms large in our lives, we can be reminded of how the very land on which this session was to take place was the site of fatal smallpox, measles, influenza, and other disease outbreaks in the late 1700s-early 1800s brought by colonizers. Land carries memory. In 1855, those local tribes were part of the Treaty of Point Elliott, exchanging over 54,000 acres of their homeland for the reservation and other benefits promised by the United States government. The treaty was soon thereafter violated, triggering fighting and loss.

By acknowledging the land and all that it holds, I invite us all to learn more deeply about the places we occupy and the people who are our neighbors. Even this shared space of The Internet carries deep connections and welcoming neighbors, but also trauma and fear. Especially in this moment of pause from travel and spending extra time in our own backyards, it is deeply important to spend time learning about and reflecting on the history of that space, and what that has meant for different people who have occupied that same space throughout its history. I’ll close with a quote from Chief Si’ahl, the Namesake of the City of Seattle: “This we know; The earth does not belong to man; man belongs to the earth.  This we know, all things are connected like the blood which unites one family.  All things are connected.” 

5 easy steps to having an accountability buddy

Accountability buddy Sam Hansen at Hilma af Klint exhibit

I pride myself in helping to un-stick people by being an action-oriented sounding board and problem-solver. I’ve noticed that one of the top reasons people get stuck on something is that they don’t have any accountability to move successfully towards their desired outcome. That outcome could be something as big as a job hunt or move to a new city, or something as seemingly small as scheduling a doctor’s appointment or blocking time to connect with family. It could even be adopting a more mindful state of being.

Without accountability, it’s easy to cite too little time, too much to do, insufficient resources, the wrong context, an initial “no”, or any number of other factors as a good enough reason to not advance a goal.

An accountability buddy is a free, easy, and enjoyable way to build accountability into your life.*

Nearly nine years ago, an Internet friend turned real-life friend agreed to join me in an experiment of an accountability partnership.** We’re still going strong, and both they and I have advanced goals related to work, health, relationships, family matters, city moves, skills, and personal projects because of it. Most of my friends don’t know Sam directly, but they have heard tell of how big an influence they’ve been in my life by holding me accountable.

Accountability buddy (n) – a person who champions your success on reaching your goals through consistent communication.

You can have this friendship and accountability too! Here are 5 easy steps to making it happen.

  1. Find a strategic accountability buddy. Ideally, this is not a person that you regularly interact with. It’s not a close friend or colleague, or anyone who is a strong presence in the communities that you are a part of. They need to be an objective sounding board and confidante, and you don’t want to bias information that you share with them for any reason. I particularly value that Sam and I work in different industries, participate in different hobbies, and live in different places. So where do you find someone that you don’t really interact with? Posting online via social media, or asking friends if they know of anyone who might be interested is a great start.
  2. Establish norms for your communications. What medium will you primarily use to communicate? How often will you communicate? Are there boundaries or frameworks for what you want to share? How will you name and follow up on challenges, and also celebrate and learn from wins? In our first few years, Sam and I would email every weekday with goals for the day, and any longer-term goals and challenges that we wanted to identify. Anything was fair game. While we’ve gone down to just Mondays and Fridays, all else has remained consistent. We follow up with questions about how big things went, check in on unfulfilled intentions, validate fears and concerns while suggesting shifts in approach, and high five victories big and small. We occasionally video chat or connect in person when we feel a need to re-calibrate or give larger updates, or if travel puts us in the same place at the same time. Some updates are short, and others longer, but all are authentic, direct, and devoid of small talk.
  3. Be vulnerable. For an accountability buddy relationship to be successful, vulnerability is key. You can’t beat around the bush. You need to name stressors, root causes, and looming fears, and also admit failure. Similarly, you need to be able to brag about things that you would show humility about around others. There can be no judgment on either side. This is rooted in a deep trust, which is essential to this type of relationship. You may not start with a high level of trust, but you need to build it quickly, together.
  4. Commit to being a consistent cheerleader and challenger. You need to believe in your buddy’s ability to achieve whatever they set out to do. You must believe that their goals are the right goals for them, rather than inserting your own ideas about what’s best. You need to be in their court always; you can’t disappear. You need to give tough love when your buddy needs a nudge forward. Empathy, curiosity, patience, and long-term investment are your essential tools.
  5. Iterate and evolve as needed, together. While it’s been nine years, Sam and I have had moments of pause and re-calibration. You can’t possibly know what you need together in perpetuity. Life happens; goals change; ability to show up well for each other isn’t always optimal. Boundaries may need establishing where you couldn’t have known to establish them previously. What’s key is each taking responsibility to reconnect and evaluate where you’re at, what’s working, what’s not, and if and how to grow your partnership together.

If any of this sounds like a marriage, or something you don’t need because you’re in a marriage or have other close partnerships, think again. What is so refreshing and helpful about an accountability buddy is that it really is all about your goals and their goals. You receive objective, dedicated support in service of your goals, with your only commitment being to give the same to someone else. Unlike other relationships, there’s no give-and-take, no inference, and no personal opinions. It removes the layers of additional obligation and history of more direct personal relationships while introducing a different type of intimacy—full transparency.

There’s not much to lose. Give it a try. Imagine what you could accomplish by following only 5 easy steps.

*This is not intended to be another “be productive during the pandemic” post. Just last week, we were focused on holding each other accountable for resting up and keeping our evenings completely free from commitments.

**If you feel a sense of deja vu and have followed my writing for some time, I’ve written about this before! The old blog archives live on, as does this accountability partnership!

10 two-player board games for any level of gamer

A photo of some of our board games on a closet floor.

Jigsaw puzzles have made an enormous comeback during the pandemic, boasting a screen-free, meditative way to slow down and do something simple. It surprises me that the same has not been true for board games. But, I have a hunch about why.

People enjoy playing board games in social contexts with groups of friends. While some like Codenames have free and functional rudementary versions in online formats, and you can pay for “real” digital versions of others like Ticket to Ride, this isn’t fun for the masses. The masses don’t want to deal with the technology element to get people around a metaphoric table to play a game that probably needs explaining. (And, when you do, there are distractions at homes and the game plays excruciatingly slowly.)

The masses might, however, play a board game at home with their partner, roommate, or kid they want some 1:1 time with if it were easy to do and fun for two.

It is, indeed, easy to do and fun, and you don’t have to be a “gamer”. Here is an unordered list of 10 recommendations that are fun, quick, and only as competitive as you want them to be at any level:

  1. Patchwork. I love the aesthetics and the different strategic approaches you can take in such a seemingly simple game.
  2. Onitama. There are 10 total pieces and only 5 cards in play each game. If chess hurts your brain too much but you like the idea of it, try this. It also plays a bit differently each time depending on the cards you pick.
  3. Backgammon. This is a classic game dating back thousands of years that you find all around the world. It’s a race against your opponent, and some luck-of-the-roll too.
  4. Pentago. Tic-tac-toe-esque, but with five in a row and a (literal) twist. I get a real kick out of this game, but admittedly, my husband will not play with me; it can be a frustrating one to lose.
  5. Quiddler. Aesthetically-pleasing cards, fun mechanics, and an accessible but different take on a word game where the fanciest word isn’t always the best play. There are 8 rounds, but for a really quick game, you can also just play the odd or even rounds.
  6. Hive. For once, a game based around a queen rather than a king! This game has a lot more depth than it might look like, but you can also play without any depth at all and see what happens.
  7. Battle Line. A game with two different ways to win keeps everyone on their toes. We often get very close to the end without a clue who will win…until suddenly it’s over.
  8. Fugitive. This is an unbalanced game, where each player has a different role and objective. It’s fast so you can switch off. And you get to bluff, which is a good skill to practice sometimes.
  9. Othello. I always loved the tagline on the box: “A minute to learn, a lifetime to master!” Kind of says it all.
  10. Sylvion. This game is beautiful and about collaboratively preventing forest fires. You win or lose together!

If you have a high tolerance for a hefty rule book and long length of play, I highly recommend one more bonus game:

11. Twilight Struggle. One player is the USSR, one is the US. There’s a space race, there’s nuclear threat, there’s a chance to poke your opponent. This game is terrific.

While Pandemic Legacy didn’t make this list because #TooReal, I did want to share the tip that if you decide to play it with two players, I strongly recommend that each of you play two characters so that you have four characters playing. It becomes a little more fun and nuanced as a two-player game.

All of these games are easy to buy online, but first, check to see if you can buy from your local game shop! You probably have one in the city nearest to you, and they could certainly benefit from your support.

9 image banks that don’t just feature skinny white people

Plus-size female model stands looking at a person in glasses seated with their laptop in an office setting. Another person stands at a table with their laptop in the background.

Even though stock images are nobody’s first choice, images are necessary for conveying stories, smart design, and marketing.

Diverse photos aren’t just about seeing people of different colors, sizes, genders, and abilities. (In fact, photos that appear to simply check these boxes are colloquially labeled “the diversity photo,” which can do more harm than good at times.)

To pick stock photos representing thoughtful diversity, look at how a photo is staged and what norms are uplifted. What family and power structures are being communicated? Who’s sitting v. standing? Are there religious overtones? Are activities gendered? Is there whitewashing? Images can be even more powerful than words; we have a responsibility to pay extra attention to what they’re communicating both explicitly and implictly.

Here are 9 image banks that feature diverse images, were created intentionally, and have most or all content available for free*:

  1. Gender Spectrum Collection
  2. Lean In Collection
  3. The Jopwell Collection: Intern Edition
  4. AllGo
  5. Disabled and Here
  6. Images of Empowerment
  7. Disability:IN
  8. Nappy
  9. WOCinTech

*There are many other great sites where you can pay for content. I believe in paying people! Much of my audience has to be scrappy, so I focused on free for this post.

There are also a number of organizations that build intentional photography into their work. If you’re searching for photography but not finding the right stock images, consider two options: A) invite a community-based photographer to capture the right images for you, or B) connect with another organization who shares resonant images and see if you can get permission to use some. In either case, you are lifting up a photographer or organization, while also using thoughtful images to tell your story.

Social media is another place to look for real photography of real people. If you repurpose on your social networks, do so with permission and credit. Part of what drew me into weightlifting was the @girlswhopowerlift Instagram account, which showcases all sorts of diverse, strong womxn.

Three final notes on images:

When sharing digitally, use alt text. This is an accessibility practice that describes images to viewers who are unable to see them.

Not all images are taken ethically. Subjects may not know that they’re the subject of a photo, and context may have been omitted by the photographer that the subject might feel differently about. While there isn’t always a way to trace every image, be particularly mindful of sourcing and learning more about an image when you are saying something about specific places, populations, or social justice work.

Check licensing and permissions, and give proper attribution. Make sure you have permission to use an image, pay for an image if you don’t, and give proper attribution always. Especially through social media, people often are not properly compensated for their work. Even for the sites listed above, several have attribution requirements; know them and use them.

Whether your company has a design team or you’re flying solo, more thoughtful stock images are an action you can take today.

8 guidelines for asking someone for something

Text from an email asking for job hunt advice

Whether it’s advice, a connection, a service, goods, recommendations, time, presence at an event, or financial support, people need things from others. It’s how we coexist and form societies and communities. And people are often very willing to give. But, how you ask matters both for immediate results and long-term implications.

Here are 8 considerations you should follow before asking anything of someone else:

  1. Do not obligate or guilt anybody. Give them the opportunity to say no or defer without consequence.
  2. Be clear in what you’re asking. Dancing around what you want leaves room for misunderstandings and frustration, and requires additional effort from the askee to read between the lines.
  3. No person should feel overburdened by your request. When’s the last time you asked them for something? Are you asking for more than is fair?
  4. Are you abusing a power dynamic? Work heirarchies, lived experience, and proximity are common ways that people are taken advantage of because someone doesn’t want to put in the work themselves. Make sure that you’re not crossing boundaries, and offer compensation especially if there is a power dynamic–visible or not–at play.
  5. What sort of reciprocity are you expecting? Will you be upset if it’s not provided? If so, how can you make your expectations known?
  6. What is the timeframe in which you would need your request completed? Are you allowing enough time for the person to rearrange their schedule or resources to follow through?
  7. Are there any unintended consequences that could come from your ask that affect you or others associated with you? Are these possibilities that you’re comfortable risking?
  8. And of course, be gracious. Say thank you (both during the ask and after any response). It’s never wrong and jeopardizes what people think of you if you don’t. Beyond a thank you, if you’re meeting up in person, offer to buy the coffee. And if it’s within your means, offer compensation for people’s time.

If you are the askee, you owe it to yourself to respond to the request honestly, and then to follow through on whatever you promise. You’re allowed to say no; you’re allowed to say yes on your terms; you’re allowed to do exactly as asked but set boundaries for future requests. But be authentic in your reply and follow-through.

I get asked for a lot of things on a daily basis. I do my best to be responsive. But, know that if you’re asking someone for something and you don’t get a response, it’s usually not personal. My inbox is a mess, I’m often running on empty, and there just aren’t enough hours in the day. If you don’t hear back, feel free to graciously follow up once with your request; it can be really helpful, and you’re more likely to get a positive response.

A Modern Mikvah

A little over a year ago, a few friends and I hosted a women’s circle to celebrate our bride-to-be friend Carrie. I never blogged about it although I got permission, because I don’t feel like I can capture its meaning and beauty in words. But, I’ll share our introductory words and the format in case it inspires, excites, or otherwise moves you to revisit and update your own rituals to bring more meaning to special times.

In the Jewish tradition, a mikvah is any body of mayim hayim, which literally means “living water,” or running water as opposed to stagnant water. Water like the beautiful ocean behind us in an example of an outdoor mikvah. A mikvah is often visited by Jews as a part of rituals as an act of purification. Brides have historically gone before their wedding day, often with her girlfriends by her side.
The word mikvah literally means a collection. Usually, it refers to the collection of water, but we can also think of this women’s gathering today as a mikvah, a collection of women. Our community is formed by women who have traveled from different places to sit in their circle, literally and metaphorically. Each of us has our own story, but it is Carrie’s role in each of our stories that created this particular collection of women. Together, in our closing mikvah ceremony, Carrie, we all are witnesses and supporters of your new partnership as well as your ever­evolving independence and kinship.

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We had several of the women in the circle from different parts of Carrie’s life – family, crafting circle, lifetime friends – offer different blessings (seven total) and pour a small bit of ocean water over Carrie’s hands. We talked about its power to cleanse and refresh, and to ready her with a fresh slate to build a life together with her (wonderful) husband. Most importantly, we were able to draw from tradition and community to create a meaningful, structured gathering that marked a significant milestone with resonance to our friend and her mikvah.

In general, I think rituals – religious or otherwise – exist to create known structures to recognize the significance of a moment or place in time. From a courtroom rising when a judge walks in, to political appointees getting sworn in using a bible, to the recitation of the pledge of allegiance in elementary schools in the morning, to singing take me out to the ball game in the 7th inning stretch, to saying grace before a meal, to putting on your right shoe first, rituals aren’t always right or wrong, meaningful or not; they just are. They can help disparate people form connection or also distance, and inform process for those who like knowing how things will happen.

For me, I don’t like blindly doing things just because it’s how they’ve always been done. Carrie, my friend who is now a year happily married and growing her mikvah every day, is the same; bringing meaning to what we do and how and why we do it – the process – is more important than the end itself.

What’s one ritual that you want to rethink, revise, and rebirth?

Human Centered Design: What, Who, Where, When, Why, How

I’ve been on hiatus from this blog since I began curating the blog for GrantCraft. I will try to at least cross-post my personally-authored posts here and revive my own writing as time permits!

Affinity clustering activity following a Rose-Thorn-Bud from Foundation Center’s youth philanthropy retreat, May 2014

What: Human-Centered Design (HCD) puts humans at the center of a creative and critical thinking process that promotes rapid generation of ideas, helps organize and process lots of information, guides group input, and ultimately helps make better decisions. It relies on our human capacity for empathy, as well as our ability to be intuitive, to recognize patterns, to construct ideas that are emotionally meaningful as well as functional.

Who: You! HCD helps to harness the unique perspectives and ideas that we can find difficult to get our arms around. It’s inclusive, allowing all voices to be heard including introverts and extroverts, senior program officers and communications associates, the tech-savvy and people who prefer pen and paper only.

Where: In meetings, at your desk, at strategic planning sessions, in the field. Make sure you’re in a place that has a flat surface like a wall or a table and some post-its, markers, and sharpies.

When: HCD can be used for observing people, seeing how they interact with a product or service, understanding challenges and opportunities, and testing ideas in real-time. In short, there are opportunities at any point in a project to use design thinking.

Why: HCD approaches problems and solutions more thoroughly and thoughtfully by allowing more ideas and diverse perspectives to surface. It focuses on action instead of just thinking, makes abstract ideas more tangible, allows for uncertainty and challenges, and better integrates the human experience.  It supports thinking outside the box and provides anonymity of ideas, making it easier to iterate and ideate as a group without bias or confrontation. Plus, it’s fun and keeps things interesting!

How: Read up, get trained, and seek out resources to find out more. There are a few non-negotiables when doing HCD:

  1. Plan early and with a partner.
  2. Secure necessary supplies.
  3. Set ground rules.
  4. Clearly explain the activity so people can fully participate.

As the activity progresses, you’ll also want to digitally record outcomes (take pictures!) and create a safe space by being mindful of different personalities and perspectives.

Looking for more? Here are three great resources for those getting into HCD:

  • The Luma Institute provides terrific resources on HCD, including books, planning materials, and activity templates. I can personally vouch for their terrific two-day trainings, too.
  • Ideo created a free HCD toolkit designed to help social enterprises and nonprofits “understand a community’s needs in new ways, find innovative solutions to meet those needs, and deliver solutions with financial sustainability in mind.”
  • Beth Kanter’s blog, especially her post summarizing a day-long meeting in which we both participated at a foundation.