Reflecting the communities we serve
Insights into DEI in NFP and social sector marketing
Earlier this term, the NFP Council hosted Kelly Small (they/them), professor and author of The Conscious Creative: Practical Ethics for Purposeful Work, for a candid discussion about how NFP and social sector marketing teams can apply an intersectional and inclusive lens to their work.
Below are some insights from the discussion:
Holistically inclusive marketing
The Council discussed how prioritizing inclusion must come before diversity goals can be achieved. It’s important to make room for everyone to have a voice, build awareness of conscious and unconscious bias, and take meaningful steps to ensure a sense of safety and belonging for all.
Making strides starts with a commitment from leadership to listen with intention, gain a well-rounded view of business and sector challenges, and have an open mind to new solutions and diverse perspectives. From here, making a concerted effort to understand lived experiences helps us build marketing programs and solutions that reflect and resonate with the communities we serve.
Partnering versus parachuting
At times, well-intentioned NFP and social sector organizations will be eager to elevate DEI and will launch programs and messaging before considering the cultural, social, environmental and nuanced implications.
NFP and social sector marketing teams should commit to the upfront work of co-creating solutions with stakeholders; in other words, “designing with” rather than “designing for.” Like with the first topic, intentional inclusion is a first step. This can include collaborating on problem-finding with impacted communities and following their leadership and guidance for understanding. Those whose lives are directly affected hold the insight to ensure interventions are targeting the correct issue, and it’s important to let them lead the way and pay them fairly for their time, contributions and expertise.
Marketers should make a commitment to re-think the way we present standards, worldviews, and creative sensibilities. For most of us, we move through a world that has not been architected in a holistically inclusive way. Without even realizing it, this impacts professional expectations we have for our colleagues, how their work is evaluated, their sense of inclusion, and their career progression and success. This is evidenced in recent CMA research that found 35 per cent of marketers from marginalized communities feel less engaged at least sometimes due to institutional, interpersonal, structural and/or internalized systems of discrimination, and nearly half (47 per cent) of marketers from marginalized communities have personally experienced a micro-aggression at work within the past 12 months. By addressing micro-aggressions head on, making their occurrence and existence more perceptible and having honest, difficult conversations we can begin to operate with a greater sense of awareness and inclusion.
Many NFP and social sector marketers are working in a global context. When we talk about being an ally in our communications, we need to consider this, and recognize that what DEI means in Canada is very different from what it means in other countries. As a result, allyship may also look very different. Seeking out local perspectives is crucial when planning and creating culturally sensitive marketing and communications.
At the end of the day, our work as marketers all comes down to relationship-building, whatever sector or vertical you work in. When we take the time and put in the effort to get to know people, hear their stories and consider their concerns, we’ll all be more reflective of (and effective for) the communities we help to serve. Success will come through hiring and empowering people from marginalized communities to lead these efforts with authenticity, and recognizing that a diverse, inclusive leadership team leads to better work.