Courage, joy, and equity: My wishes for our sector for 2024

[Image description: A hand holding three lit sparklers. The sparklers are shooting off sparkles in the dark. Image by StockSnap on Pixabay]

Hi everyone. I hope you’ve been able to have somewhat of a break over the past few days. I know many people are returning to work this week, and it is always difficult, so every year for the first blog post of the year, I try to start with something upbeat and humorous. But everything reminds me of the horrors happening around the world. The beautiful fireworks on New Year’s Eve were a reminder of bombs Israel is still dropping on civilians in Palestine, funded by the US with our tax dollars. Even as we celebrate a new year with the renewal it brings, millions around the world are starving, freezing, and dying. So many of them are children.

It would feel disingenuous for me to go about as if the arbitrary transition of one calendar year to another somehow magically ended multiple ongoing genocides in Gaza, Sudan, Congo, Tigray, and other places in the world. Instead, I have hopes and wishes for all of us and our sector this year. In spite of everything, or more likely because of everything, I am still optimistic of the role we play in creating a just and equitable world. For 2024, in no particular order:

1.May we have a better understanding of and healing from our personal and community traumas: May we all see how the traumas our families and communities have endured over decades and centuries shape our thoughts, feelings, and actions now. May we be healed and freed from the cycle of pain and suffering our ancestors went through. May this understanding and healing lead to us to be more forgiving of and to have more grace with ourselves and others, and to be stronger and more effective in our work.

2. May we build upon our courage and take courageous actions in the face of fear, risk, and uncertainty: May we as individuals, organizations, and as a sector, recognize the glimmers of bravery within ourselves, and turn those glimmers into brilliant lights. May we remember that courage is not the absence of fear, but the act of doing the right things despite potential loss in funding, our reputation, and other privileges that often come with remaining neutral, silent, or complacent.

3. May we remember and put into practice the lessons we gained in the past when it comes to equity and justice: All the lessons we’ve gained in DEI training, white papers, articles, workshops, discussions, through discomfort, tears, frustration, all the lessons about power, privilege, colonization, oppression, white supremacy, may they not be forgotten or warped in defense of injustice, but serve to guide us in how we see the world and in how we do carry out our missions.

4.May we make further progress on DEI, building on the foundations we’ve laid in prior years: May we move beyond Equity 101 and toward deeper conversations and actions around race, disability, neurodiversity, gender, age, caste, LGBTQIA+ rights, colonization, reparation, and other vital issues our sector should lead on. May these deeper conversations and actions include every aspect of our field, including donors and funders.

5.May we remember those who have fought for justice in the past and lean on their strength: Especially when the work is toughest, may we remember the leaders across the world who fought for a brighter future in the past, including many of our ancestors, and how they battled oppression and kept going despite challenges many of us cannot fully comprehend. May we take inspiration from their bravery and sacrifices and honor them with our words and actions.

6.May we free ourselves from the superficial and distracting to focus on what would be most helpful to our communities. May we be able to recognize that fighting fascism, saving democracy, ending genocide, protecting reproductive rights, preserving the environment, and addressing other existential issues is urgent, and that all our actions must be weighed against these priorities. May we dispense with the time-and-energy-wasting stuff we’ve put up with in previous years and focus on what matters.

7.May our moral compass always be true and our values of equity and justice unwavering: May we stand steady in our values and beliefs when they are tested. May we remember that while there is complexity in many things in life, there is no complexity when it comes to basic humanity such as the sacredness of the lives of children, no matter their ethnicity or geographic location, and of the wrongness of genocide, no matter who is committing it.

8.May we have the resources, trust, and autonomy to do what is needed: May nonprofit leaders spend less time and energy this year justifying our work to donors and funders and engaging, and instead have the funding and trust to be do the work fully and effectively. May funders and donors be helpful partners.

9.May we find and retain joy and humor while doing this difficult and vital work: Amidst ongoing and overwhelming suffering and chaos, may we retain our ability to find joy and humor. May it not be a mask for us to avoid seeing reality and ignore the pain of others, but serve as a reminder of our shared humanity, replenish our energy, and fuel our actions to create a just and equitable world.

10. May we achieve all the above with an imagination that is hopeful and expansive: As we envision the world we’re trying to create, as well as our role in actualizing it, may our imagination be boundless. May it be multiple times as deep and wide as the depth and breadth of the injustice we’re fighting. May our inner doubts whispering that these visions are impractical in light of things as they are, in light of how humans tend to behave, may those doubts turn into voices that speak of the best in people and of the world as it could be if we work to make it happen.

As we step into 2024, I wish our sector all the above and more. I believe we can both hold the pain and suffering facing so many across the world, and still remain optimistic that if we lead with our values of equity and justice and take courageous actions, we can and do make a difference.

Happy new year. Please keep demanding a permanent ceasefire.