Hi everyone. Thank you for your patience last week, as I had to skip out on a blog post for health reason. I’m feeling better, though I wish I could skip writing this post too. This is going to be a serious piece that may piss off a lot of people.
Last week, we were reeling from the Supreme Court’s leaked decision to overturn Roe vs Wade. People will die, especially Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asians and NH/PI, and low-income people, because safe abortions will still remain accessible to higher-income mostly white people.
This week, a white man drove 200 miles to Buffalo and murdered 10 people, most of whom were Black, citing the “Great replacement theory” espoused by many right-wing white supremacists. It is horrifying, and my heart breaks for the families of those who were murdered by this racist terrorist.
Hi everyone. We are rapidly approaching the summer, which means it’s time for the annual Party to Enhance Equity in Philanthropy (PEEP), a series of events across the sector where funders and nonprofit folks get together, virtually or in-person (ideally outdoors), to break down the weird power dynamics we have, and just learn to see one another as human beings. It should be fun and informal, and usually taking place on the week of Summer Solstice (June 21st this year). If you are planning to host an event, please fill out this form by June 10th so I can help spread the word.
Hi everyone. This is going to be a long post. And it’s one of the more difficult posts for me to write, because I am not an expert in neurodiversity, or conflict management, or how the two might intersect. And I don’t know enough to know whether I would be considered neurodiverse/divergent or not, though I’ve been told I exhibit some signs of inattentive ADHD. For example, being constantly distracted even during the middle of conversations and tasks (at this moment, for instance, I am trying very hard not to spend the next two hours googling the history of marshmallows, because that’s what randomly popped into my mind ten minutes ago while I was writing this paragraph, and now it haunts me). Colleagues made fun of the fact that I wrote notes on my hands, forgot basic information while remembering obscure facts, doodled and sometimes stared into space during meetings, and that my desk and office were always a trash fire of hummus-stained post-it notes and bags and boxes of miscellaneous stuff. This is balanced out by occasions when I get excessively focused and absorbed in a task, like the one time I was so engrossed in writing this blog post at the airport that I missed my plane even though I was sitting right in front of the gate and they called my name several times.
I know that neurodiversity is a huge umbrella that includes many different types, including autism, dyslexia, dyscalculia, sensory integration disorder, dysgraphia, synesthesia, anxiety, and many others. For the sake of this topic, I’m going to simplify it into “thinking and processing information in ways that may not be typical of how most people think and process information.” I’ve been thinking about this a lot because with everything that’s been going on and how stressed everyone is, I’ve been seeing a lot more conflicts in the sector. Some of it is heartbreaking, including conflicts I’m involved in, with and among people I care deeply about.
Unfortunately, the conflict-resolution tools and techniques we’ve been relying on don’t always work, or are actually making things worse, because these tools and techniques were designed with neurotypical people in mind, with the grounding assumptions that everyone involved in the conflict will have the same thought patterns, the same way of absorbing, interpreting, and communicating information.
A while ago, a colleague and I, both haggard executive directors with involuntary eye twitches, were having lunch. Our conversation led us to our boards, and he told me of how his board chair scolded him for the egregious crime of forwarding a funding opportunity to another nonprofit. “He was mad that I helped our ‘competition’ by letting them know of a request for proposals from a foundation. I figured why wouldn’t we share RFPs with one another?”
Fast forward to now, several years and a pandemic later, and unfortunately, I still hear stories like this. Boards of directors are truly some of the biggest stressors in the sector, often more harmful than helpful, as I’ve written about here and here. But it’s partly because we’ve trained boards to think and act in certain ways, ways that over time help to entrench siloing, competitiveness, and survivalism.
Hi everyone. Before we get started, here are a couple of awesome videos. This one by Memphis Music Initiative that includes a hilarious (and wince-inducing) skit of how Harriet Tubman would be treated by a foundation if she were to ask for support today. And this poignant musical sketch by Human Services Council vividly illustrating the lack of funding in the sector and how it has been affecting the hardworking professionals dedicated to making the world better.
OK, onto this week’s topic. Will Smith just won the best actor Oscar, which reminds me of another movie where he was nominated. In “The Pursuit of Happyness,” Smith plays Chris Gardner, who, along with his young son, has been experiencing poverty and homelessness, living in subway stations and public restrooms. There is scene where Chris is asked by his boss at his unpaid internship to loan him $5 in cash for cab fare. He can’t afford to loan his boss $5, but he is in competition for a paid position, so he reluctantly hands over the money. To his boss, this was a simple transaction; the lack of $5 didn’t mean much more than a very mild inconvenience. To Chris, it was devastating, as he may not be able to afford bus fares to get back to his son.
I bring this up because it reminds me of a pervasive phenomenon in nonprofit. I’m calling it “Higher-Income Solipsism Syndrome (HISS).” This is when people who are more financial secure, through a lack of awareness brought on by their privilege, create and endorse philosophies and actions that negatively affect people who are less financially secure. Here are examples of various ways this may manifest: