Christina Sackeyfio is a Canadian certified inclusion professional who has had over 13 years of experience working in social impact and innovation in the nonprofit sector. She's been a change agent and implementation lead for a wide range of diversity, equity and inclusion related initiatives in areas such as youth literacy, financial inclusion and child welfare. As an educator, strategist and community engagement practitioner, she has developed a unique skill set around designing, implementing, and evaluating complex inclusion initiatives and has worked with a range of organizations to build safe and welcoming environments to foster meaningful stakeholder experiences.
Can you start by telling us a little bit about you and how you came to this work?
So my journey in DEI, by DEI, I mean diversity, equity inclusion, is very rooted in how I was first introduced to this conversation which is very steeped in anti-oppression and social justice. I studied critical integrated anti-racism education at OISE. And that said, it was really about thinking through how we can make education systems more inclusive and how we can recognize that the current education systems weren't always the best suited to many diverse communities. And for that reason, there were young people who were kind of slipping through the cracks.
When I entered the nonprofit space, I found (and this is mind you, it's about 15 years ago) that these were conversations that were not always being had or it was a little bit more HR oriented. It was how do we recruit folks.
Today, I look at DEI based on two key principles. And the first is really thinking about how does DEI speak to organizational mission, vision and values? Like how does it come back to the organizational mandate and the impetus for change within an organization. But the second piece is how does DEI become almost a lens for how you do the work. Not so much a what work are you doing, but it's a little bit more about like how does it influence the way you make decisions? How do you plan, how do you operate on a day to day level, what this practice look like. So it really becomes a little bit more of the how.
I can appreciate what you are saying around the nonprofit sector being committed to diversity, equity and inclusion, but that doesn't always translate into our everyday behaviors and into our strategic planning. I think people are wanting to continue to unlearn and improve and do better in anti racism and anti-oppression but sometimes it's hard to know what to do.
The very first step on having these conversations is bringing people together and starting to have a conversation about what does the future look like for you. So it’s taking it away from the specific conversation of DEI and being able to develop a shared understanding of what the future should look like. Then start having a conversation about who you are as an organization and what that looks like in terms of your accountability. And from doing that, you're able to start to uncover who your clients are, what their needs are, what are some of the barriers that they're experiencing. You're able to have conversations about your values as an organization. How do you exercise those values and where does the DEI fit? You can start to have conversations about some of the practices.
I think that's where a lot of this work falls apart. The Nitty-gritty day to day. So I'd love to dive a little deeper into that. What are some little things that we can do or big things that we can do to change us so that people are included?
One of the toughest things about DEI work is taking something that we all know and we believe in, in many different ways, some more than others. We know that. But there's generally a sense of diversity is, is good, it's helpful. It is ideal. It helps us function better. But how do you create this space and how do you change your practices in a way that, that creates a space that is safe and inclusive. And that's the difficult part of the work, right? It's the actual implementation and embedding that within your within your fabric.
I also think that there's a culture of empathy, understanding, and learning that needs to be cultivated within organizations in order to be able to do effective work and to be able to provide a safe space to speak out, to learn, and also to bring people along when they're earlier in their journey around DEI than perhaps you are. So I think that empathy is very, very critical, both in terms of organizational culture and how we work together.
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Resources from this Episode
You may also find it helpful to review our past episodes about anti-oppression - process not principle with Adil Dhalla, the fundamentals of anti-oppression with Rania El Mugammar, engaging equity-seeking populations with Andrea Gunraj and overcoming ableism with Liz Chornenki
Be on the lookout for our upcoming episode about creating culture with Maryann Kerr!
The Small Nonprofit is produced by Eloisa Jane Mariano