Aug 19, 2022 17 min read

The Practice of Building a More Inclusive Community - Intro Part 2

Episode 32, 26 min listen

Intro Part 2 - In this new State of Inclusion podcast sub-series, we will use what we've learned from all of our conversations, along with our research, to suggest an approach, a practice for building a more inclusive world one community at a time. In this second episode, my partner, Emma Winiski, and I will give a summary of the six areas of practice that are included in The Practice of Building a More Inclusive Community.

We are very interested in hearing your feedback on these intro episodes. Also, we are actively looking for a few communities that might be interested in exploring these ideas further and perhaps working with us to help test and tune some of these concepts. If you have comments, feedback, or are interested in learning more - email us at



Government Alliance on Race and Equity

The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together, by Heather McGhee (Links to my site)

Related State of Inclusion Podcasts:

Toward Equitable Community Services - with Judith Mowry

Creating Community Conversations - with Davelyn Hill


Emma Winiski is a second year Master in Public Policy candidate at the Harvard Kennedy School. Previously, she worked as a researcher in the Health Policy Center at the Urban Institute, where her work focused on substance use disorders. In 2018, Emma started working with Ame at State of Inclusion as she finished her undergraduate degree at Furman University.



Ame Sanders  00:10

Hi. This is Ame Sanders from State of Inclusion. If you've been listening for a while, or maybe even if you just discovered the State of Inclusion podcast, you may know that for the last several years we've been on a journey--a journey of research, discovery, and most importantly of conversation. In these conversations, we've heard how individuals all across the country are working to make their communities more equitable, more inclusive, and more just. In this new State of Inclusion podcast series, we will use what we've learned from these conversations along with our research to suggest an approach, a practice for building a more inclusive world one community at a time. Today, I'm joined by Emma Winiski. Welcome.

Emma Winiski  01:06

Thank you! Happy to be here.

-Four Foundational Elements

Ame Sanders  01:07

In our last episode, we introduced you to four cornerstone or foundational elements. We discussed how these four elements underpinned the six areas of practice. As a reminder, those four foundational elements were that our work is community centered. We recognize the work of making a community more inclusive and equitable is a wicked problem, requiring specific types of approaches. Our solutions will have both technical and adaptive elements, but most importantly, as leaders, we will need to bring our adaptive leadership skills to this work. Fourth, we will always strive to begin and build from the assets that exist within our specific community.

Now, in this episode, we want to share the six areas of practice that make up the practice of building a more inclusive community. Within these areas of practice, Emma and I can't begin to tell you what your community should do. You know what your community needs. You know what your history is. You know where you are and you know what your assets are. But what we can do is give you some areas to consider and some areas to work in as some tool. Emma, you reminded me of this when we last talked. Maybe I'll turn it over to you to talk about the fact that the six areas of practice are not really independent areas and they're certainly not linear.

-Six Practices to Build a More Inclusive Community

Emma Winiski  02:27

Yeah. I like areas of practice as just the general name because it doesn't lend itself to any type of sequence or mutual exclusivity between the two. I think once we describe them it's pretty clear that you and/or folks in your community are likely going to be working in each of these six areas and many of them at the same time.

Ame Sanders  02:50

Yeah. I would also say that it's pretty clear. They're not mutually exclusive as Emma just said. They are not isolated from one another; they are interdependent with each other. They are iterative, evolving, and they're also not controlled generally by a single entity. So, the idea as we began to talk about this that you would have one organization that would solve all of this, that's just not a realistic assumption. So, the idea is to find all of the assets, all of the work that's going on in your community, and how you can bring that together to advance this work.

-Practice 1: Self Work

So, let's start with the first one. The first one, honestly, is my favorite one, because it's the one I started with. It's what I would call Self Work. It's the idea that you have to look inward before you look outward. Bill Bradley, who was a senator and a basketball player has a quote that says, "A lot of people want to change the world, but only a few people want to change themselves. When it comes to the issue of race in America, we have to do both." I would say that's a very important part of this work--recognizing that each of us are on our own personal journey, have our own personal work to do to make us better citizens in our community, better allies, better people, but also better suited for this work.

It also something that the adaptive leadership framework brings out as well is that you should diagnose yourself and develop some changes for yourself and path for yourself. I would include in there things like learning, reflecting, diagnosing, acknowledging, accepting (so being kind to yourself as well), managing yourself, being willing to evolve and embodying what you want to see in your community with the idea that you're going to open yourself up and prepare yourself for this work.

Emma Winiski   04:54

I think that Self Work is incredibly important. Ongoing. No finish line, which you mentioned earlier. I also think that sometimes people feel like it's an individual thing. It's easy to do that and a lot of work is individual. But, if you have blind spots and implicit biases, which we all have, you can't necessarily see them. So, reading more, listening to more podcasts, or I don't know, just trying to learn more doesn't always work.

So, I have found that sometimes the most stretching experiences for me have been in conversation with other people. I remember in high school, I went to an event by Speaking Down Barriers (you spoke with their organization earlier) and I was just really surprised and encouraged by that conversation that we had. I was also in a room with people who otherwise I would not have interacted with. I think a large part of Self Work is putting yourself in situations and in a mindset where you are able to learn from other people.

Ame Sanders  05:58

Absolutely. That's great, great point.

Emma Winiski   06:00

I want to add one caveat and kind of play devil's advocate with myself. I sometimes think that people who are trying to learn and grow expect others to educate them. So, I want to be clear that that's not what I'm saying, when I say "Oh, go put yourself out in different communities." Don't expect that someone, especially a person of color, owes it to you, to educate you. You should also be doing your homework. If you go into those spaces, you should be compensating these people for their time and their expertise. You also should come in with a learning mindset, right from the beginning, a growth mindset that I think will seem less transactional or maybe extractive. So, I just want to be clear that I'm not saying that you should go expect others to educate you. It's a both-and.

-Practice 2: GroundWork

Ame Sanders  06:47

Absolutely. That's a really great distinction to make and important for us to think about--that it is not someone else's responsibility to teach us what we should already know and what we can learn on our own. It's a great additional point. So, the first one we've talked about is Self Work.

So the second one I want to talk about, Emma and I are still going back and forth on what to call this, but I'm going to call it for the moment Groundwork. It's where you prepare the community soil for this work. Think about it is reaching and touching the hearts of people all across your community, because it isn't just about facts and numbers. This is about how do you motivate people to move forward with you and be part of this change? Also, how do you help people heal from past hurts? How do you help your community to build the kind of trust that's necessary, that we were talking about earlier? So, it's really about preparing the community soil. There are some techniques for that, and as we go into each one of these in subsequent episodes, we'll talk more about what you can do to do this work. But, it is really about touching the hearts across the communities. I did an interview and the lady that I talked with at the end said, "We need to do more heart work and less head work." Now her space was art, so it was very easy to understand where she came from that perspective. But, it was an important reminder to me that we need to balance our efforts in this and be sure that we are doing heart work and that we are preparing the soil for our community.

Emma Winiski   08:27

I want to add that I think a lot of Groundwork involves also seeing what else is out there, because it's likely that other people have been working on at least something related to equity and inclusion, maybe in a particular subject area or within their company or other community. So, I think part of the groundwork is taking a second to look around and see who else was doing this work. I'm guessing part of the adaptive leadership means knowing when to step up and step back, and how to support and elevate people who are already doing this work as well and seeing how you can sort of piece together some of the efforts that are already happening.

-Practice 3: Program Work

Ame Sanders  09:10

I think one of the things that you can say when this part of the work is going really well is that you have increased the breadth of individual and collective ownership and engagement in this work. So, you can see that by looking across as Emma was just saying, at others who are doing this work, valuing the work they're doing and joining in with them and collaborating with them on their on the work to move the community forward.

So, the third area I would call Program Work. I already told you that I spent a lot of my career as a project manager and a program manager. So, what I'm thinking of here when I talk about program work, it's not the same thing that you might think of in nonprofit program delivery. It is really in projects and initiatives and those coming together to build a program or system of change. So, a lot of communities--and we've talked to a couple who have been doing this--have created separate organizations, new organizations within their community, who have a set of initiatives or projects that they are pursuing to make their community more inclusive and equitable. They're acting as a catalyst, as a change maker. They are building capacity and building capabilities that the community did not have before. That has a certain mindset and a certain approach to do that kind of program work. It's very structured. It's also where you would find a lot of your data analysis or your assessment of where the community is today. That's where you would find that kind of work.

-Practice 4: Coalition Work

So, the fourth area that I want to talk about is Coalition Work. This is where you bridge across organizations and entities. The idea here is that you want to begin to build and develop the collective capacity of your community. So, things that I might put in here would be, for example, leadership development initiatives that help the leaders across the communities and all kinds of organizations become more inclusive and equitable. Also, the other thing that's important here with this, and one of the outcomes that I think you would want to work towards, is building community resilience. So, one of the things I used to say when I was an executive manager and corporate world is, we knew incidents were going to happen. No large corporation is going to go through years without incidents, in terms of equity and inclusion. They're going to happen. But the question is, how do you respond to that? Do you know what to do? Do you know how to respond? Do you have a process for that? Do you have the resources necessary to minimize the likelihood that that will occur and then to address it as soon as it does? What does that look like for our community?

So, in this area is where you would work on that kind of aspect of what a community needs. So, it's building that collective capacity, and what I would call social resilience. I would define that as the ability to withstand and respond to shocks and adversity. I know we've seen this across communities in the country over the last several years, for sure. It seems to be happening, unfortunately, all too frequently. But how are those communities prepared to respond to those situations and those shocks and those adverse situations? So the other thing that I would say about this is just like the groundwork builds the breadth of individual-collective ownership. Here, what you would hope to happen in this work is that you would build the breadth of institutional ownership and engagement across the community. Not just individual ownership, engagement, but institutional ownership and engagement.

Emma Winiski  13:07

You described how Coalition Work and developing collective capacity might look within a corporate world and that sounded almost like a technical solution. How do we mitigate risk? How do we monitor and evaluate how things are going? How do we respond? For these types of events or issues, community resilience seems much more difficult to define. Thinking about some of those coalitions who, as we are trying to build coalitions to increase equity, there are definitely people who are indifferent or working in other directions. Do you have any advice about? How does coalition work in the DEI space not just play defense, but play a little bit of offense? First acknowledging that there are people who don't share the same vision as you, and then also try and be proactive in anticipating what that might mean for your own coalition's work.

-Practice 5: Competitive Work

Ame Sanders  14:12

So, you are a good straight person, Emma. That brings me to another aspect of this work, which I have called Competitive Work. So, I think we can all understand that there is some type of battle or a competition for the hearts and minds and values of our community. There isn't a straight line, and we don't all agree of what that should be.  There is some competition for that, just as you talked about, and not everybody is working in the same direction that we're working in. One of the areas of practice that I think a community needs to focus on is this question of what are the other groups that are working in your community who might be working in a different direction? What are their ambitions? What are their needs?

Try to find a way to empathize with them and understand what their fears are, their anxieties are, and to understand what's driving and motivating their work, and to think ahead and anticipate, just like we did in the corporate world. We never introduced new products without anticipating our competitor's reaction. We also knew that competitors were not just reacting to us. They had their own game plan that they were working against. We also did scenario gaming where we mapped out what might happen in the future 5-10 scenarios of things that might happen in the future, including us and people who were competing with us in our space for our customers. So, I think while that's a bit unusual to think about in the DEI space, I do believe that it's fundamental to be thinking about that, because every action we take affects people and will bring some reaction. But, we need to also understand that there are people out there who have an entirely different game plan. We need to understand that and anticipate that and build our actions in response to that as well. Does that answer where you were headed?

Emma Winiski   16:16

Yeah, it does. I dislike that that even has to be an area of practice. I mean, we spent time defining community and I was very much "Team Interdependent Organism." But, I think you're right. It just doesn't feel great, which doesn't mean that it doesn't exist. So, just because it doesn't feel like I don't want to think about it as a competition doesn't mean that there shouldn't be this level of strategy and organization for this work as well. I think we've both read The Sum of Us Heather McGee. Thinking about racial equity as not some zero-sum game. We're either all doing better or we're all doing worse. The fundamental issue in what Heather McGee is talking about is that we've been sort of conditioned to think if someone else gets something that has to be at my expense. It's just not true. So while I feel like competitive as far as DEI work just sounds bad, it does exist or at least that ethos very much is prevalent.

Ame Sanders  16:57

I'll be honest with you, I haven't talked to people who are working in this space yet. But, I do think that if we fail to think about work in this area of practice--however we frame it, maybe we don't frame it as competitive at all--but however we frame it, if we fail to do this, we are going to miss a lot of opportunity. We're going to be blindsided by things that other people are doing. So, there's a level of anticipation and strategy, as you're saying, that has to take place. This is long-term, complicated work. Many stakeholders across an entire community. So, it requires that level of thinking and strategy.

Emma Winiski   18:15

You mentioned this earlier that this work is dangerous, and it's more dangerous for certain populations than others. So I think, also a piece of the competitive work is understanding that your physical well-being, if you're demonstrating if you're protesting, if you're speaking out about these things could be jeopardized, depending on the community you live in, and what other groups are doing. Realistically thinking about the safety of your community is an important part of this work as well. So, you know literally physical safety, psychological and emotional safety are other ways as well that we should be considering and might fall into this competitive work and some of the groundwork as well. It touches a lot of the areas of practice.

Ame Sanders  19:04

Yeah. I think when we get to the episode where we devote the episode to this section, it's gonna be some interesting discussion, because it's obviously generating some interesting discussion with us here. I will just wrap up this section by saying that when you look at the adaptive leadership practice, that you introduced me to, Emma, one of the things they talk about is the need as an adaptive leader to manage conflict. To be able to in some cases generate conflict and be able to manage it and that you can't shy away from it. That's an important part of being an adaptive leader as well. So, I think it plays into the work that is necessary in a lot of these areas of practice, but particularly in this area as well.

-Practice 6: Systems Work

I'm going to wrap up with the last area of practice, what I would call Systems Work. In systems work, what I'm really saying is, if you think about program work as transforming the community or systems or organizations from the outside in, you create an entity outside of the area that you want changed and they go about maybe engaging with those folks and involving those folks in the change, but they are still changing from the outside in. In the systems work, what I'm talking about is change from the inside out. What I would suggest is that the equity and inclusion work will not be lasting, or permanent, or continually evolving and getting stronger, if you don't also do work from the inside out. What that means is that you embed, you place inside organizations and systems, the ability for them to evolve and grow and learn and become increasingly more inclusive and equitable.

A great example of this is when I think about GARE, the Governmental Alliance on Race and Equity. That group actually does DEI work inside municipal government, cities and county governments, even the port system, for example. So, they are creating organizations inside the city government, the county government, and their employees and doing DEI work for the city, both for their employees who work there, but also for the as members that they serve. That's example of what I mean by this idea of inside out. So, I think it's really important that there's also some amount of work that happens in key areas to make sure that these institutions begin to learn and evolve in a positive way themselves.


So, that's our six areas of practice. Let me just run back through those.

We have Self Work: looking inward, before we look outward.

We have Groundwork: preparing the community soil and touching the community hearts.

We have Program Work: where we catalyze and make movement to change and build the capabilities that the community needs.

We have Coalition Work: where we work with partners across the community, to build capacity and social resilience.

We have this topic of Competitive Work:  where we look at the people who may be working in a different direction than we're working, and who have other messaging and other ideas, and how we work either with them, or how we counter and anticipate some of those.

Then we have Systems Work: the idea that we build a lasting ability for the community to continue to evolve towards equity and inclusion in the long term.

Emma Winiski   22:53

I'm excited to dive into the interplay between the program work and the systems work that inside out idea, because I think oftentimes, really effective leaders and organizers know when to be within institutions (whether that's government) or outside and can sort of assess the conflict or the scope of the problem, and then strategize about it. Is this going to be more impactful putting pressure on institutions to change? Or are we at a point where we need something a bit more formalized within the institution?

I also think systems work, when it's done well, establishes a channel by which they can be informed from folks on the outside, so it's not reliant on people on the "inside"  coming to some revelation and then putting something stone in law and policy and being like, "Nice! We did it." It seems to be sharing power, creating ways for folks in the community and beyond to provide feedback and to bring fresh ideas. Then, the systems that were put into place, creating those be flexible enough to hold all of those insights from other people so they actually can be something that is evolving and improving, ideally.

Ame Sanders  24:18

Absolutely. So, those systems and institutions need to be learning systems and institutions. Your point about sharing power is a really key word to bring out as well. So in the coming episodes, our plan, our mission, if Emma will join me for this, is to take each one of these six areas of practice, and delve more deeply into it, give you some examples of what's going on in different communities around that, link it back to some of the podcast interviews that we've had so if you want to listen to people who are doing this type of work. So Emma, are you game to keep going on this?

Emma Winiski  24:56

I'm definitely game. Can't wait.

Ame Sanders  24:57

Thank you. So, I guess I'm gonna wrap have now and say, I believe that this work is for all of us who love our communities. Even more, I believe it's the work of our generation. Now, there's a big age difference between Emma and myself, but let's just take it for what it is--our generation.

Emma Winiski  25:16

I'm a grandma at heart.

Ame Sanders  25:18

Maybe you are. It's the work of our generation to confront the challenges, to change our systems, to reweave the fabric of our communities to be more inclusive and equitable. I hope you'll join us for the next episodes in the series. With that, I'll close with the words of Clarissa Pinkola Estes: "Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of reaching out to mend the part of the world that is within our range." Thanks so much for joining me on this.

Emma Winiski  25:52

Thanks for having me.

Ame Sanders  25:53

We'll see you next time. This has been the State of Inclusion podcast. Join us again next time and if you enjoyed this episode, the best compliment for our work is your willingness to share these ideas with others or leave us a review. We'd love your comments. Thanks so much for listening.


Host: Emma Winiski

Host: Ame Sanders

Social Media and Marketing Coordinator: Kayla Nelson

Podcast Coordinator: Emma Winiski

Sound: FAROUT Media

Ame Sanders
Founder of State of Inclusion. A seasoned leader & change-maker, she is focused on positive change within communities.
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