True social change occurs when power systems are uprooted
Social Enterprise Day in 2020 is a good opportunity for the sector to reflect on where we are up to. Social entrepreneurship is still relatively young as a concept, and yet there has been so much great work done to benefit those who are underprivileged.
Along the way, it’s really important for us to recognise that true social change occurs when power systems are uprooted, when the status quo is changed. By comparison, much of our current work in helping others maintain business as usual.
Until we understand our own innate power and privilege, most of our efforts to help will be little more than band-aid solutions.
This is why diversity has to be more than just lip service in the social impact space. Diversity allows those who are underrepresented and marginalised to have a voice in the process of true social change. It means they’re no longer beneficiaries, but active participants.
How do we go about achieving diversity?
The first thing is to recognise that diversity is not just about gender. Although gender diversity is still lacking in Australia, too often we see efforts promoting diversity that are entirely monochromatic, and this does a disservice to all the other forms of diversity – cultural, LGBTQI+, disability, age, socioeconomic – just to name a few.
Secondly, recognise that diversity is not a tick box exercise, but benefits companies because they promote diversity of thought, which is more representative of the customer base. It means decisions are not based on assumptions but lived experience.
Finally, in the spirit of “you cannot be what you cannot see,” a concerted push towards diversity means having clearly defined targets across the diverse lenses and actively finding people who represent these lenses. It means no longer hiring through your network or hiring purely for “cultural fit,” which are sure-fire ways to establish groupthink in your team.
Until diversity is fully embraced at all levels in social enterprises, we cannot claim to be representative of communities we are serving. We cannot claim to be addressing root causes of inequality, rather, we are simply addressing symptoms. Either way you go about doing it, diversity must be a priority now, not later.