“We expect you to either have a job or to volunteer,” were the words from my parents as I awkwardly began my teenage years. For as long as I can remember, my parents were givers. Not of money, because they didn’t have much to give, but of time and compassion. Their hands could be found all over our neighborhood – in school classrooms with a book, snacks, or a broom, in alleyways and under streetlights cleaning up, or in neighbors’ backyards with rakes and in rocking chairs on their front porch. Regardless of how little we had, we were always reminded that kindness and hard work didn’t cost a thing. I grew up on the East side of Denver, one of four kids, the daughter of a white woman and a Black man. My life was a long lesson in the dichotomy of America. Between my lived experience and a life filled with service, I found myself bearing witness to myriad of social injustices.
In college, my commitment to service continued but the world was opening up to me in a new way. I was beginning to piece together the carefully crafted systems designed to uphold white supremacy and to systematically oppress Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC). The nonprofit sector was a natural fit for me. I remember being so excited that there was this entire sector of organizations and people who essentially turned service into a job. For those of us in the nonprofit sector, we know that our work is more than a paycheck and you learn quickly, this work will not make you rich with money but instead, it will make you rich with purpose. I started my nonprofit career doing direct service work and it didn’t take long before the sadness and frustration kicked in. The sadness came as I watched people (needlessly) struggle but the frustration grew as I watched people fight for a better life, only to be thrown back by systems and policies that failed them over and over again. I always felt a tension between the micro and macro.
Over the course of my career, I have worked in the areas of disease prevention, domestic violence, progressive leadership development, advocacy, and capacity building. As my experience in the sector grew, my theory of change shifted. As much as I loved doing direct service, I knew I needed to do something differently if I wanted to be a part of advancing long-term change. A piece of my heart will always remain with human service nonprofits. They’re my people.
As my theory of change was shifting and I continued to explore ways that I could be the most effective, I was also trying to figure out how to navigate my career as a Black woman in a sector where people who looked like me seemed hard to find. I also became increasing interested in organizational development and went back to school to get my Masters in Nonprofit Management. While the frameworks and acronyms have changed over the years, my pursuit for inclusion and equity has remained steady and persistent.
A few years ago, I found myself at a crossroads. As a mother with young kids trying to manage parenthood and my career and everything else, I admittedly felt stuck. It felt increasingly more difficult to actively pursue my career (at the level I was at and where I wanted to go) and to be the mom I wanted to be. Like many people who play mothering roles, I knew that trying to find balance was a fool’s errand. After many sleepless nights, I realized that it was time for me to actively create the life I wanted and so, ESD Consulting was born!
ESD Consulting provides facilitation and consultation services to help organizations create equity based, values-driven change through transformational leadership practices. I have the opportunity to combine my expertise and unique experiences with my unique perspective into an approach and service that I believe can benefit the sector and beyond. ESD Consulting’s vision is to cultivate relationships with our clients where vulnerability is seen as a strength, equity is centered, change is embraced, collaboration is high, and humor is welcomed.
By showing up as my authentic self, with vulnerabilities and imperfections, I hope ESD Consulting creates space for others to do the same. We move the needle on equity by changing policies and processes and we also move the needle by sharing stories and connecting deeply with others. To do that, we must oftentimes shift organizational culture and transform how we lead. There’s a saying, “what we water, grows,” and I believe that every leader and every organization has choices to make about how they spend their time and where they put their energy. It’s easy to put our time and energy into the things that come easy to us. It’s harder to put energy into the uncomfortable, into the spaces of difficult conversations, holding our teams accountable, facing our biases, and taking risks. But “what we water, grows.” So I always encourage folks to think critically about where they want to grow and where they want to go and then to figure out what it means to water those areas so the seeds they have planted (or sometimes kept hidden) can begin to anchor into the soil.
This blog is a space for us to connect. To have open and honest conversations about the state of our world, the state of our organizations, and even the state of our own hearts as we work to pursue justice. I hope you will join me.