It’s troubling to see the discord in our country right now, yet it brings to light an issue that has had underlying affects for decades – the systemic and indirect practices that lead to exclusion, racial divide and unequal opportunity. I often hear that improving diversity of staff and board is important for nonprofits, yet there seems to be difficulty in identifying just how to do it. Too often there is agreement that diversity is a significant issue, but the discussion can sometimes fail to turn into action or change in policy.

Right now, you may be looking inward – either personally, professionally or both about how to address the need for improved inclusion, diversity, equity and access. That’s a good thing and I think it is a good time to ask ourselves and the organizations we work for how to make a positive impact for change.

A good way to start is by identifying how a lack of diversity and inclusion can happen in our institutions. I like to call it the “Usual Suspect Syndrome”. It’s easy for us to go to the SAME individuals who went to the SAME schools who belong to the SAME clubs and live in the SAME neighborhoods.

We want to include people we know because it’s comfortable. Because it’s easy. Plainly put, it can sometimes be difficult for us to imagine someone who doesn’t look like us being the right fit. But when we open our minds to engaging those beyond our own networks, we bring different perspectives, we learn, and we strengthen the fabric of our institutions and our communities.

If we want to change the dynamic around diversity and inclusion, we need to seek out others who don’t look like us and who don’t come from our same social circles. We must seek out and welcome people who may have different beliefs, backgrounds or educations. And we need to get comfortable trying something a little different or something new to us that will help marginalized communities feel welcome.

I have work to do. We have work to do. So let me know: what sorts of conversations are you having, or even better – what action is your organization taking to improve inclusion, diversity, equity and access? I’d love to hear from you.