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We’re Still In This Together

Monday, 26 June 2023 13:30

Over the years of working together, we have learned one thing… it ain’t as easy as it looks! But, guess what? It’s really not that difficult either. We aim to challenge what togetherness can look like in our work. Human togetherness means bringing two different people in partnership, moving forward toward the same destination at the same pace. We have, for the most part, been able to achieve this because we share the same values, vision and commitment.

Our Values & Vision

On the surface, we couldn’t have been more different: Amy is white, Lana is black. Amy was born and raised in Denver. Lana was born and raised in the Washington, DC area. Amy was married with 3 kids. Lana was divorced with one child. And those are just a few obvious differences. Sometimes, the ability to connect can stop right there - at the obvious differences.

None of that impeded our ability to communicate and connect. Amy wore the same prescription lenses as Lana. In other words, we see the world similarly. We connected through our values and our vision for our impact in this world. Consider the last person you connected to in that way. When you said, “Finally! Someone who gets me.” The relief that accompanies that is priceless. 

And here is the kicker… we feel an instant togetherness with people who share our lens to the world, regardless of (and sometimes even because of) their personal story, racial or ethnic background, geography, gender, ability, sexuality or other identities. Togetherness, in any environment, can extend beyond the obvious. That connection, what brings us together and keeps us together, is actually our values and vision.

Our Commitment

How committed are we? Our commitment is to work through whatever feels hard, even when it is an individual activity. Just because I don’t like something doesn’t mean that it’s someone else’s problem. When I can identify my own triggers and opportunities for growth, it helps my partner remain in partnership with me.

We have a process we have agreed to. Sometimes the hard moments need some space. We give those moments at least 24 hours and no more than 48 hours to marinate before addressing concerns with the other person.

But either way, when the tough conversation needs to happen, we have it in a way that honors the person we are talking to. That is the most important piece of our togetherness. Wait a sec… Actually, it is that we trust the heart and intentions of the other person. When you can believe in the intentions of the other person - then even when they miss the mark, you can move forward together.

‘In this together’ means different things to different folks. What works for us is sticking to these guiding principles:

Look Inward

Lana often says: “No one can push a button you don’t have”. When we start by identifying our own triggers and opportunities for growth we are able to show up more fully in the tough conversations. 

Allow SPACE for Difference

Amy shares this story: “2020 was a tough year for this country. In response, Lana understandably chose to be in community with other Black people. I remember recognizing that she needed space from whiteness; that there was some pain that wasn’t for me to share. There are some spaces where my presence and my voice do not add value; and others where my voice is vital. It’s not personal.”  

Have the Hard Conversations

It might be uncomfortable. Do it anyway. Always. When something feels hard, there is almost always growth on the other side.

Go Deep

From Amy: “I remember the moment I recognized my own tendencies toward performative or ‘box-checking’ diversity. Lana encouraged me to seek POC-led vendors. I made a quick decision to hire a PR company because of the one POC on their team (check!). I neglected to have any conversations about values, why we cared, or expectations around bringing diversity into our work or what the role of that one individual would be. To shorten the story, Lana and the other woman were left feeling devalued and unseen. When we live in the shallow, we miss the humanity.”

Humanity First

When we have a choice (and we ALWAYS do), we always choose the person over the work. If the decision will sacrifice the relationship and I say I value the relationship, then the decision is easier than I think.

Contributed by co-founders Amy Brady & Lana Hailemariam of The Flourish Lab. Originally featured in the Spring 2023 edition of Afterschool Today.