social movements + innovation lab


Boldness and Bravery as the Antidote to Despair

I have stopped reading the newspaper and listening to the latest analysis of the presidential transition. For somebody who spent hours reading and listening to the news, this is a jarring change.

​I stopped when I realized that each egregious announcement normalized and minimized the previous outrageous act – conflicts of interest, hate crimes, emboldened racists, Steve Bannon, Nikki Haley, Betsy DeVos, Rick Perry, the list goes on. It is not like I needed any of this information to confirm that Americans and the American system had somehow elected a fear mongering, narcissistic, racist, sexual predator, white man to the presidency. And yet, each new cycle in the avalanche allowed for the burial of the previously unthinkable act, such that the shocking became the norm and increasingly less offensive each day.

Once I stopped getting pulled into the undertow of each disgraceful act, each petition to sign or request to donate, I started to think of what I could do that was not normal. If normal was over, and outrageous was the new normal, what outrageous thing could I do to rise up to resist and rebel against the outcomes of this election?

​For the last five years CoreAlign has worked to do three things – create a culture of innovation, develop a new model of leadership around race and power, and support the development of long-term strategizing for the reproductive movement. We have offered breakthrough conversations, fellowships, network building and organizing in red states. And while we’ve done well in several of these areas, our work did not scale to a level of impact where we made a notable contribution to a different outcome.

So, we’ve been asking ourselves, if instead of business as usual, what would business not as usual look like for us? What would it look like if we did things differently as a stance against the pull to normalize this election? What if, instead of doing many things, what would it look like if we did only our BEST and BRAVEST thing in this new moment?

Our most significant contributions have been through our fellowships in innovation and speaking race to power – two aspects of leadership and change that are desperately needed in this moment. If what we did collectively implicates us in this political moment, what can do we do now and differently to challenge and change this landscape? If White Supremacy is making a comeback and a majority of white women voted for these anti-choice, homophobic, racist candidates, how then do we organize both white women/people and people of color to effectively speak race to power in ways that bring them into partnership to change the system?

As an antidote to the normalizing and minimizing what is and will happen, CoreAlign is reorganizing our work to scale up our support and training of leaders to speak race to power and do things differently. We are going all out in this one direction – building the capacity of leaders to be innovative and address issues of race and power.

Two weeks after the election, I challenged all CoreAlign staff to step up to this moment with bravery and boldness and commit to tripling the number of leaders we train and support in these practices. In just a few weeks they self-organized to present three different scenarios for how we might pivot together to accomplish this.

In less than a month we collectively agreed to a specific restructure. We are pivoting away from three program areas – field organizing, fellowships and network building to two program areas: Inspiration & Learning for individuals and groups to learn the skills of innovation and speaking race, and Action & Impact for teams of people ready to move an idea into action either within or across organizations. Through this redesign, we will offer many more opportunities and spaces for people to learn and practice innovation and speaking race – in online, in-person and intensive formats. We will create more bite-sized offerings, more geographically specific spaces, and more support to teams. We will create both longer and shorter modules and practice spaces, all with the goal of scaling up what we do best and what is needed most of us in this moment.

In the next few weeks CoreAlign staff will develop scenarios for how we might operate in this new program design, and by late-January we expect to have staff in place ready to re-tool all of our programs and offerings.

Our ability to collectively pivot rapidly and with such boldness is a testament to the culture of innovation we’ve built within the organization.  We’ve grown the mindsets and skills on our team to see the opportunity to do things better, lean into risk, generate ideas, and have a strong bias to action. This moment calls for action and this team has responded with bravery and agility. I couldn’t be prouder. This has been my antidote to the despair of the 2016 elections.  

So, if you are ready to up your game in tackling issues of race in your work and are hungry to figure out what to do differently, know that you can find co-conspirators here, ready with support, space and tools.  Come join us.