Diversité d’Abord: Race and Colonialism in the NonProfit Sector in Quebec
Since 2017 COCo has been undertaking Diversité d’Abord, an in-depth research project looking into the impacts of race and colonialism on the Quebec non-profit sector. For years, people have shared stories and personal experiences with COCo that point to a wider systemic problem, and it felt like it was time to dig deeper: to collect numbers, to collect stories, and to begin speaking about this together.
We have launched Diversité d’Abord with two confidential surveys:
The “Community worker experiences” survey is for staff, board, volunteers and collective members at Quebec community groups. We want to know about how race has impacted your experiences.
The “organizational profile” survey will gather an overview of what the sector looks like currently, and some basic information about how race plays into hiring and recruitment. Anyone in your organization can fill out this survey, but it is best if it is someone who has basic knowledge of internal policies and budget.
In addition to these online surveys, we held focus groups for racialized members of the community sector. The information gathered in the surveys and focus groups will be used in a public forum, report, and a series of tools on how to address racism more effectively in your organizations.
Our research has been presented to over 250 influential people in the nonprofit and social economy sectors so far.
Woman of Colour in Organizations
One of the most important published pieces of our research so far has been the infographic about the “Problem” Woman of Colour in Organizations. Find that infographic here.
Forum on Racism in the Nonprofit Sector
In May of 2017, we held a day long forum on racism in the nonprofit sector in Quebec. We presented our findings and trained workers on best practices on how to navigate dynamics of racism in the Quebec community sector. We used our findings to develop 3 workshops, each of which was offered in French and English.
Having Hard Conversations: The Courage to Face Ourselves
This workshop taught participants how to tackle the personal and emotional responses we have to conversations about racism—responses that stop us from hearing the experiences and realities of people of colour working in the sector and stop us from addressing the impacts of racism on our workplaces.
Sharing Stories: Racial (In)Justice
Often when incidents of racial injustice are expressed, racialized people are expected to justify their experiences with facts and statistics. As important as this data can be, we can lose the nuance and power of individual experiences. This workshop taught participants how to use ‘narrative weaving’ to access new ways of understanding ourselves,the impact of our words and actions, and how racism moves through our bodies, our work, and our movements.
From Hiring to Firing: Women of Colour In Organizations
Our research reveals a pattern where women of colour are disproportionately subjected to discrimination, violence, and structural barriers at every step of their experience in nonprofit and community organizations. This workshop used the stories that were shared with us in our focus groups and surveys to candidly detail the oppressive dynamics that often force women of colour out of the community sector.
Black Women Taking the Lead
We closed the day with an impactful panel co-organized by Shanice Yarde from the Social Equity and Diversity Office at McGill, which featured generations of Black women activists and nonprofit leaders in conversation with each other.
Overall, 120 community sector workers were trained in identifying and managing racial discrimination in their workplaces.
The Research Results
The full results of our research are not yet available. However, as we analyzed the data, we were struck by how certain themes and stories consistently repeated themselves.
Though the full results of this research will be published shortly, there were a few themes we wanted to highlight here:
- We saw a significant difference in how white and racialized sector workers identified and/or witnessed incidents of racism. For example, 26% of racialized workers reported witnessing a racialized worker leaving a position in the last year due to racial harassment or an unwelcoming environment for racialized workers, whereas only 7% of white respondents witnessed this occurring. Our focus group respondents nuanced these statistics: after repeated experiences of their white colleagues denying their stories about racism racialized workers would often leave their jobs silently, only disclosing to their closest peers their true motivations.
- Another theme that stood out to us from the surveys and focus groups was how racialized women, and especially Black women, were subjected to higher levels of surveillance by their co-workers and superiors, both with respect to their work and their interpersonal interactions. We started calling this dynamic ‘weaponized bureaucracy’: that is, disciplinary policies (for example, dress codes or lateness policies) would be disproportionately applied to racialized workers (especially women), where similar infractions would be ignored with their white peers.