Over the last decade, we’ve come back often to the idea of anti-oppression—a word that we understand as a set of tools for thinking about how social justice is lived in organizations and in relationships. For us, we want to engage with social justice & anti-oppression as something that is a core part of organizational health– not a distinct, or supplementary aspect of our work.
(In one of the documents created by COCo on the topic, we talked about anti-oppression as something that combats systemic discrimination on the interpersonal, organizational and institutional levels; questions and challenges systems of power and privilege; understands and redresses historical and present inequalities; and acknowledges and appreciates the people and the work that have come before us.)
In the years since we adopted anti-oppression as a lens, COCo has facilitated projects with community partners relating to anti-oppression, including projects like Just Practice (about anti-oppression policy), Portes Ouvertes (about social exclusion), Par & Pour (working with organizations led by directly affected people); and Quebec on the Move (the histories of minority-language Quebec social movements). In that vein, we’ve received a project grant from MEESR to explore the status of racism in the Quebec community sector, and are looking inwards to strengthen our anti-oppression practices.
#1. Diversité d’Abord: We’re Going to Look at Racism in the Quebec Community Sector
Existing research shows that communities of colour and immigrant communities are under-represented in community groups and nonprofits across Quebec—especially in positions of power and responsibility. We also know, personally and anecdotally, that many people of colour experience racism working in Quebec nonprofits. In this project, we want to map what that racism looks like concretely, and find a way to have that conversation openly. Through a series of surveys and focus groups, and culminating in a public forum, report, and set of practical tools and trainings for organizations, Diversité d’Abord will center the voices of people who are directly impacted by racism—and in particular those living at the intersection of race and other forms of oppression, like gender, disability, and queerness.
#2. We’re reflecting on our own practices of anti-oppression.
As we have been reflecting on COCo’s past and future as part of a theory-of-change process (more on that soon), it’s become obvious that we need to put some real time into integrating anti-oppression throughout our organization. This means using this lens to look at our own relationships with people and groups, and our own policies and practices. We want to cultivate humility as we invite feedback and ask ourselves some difficult questions.
Some guiding questions include:
- How do our policies and procedures reinforce and recreate power dynamics, or implicitly or explicitly exclude certain people from participating at COCo?
- Who is represented within our organisation? Who isn’t?
- In particular, what is the influence of people of colour in the organisation? Do they have decision-making power? How do they experience working at COCo?
- What relationships do we need to build and how can we do so with integrity?
- Which groups can we partner with in a mutually beneficial learning exchange on these topics?
- How have we failed to live anti-oppression so far? Who have we failed as an organization?
- How can accessibility for a wide range of physical, intellectual and other disabilities be integrated better into COCo?
#3. We’ve got a new person on the team!
Emily Yee Clare has joined the COCo team for the next year to steward both of these pieces of work. Emily comes to us with a background in designing anti-oppression training materials for community groups and CEGEPs and universities, as well as bringing an interest in community and collaborative arts. Welcome Emily!