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Time to slip into something a little less comfortable

In case you haven’t noticed, I never wear high-heeled shoes. I tried wearing heels a few times, but the blisters and sore toes after a few hours of wear just wasn’t worth it. (If you wear heels, more power to you.) For me, I choose to walk through the world in sensible flats equipped with memory foam and arch support, shoes that I lovingly refer to as “business slippers.”

Long story short, I prefer comfortable shoes.

Comfort can’t always be a priority, however. In some cases, discomfort is necessary. For instance, at the United Philanthropy Forum’s 2017 Annual Conference last month, I attended a session focused on how to do racial, equity, diversity and inclusion work internally in philanthropy-serving organizations. One of the presenters asked us, by a show of hands, who was afraid to do this work. I simultaneously felt uncomfortable and safe; uncomfortable because I thought I would seem like a coward if I raised my hand, and safe because I knew some of my colleagues were facing similar challenges.

I nervously raised my hand and looked around the room. I wasn’t the only one. We knew we were in a safe space where we could say, “Diversity and inclusion work is scary, hard and uncomfortable, but I want make a thoughtful effort.”

Providing a safe space for these kinds of conversations is exactly what Arizona Grantmakers Forum aims to do for our team and members. We may need to broach uncomfortable subjects that make us reflect upon our own behaviors, biases and fears, but we will find comfort in the respect and safety we provide each other as we move toward our shared vision of a vibrant Arizona where all people thrive. It’s a tall order that we won’t see in our lifetimes, but we will cover more ground if we encourage participation in uncomfortable conversations now, not just at AGF programs, but within your own organizations as well.

Because levels of comfort and understanding vary from person to person, I understand there is no one-size-fits-all approach to discussions about diversity and inclusion, but we should still be at the table and feel safe to share in a way that is authentic and stays true to our mission, vison and values.

Shoes should be comfortable. Conversations on diversity and inclusion may not be comfortable, but they should be safe.

Kim Garbacz
Director of Education & Communications