How are businesses taking positive steps on inclusion and diversity? How can people learn ways to facilitate tough conversations to be able to take those first steps? B Lab has tools and free downloadable guides to help businesses improve I & D, but sometimes, the best way to find answers is to ask others going through the same processes. And, to get fresh perspectives, it can be especially helpful to connect people working at different levels within organizations of different sizes operating in different industries.
As part of its Inclusion Challenge, B Lab created an optional peer groups program. While this program was available only for B Corps participating in the challenge, some of the takeaways from the peer groups’ participants provide a valuable roadmap for business leaders looking to connect with others on what hasn’t worked and what’s been a success.
“The opportunity to get to know three other folks in the B Corp community, all in different states, provinces and industries, offered invaluable perspective-sharing and fresh input into my business toolbox,” says peer-group participant Nicole Koch, co-owner of Technicians for Sustainability.
Below are five takeaway lessons from participants in this past year’s Inclusion Challenge peer groups on building a successful group to move the needle on inclusion and diversity.
1. Create a safe space.
Let’s be honest: A lot of times, beginning the conversation on inclusion can be uncomfortable. People worry about unintentionally being offensive and may not all have the same level of experience with speaking about the topic.
“We want to help create a world that is diverse and inclusive through our loans, community service, workforce and everywhere that we live and work with other people,” Mai Nguyen, impact manager at Clearinghouse CDFI, says. “The peer groups created a safe space to discuss challenges with achieving our metrics, provided support and accountability.”
2. Be held accountable on your inclusion and diversity commitments.
When you decide to review and improve your hiring practices or choose to focus on improving gender equity in compensation, having a group of people that regularly meets to discuss can help keep you on track.
“I saw [the peer groups] as an opportunity to learn from others and to hold myself accountable to working on our D and I metrics,” Sarah White, co-founder of Fairware, says.
“[The peer group] increased the likelihood of successfully pushing through the inevitable challenges that would arise as we worked to meet the D &I goals we had set out for ourselves,” says Koch.
3. Make new, strategic business connections.
“Over the course of five months working together virtually, I gathered insights on possible solutions to shared challenges, examples of successes and failures, resources for future exploration and business connections that I’ll take back to my company from the peer exchange,” says Koch. “Possibly the most valuable takeaway was the inspiration I garnered from seeing the authenticity and integrity with which other folks are coming to this important work.”
White says she found “connections and people to call on if I need it.”
“I wanted to learn from other companies that are working toward creating a better world. These companies have insight that we could learn from,” Nguyen says.
4. Consider the facilitation structure and experience within the group.
For many deep-dive group conversations, such as an unconscious-bias training, the group’s success can hinge on having a strong facilitator.
“Facilitation was a fairly high expectation for people who may or may not have had experience with it, given the potential for difficult conversations,” Fairware’s White says.
5. Build local community capacity.
“For years, we’ve worked to create business and industry support and interdependence networks that support us in our mission and values,” Koch says. “Going forward, we’ll look to find ways to build networks of support for diversity and inclusion growth within our existing industry groups, as well as our local business community. This will allow us to work within our existing spheres of influence and collaboration to enhance the action around this topic.”
A version of this article originally appeared on B the Change. Read more stories of people using business as a force for good in B the Change, or sign up to receive the B the Change Weekly newsletter for more stories like the one above, delivered straight to your inbox.