What is equity? We hear that word all the time; in fact, it has become a buzz word that sounds good. So many companies and organizations have initiatives and employees whose sole role is to ensure equity, but what is equity really? In many places equity is defined as ‘a condition of being fair or just’. Sounds straightforward, but with people it’s not that straightforward at all. This can be problematic because we, in the world, have competing ideas about what fairness is and what justice is. We often see things based on our lived experiences, which complicate how people see fairness and justice. This attempt to both name equity and to advocate for the application of fairness and justice in our systems is messy and leads to a proliferation of meanings that aren’t necessarily aligned towards the same goals, diluting the power of our work.
Faith Addicott | USA
Faith Addicott, MPA, MPOD is working to improve the intersection of work and life through innovative and human-centered process design. Her consulting work has centered on nonprofits and local government, where she has undertaken organizational assessments and strategic planning using AI and other strengths-based processes. She is a champion for inclusive workplace design.
Staceye Randle | USA
Staceye Randle, MPOD is a Human Resources professional who is passionate about creating workplaces focused on helping people grow and learn. She is also an advocate for ensuring equity and justice in every aspect of her private and professional life.
If, however, we apply the AI principle of Enactment to the task, we learn that the most important word in the definition of equity, above, is ‘being’. In enactment, we are called to ‘be the change we want to see’. In our diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) work, this means embodiment of equity, being in our own actions and stories, both fair and just. It’s not that we don’t need the application of these concepts to our systems and institutions (we do!), it’s that through enactment we bring them into being in a way that influences every situation.
In this frame, Appreciative Inquiry asks us to BE equity, to manifest and occupy the space of justice with our own lives. This is revolutionary.
In a system dominated by tokenism and performative actions related to equity (start DEI projects but don’t fund them, hire diverse candidates but don’t address the racist cultures that harm them and force them out, or just check the boxes), the enactment of equity is soul-deep. It resonates through us, and we ring like bells in the halls of change, clarion calls shattering the falseness of racist systems. Enactment of equity silences rooms and erupts in cheers in the same breath.
How do we come to embody justice? We ask ourselves and others deep questions. We ask, in the spirit of complete exploration, what is equity? What is fairness? What is justice? In short, we come to enactment through inquiry – the Simultaneity principle, which says that inquiry is an intervention. The moment we ask a question, we begin to create a change. When we ask those questions of ourselves and others, we open the space for being – for the creation of new pathways, both neural and generational.
These two principles are deeply entwined when applied to the work of belonging. We ask; we become. We ask others to become.
When fully realized, our questions become more than generative; they are transformative, alchemical. Because, in the face of centuries of inertia (these harmful ways of thinking and doing have been around a long time), questions are an acknowledgement of possibility. The possibility of something else, something better that we have only to find.
We find a more just and equitable world first in our own humility, in our love of others, in our curiosity and in our being. Through these principles, we come to be what we seek.
Intro by Keith Storace
Continuing their ongoing series titled: Our Principles in Action: Appreciative Inquiry for Justice & Belonging, Faith Addicott and Staceye Randle ponder the AI Principles of Enactment and Simultaneity and how these principles move us to understanding the power, value, and transformational aspects of “Being the question”.