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Ally Skills Workshop

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Throughout the year, TAO recognizes diversity, equity and inclusion efforts being led by our members as we strive to build Oregon and SW Washington’s inclusive, innovation economy. Thank you to our guest blogger, Naps D’Apice, DEI Program Manager at Simple.

As the DEI Program Manager at Simple, I’m technically the only employee with the words “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” in my job title, and I let everybody know on their first day – that doesn’t mean the work is only mine to do. It is so important for every person here to realize that our culture isn’t something they join, it’s something they help to shape with their actions.

Simple is part of the TechTown Community in Portland, OR, which has given us access to great resources and partners in our work to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion. Many of us attended a Train-the-trainer session in August 2018, (funded by Prosper Portland) to practice facilitating and hosting an Ally Skills Workshop (created by Frameshift Consulting based on work done by the Ada Initiative.) This interactive experience aims to teach people about their own power and influence, and how to create a more inclusive environment by supporting targets of bias and oppression. At Simple we’ve been eager to implement this workshop and have been hosting one every month since March 2019 for interested employees.

Since March, we’ve seen almost 70 Simple employees voluntarily sign up. In addition to that, we have a session scheduled in June for every director-level position and above, including our CEO. Any work in service to DE&I will go much further and have a larger impact when people with the most power and privilege step up to do it. The momentum is an exciting start, and it is only a start. There is so much work to do in this space, and the road ahead is long and complex.

We have employees from varying job levels and every department showing up to sit in a room, acknowledge their own power and influence, and practice using it to disrupt oppressive behavior. As allies, they aim to shoulder some of the discomforts that historically falls on the shoulders of marginalized people and communities. We leave that room inspired and empowered to do better, aware that it will be challenging, and that we’re not alone in doing this work.

One of the most valuable parts of this workshop is the manifestation of a community that suddenly sees itself, and feels a call to action that is more powerful than their fear of messing up or their comfort and safety in staying silent. People leave with permission to try harder, and skills to practice, mess up and keep trying. They go back to their desk knowing at least 10-20 other people who are also committed to doing this work and who will challenge and support them along the way.

This is helping us build a company whose values are visible in how we show up. There is no inclusive action too small to have an impact. To validate the human experience and build paths forward for every single person is necessary, and ongoing work. To do it right, will hopefully mean that future generations have this so ingrained in how they function that they won’t be taking workshops. Until then, we need to keep stepping back, in order to move forward.

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