Like much of America, Namaste Solar experienced an awakening the spring of 2020 to the realities and the depths of injustice and oppression in America. The Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol only reinforced the importance of America reckoning with our history, addressing injustices within our systems, and uncovering our own biases.
Namaste Solar previously released a statement in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. This post is a follow-up with the steps we are taking to create more equity within our cooperative. We are sharing in part to help hold ourselves accountable to change, but we also want to share our journey so that others can learn along with us as we see success and run into challenges.
Where We Are Coming From
In 2018, Namaste Solar started offering full-day workshops for employees to learn about identity, privilege, and power dynamics. We organized group book discussions around three books – one book on sexism in the workplace and two on race and white supremacy. Additionally, we held seminars in 2019 to learn about how unconscious bias impacts our actions and decisions.
These efforts started opening our eyes as an organization while at the same time building our capacity to have hard conversations. By 2020, when a global pandemic erupted and racial injustice was front and center, we had a foundation to stand on for the difficult work of aligning our actions with our intentions.
In 2020, a group of individuals stepped up to create a new Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) Task Force at Namasté Solar. This group started discussing what next steps might look like for our company, how we could create accountability for JEDI activities, how to build JEDI into our culture, and more. This task force stands on the foundation we built in the previous years and gathered support for our next steps.
Namaste Solar has a set of core values that is frequently referenced in our cooperative. In 2020, it became evident that the core values needed an update with an equity lens. Another task force gathered input and drafted a new set of core values to be voted upon by the co-owners. Some of the core values were revised, but we also have two brand new core values for our cooperative.
- Equity: We work to build justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion by uncovering and dismantling oppressive systems in ourselves, in our company, and in our community.
- Come As You Are: We cultivate an inclusive environment for people to bring their authentic selves to work and encourage a sense of community, having fun, and leaning on each other for support.
Our core values are aspirational and something we strive toward each day. We talk about our core values with every new employee at their day one orientation, but they are also frequently referenced in conversations. The core values are vey much alive at Namaste Solar, even if we’re never perfectly living up to each and every one. We continue striving.
Where We Are Going
While our destination is uncertain, it is clear that we must remain committed to the journey of anti-oppression work. Namaste Solar is launching two initiatives in 2021 to move our organization closer to the equitable future we desire.
The first is an initiative we are calling Meet You Where You Are (MYWYA). It will consist of facilitated small group conversations across our organization. Our previous workshops, book discussions, and seminars have all been elective and more easily accessible to our office staff who have more flexible schedules compared to those in field roles. The MYWYA conversations are designed to meet people’s schedules to ensure everyone can participate while also meeting people where they are at figuratively on this journey. We’re recognizing that if want to build JEDI into our company culture then we need to build on-ramps to make it accessible. This work will continue to build our capacity to have difficult conversations as an organization.
We have a number of individuals who have participated in the workshops, book discussions, and seminars, and some folks have also been putting in time outside of work to build their capacity around anti-oppression work. We are going to utilize these folks as facilitators for these small-group conversations, and they are currently receiving facilitation training from the incredible team at the Center for Radical Connection, the consultants who masterfully led our full-day workshops in 2018-2019.
The second initiative for 2021 is working with The Equity Project (TEP) to complete an organizational assessment and develop an equity lens and blueprint. This work will provide us with a baseline understanding of where we are as an organization as well as a strategic plan with actionable next steps. We held our kick-off meeting in January and are excited to have the TEP bring their expertise and vision to Namaste Solar.
We are sure to stumble along the way, but our goal is to provide updates on where we find success and where we struggle. We also hope to encourage conversation – within yourself and your organization.
“We need more light about each other. Light creates understanding, understanding creates love, love creates patience, and patience creates unity.” - Malcolm X