An update on NTEN’s DEI work

A lot has happened this quarter at NTEN. Obviously, COVID-19 has changed how we live our lives, both personally and professionally. The world has turned its collective life upside down to accommodate and combat this unforeseen global threat. As we enter into a new spring season filled with change and transition, NTEN recognizes that this pandemic has sadly highlighted and reinforced why diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) work is vitally important to not only our sector but the global community.

While how we work and connect with one another has definitely changed, our commitment to DEI has not. I’m writing today with the latest update in our commitment to regularly share with the community about work, changes, and actions taken as a team towards our commitment.

Since our last update to the community, we expanded the group of folks supporting accountability of this work as well as made changes in programs. Here’s a recap of some of our recent work:

  • DEI spans all areas of our organization, and we made some important updates to our Employee Handbook last year to implement equitable practices and policies for staff. (Our staff benefits are public on our website.)
    • Bereavement Leave — Allowing for an extended family definition for the policy as well as allowing for bereavement leave to include miscarriage, so staff are not forced to use PTO for the care necessary in these circumstances.
    • Payroll Advances — Expanding our policy to provide a template process for the requests and management oversight, so it is used consistently.
  • To provide a similar level of focus on DEI outside of staff, we created a community committee comprised of community members as well as a standing DEI committee on the board, named in the bylaws. We wanted to make sure that the work of DEI was existing across all levels of the organization. Recommendations and ideas from any of the three committees can be directed to the others for review, helping limit the impact of hierarchy and access issues in this work.
  • We did a full review of the policies stated in our Commitment to Equity. This included staff DEI taskforce review, as well as review and feedback from the community and board committees. We identified changes needed to some of the policies to make them clearer and provide more guidance on what we hope to evaluate. For example, in many policies, we said that we’d review annually, and now have committed to the mechanism and steps for what that review entails. We will be making the changes identified and starting on the evaluations in the coming quarter.
  • We worked with the DEI committees of staff, board, and community to develop and define what an equitable definition of quorum was for the board of directors. This change was to ensure that all voices and committees on the board are heard and given the opportunity to be part of decision making. The new quorum definition in NTEN’s bylaws specifies 75% of the board with at least one member from each committee present.
  • We worked with the DEI committees of staff, board, and community to shape and create a process to check-in with, and review the work, strengths, and areas of growth for board members that are inclusive of DEI commitments and personal work.
  • The Board recruitment process for new board members was changed in the fall, and the board DEI committee is working with the governance committee to ensure it is well documented and understood by all board members and staff.
  • To better connect the board and staff, and to support more inclusive strategic conversations, the board adopted a meeting schedule that combines the fall board meeting with the fall staff planning meetings. This is an excellent opportunity for us to work together collectively on NTEN goals and projects.
  • The intersection of DEI and our Digital Inclusion Fellowship has never been more important, and the Fellows in our fifth cohort just concluded their year addressing digital equity in their communities. The next cohort will be announced soon.
  • The Digital Equity Certificate is now officially underway. This is our second professional certificate and is a direct outgrowth of the goal to make the training associated with our Digital Inclusion Fellowship more accessible to nonprofit staff outside of the fellowship.
  • The intersection of DEI and our core belief that the internet needs to be available and accessible to all continues to fuel our leadership of the campaign, urging ICANN to stop the sale of the .Org top-level domain to private equity. If you haven’t yet signed on to the campaign, you are invited to join as an individual or add your organization to the list.
  • We are thrilled to have live captioning on all of our events now. NTEN understands the need to make all of our content as accessible as possible, and we are happy to have found solutions that enable captioning live and across our various online event platforms.
  • Lastly, Amy and I have been asked to share feedback and experiences with many organizations in the community looking for support into how they may start implementing DEI work in their culture and technology practices. It has been great to hear from these folks about the progress they’ve helped push forward in their own organization.

We recognize that this is an incredibly uncertain time for the community and for those of us who are new to working at home and have the privilege of having a flexible job during this crisis. Despite that privilege, the number of transitions can be quite overwhelming. Please take more than enough time for yourself in whatever form that may look like.

There is no “normal” or “right” way to cope with something of this magnitude. The systems we are all impacted by — capitalism and white supremacy, especially — might make you believe that the grief or discomfort you’re feeling is not normal. It is. Of course we are not going to be productivity machines during a global emergency. Amy said it best recently when referring to the range of emotions and feelings everyone might be feeling regarding their work, “Productivity is a tool of capitalism, of white supremacy, and the patriarchy.” Please take care of and be kind to yourselves and those close to you.

Tristan Penn
Senior Manager of Equity and Accountability
Tristan is originally from Central Kansas and is a citizen of the Navajo Nation. Tristan went to college at KU in Lawrence, Kansas (Rock Chalk Jayhawk!). He moved to Portland in 2014 and he loves it! He has worked in nonprofit for the past 16 years with primarily Boys & Girls Clubs and Youth Development Organizations and is passionate about nonprofit community engagement, organizational best practices, youth development, as well as diversity, equity & inclusion.

Tristan began his professional DEI work with Pacific Educational Group's three-year cohort/professional development initiative "Beyond Diversity: Courageous Conversations" while working for Boys & Girls Club and Lawrence Public School in 2009. Additionally, coupled with his lived experience as a Black and Navajo Professional, Tristan has served on previous organizations' Equity Teams and has been a facilitator for DEI (rooted in Racial Equity) in the workplace and nonprofit programming.

Tristan earned a B.S. from the University of Kansas in Psychology - Child and Family Development with a Minor in Classical Greek Antiquity and is currently working towards his Masters in Organizational Leadership and Psychology from Colorado State University.

In his free time, Tristan likes to sample the beers that Portland's breweries have to offer, go to shows, lift weights, watch KU basketball, travel, socialize with friends, and spoil his niece and nephews.