Racial Affinity Space at the NTC
The Nonprofit Technology Conference is a space to talk about tools, strategies, and new ideas for the way nonprofit staff make change and meet their mission. Those conversations require we also talk about the way we work with each other, the systems [of oppression] that influence our ability to do our work, and the conditions of our sector and world in which our missions make impact. As in all of our decisions, we are guided by our values and our commitment to equity, as well as by the feedback of our community. To that end, we will include racial affinity space/s at the 19NTC.
What is Racial Affinity Space?
The intention of these spaces is for attendees (including speakers, exhibitors, sponsors, and general attendees) of color at the NTC to have places to gather and connect that do not include white attendees. Racial affinity spaces allow attendees of color to center and prioritize their specific needs, voices, and experiences in a room, without introducing the potential of harm or trauma from well-intentioned white allies.
The desire by white attendees to learn, grow, and serve as allies is important; however, those goals are best reached in other avenues (including other sessions on the agenda linked below) and not by participating in gatherings intended only for attendees of color. If you are a white attendee and would like resources for your own reading and learning, long-time NTEN member and course faculty Heidi Massey has curated a public list of articles and readings that include topics of white dominant culture, oppression, and anti-racist training resources and Layla Saad has published a free workbook for independent reflection and work on the role and impact of white supremacy in our lives and culture.
If you are interested in more reading about the need for and value of spaces specifically for attendees of color, we encourage you to review this excellent piece by Kelsey Blackwell in The Arrow.
Plans for 19NTC
We continue to work on adding opportunities and physical spaces to the NTC that enable community connections in non-scripted ways, including:
- Connect session spaces, comfortable seating throughout the venue, and community-generated events,
- dedicating a Birds of a Feather table/s during all lunches and the final breakfast for attendees of color, and reserving Dine Around groups for attendees of color,
- and actively soliciting feedback from attendees of color about ways we can use our resources to support other gathering points.
We were thrilled to see the number of session proposals this year by both white attendees and attendees of color centering on issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the sector and our organizations. There are a number of them on the agenda and we encourage everyone to check them out if they are of interest.
There will be a racial affinity space during the first breakout session time block (this is not an ally space). The space will have a facilitator team in the room to support the direction that the group wants to take it. There is no pre-set expectation for how many people come, who those people are (except that they are not allies), what they may want to discuss, or how they may want to discuss it. If there are a lot of people, the facilitators may recommend splitting up into smaller groups for more active participation. This is not an educational session like other sessions on the NTC agenda – there is no agenda or program set in advance. The facilitator team is available to support any group activities or conversations as appropriate based on feedback from those who join the session.
Even though NTEN has no expectation for discussion in the room to center on us as an organization or our work, we are receptive to any feedback about us as an organization or our work, or ideas that come from these discussions that aren’t specific to NTEN but that our resources, platform, and privileges could support moving forward.
Further, we will hold space later in the conference agenda that can be used (or not) at the group’s discretion to continue, further, or hold new conversations after the first session is held.
How to Provide Feedback
We always welcome your feedback at anytime. Please email us (use firstname.lastname@example.org to contact the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion team) to share your feedback or to set up a call, or use the anonymous online form.
We will send out a message to all registered attendees including a way for attendees of color to indicate easily that they would participate (so we can get an early sense of participation numbers in the racial affinity space), reminders for ways to sign up to host any of the attendee of color social spaces (like the Birds of a Feather tables or Dine Arounds), and a way for attendees of color to indicate that they want to be part of further planning (including an additional email with information and the option to do a brief online survey or phone call to provide feedback).
Thanks to all those who has been in active dialogue with us to inform and shape the plans for 19NTC, including NTEN community members – folks of color and white – who have direct experience participating in and leading racial affinity spaces and as nonprofit professionals. We appreciate your generosity and continued leadership.
Thanks to everyone in the community for your grace and support as we learn and grow as an organization and as individuals on our journey to become an anti-racist organization. We have made many mistakes and will continue to do so as we work to identify and dismantle the white dominant systems that are both internalized and surrounding our work.
[Note: This page last updated on 2/18/19]