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20NTC Session

Seeing the System: Understanding Structural Inequality in Nonprofit Work


In order to create a more equitable world, we first need to see the systems and structures that create barriers to achieving equality. In this panel discussion, discover the indelible mark of historical structures of racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, and ableism in our organizations. These structures are often invisible to those of us who are raised in or assimilated to dominant cultures, and they are perpetuated in the decisions we make.

During the session, we’ll be taking a real-time quiz and discuss both the systems and structures we see, those we fail to see, and how it all guides our decision-making in nonprofit work. We’ll also discuss tactics to dismantle these harmful structures and counter long-standing inequities. Participants will leave with a deeper understanding of their own biases and how they can be better allies for a more equitable and inclusive world.

Learning Outcomes

  • How to identify institutional or systems-level bias
  • How to interrupt the cyclical and compounding manner in which bias plays out in the work we do
  • The role of communications in creating an inclusive and equitable culture

Target Audience

Nonprofit Executive Leaders and Mid-Level Staff


CommunityDEIManagementOrg Culture


Minal Bopaiah

Founder & Principal

Brevity & Wit

Minal Bopaiah is a strategic consultant with nearly 20 years of professional experience. Her areas of expertise include human-centered design, behavior change psychology, and the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion as they relate to media and marketing.

As the Founder and Principal Consultant of Brevity & Wit, Minal is an expert in using psychological principles to create brand identities and communications that win both hearts and minds. Her work includes helping Cook Ross, a diversity and inclusion consulting firm, increase its website traffic by 1450%, its social media impressions by 120%, and its event revenue by 50% in less than a year. Her clients include PBS Kids, Amnesty International, and the International Center for Research on Women.

Minal’s previous work includes being an educational content specialist for Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit behind Sesame Street and its international co-productions, and a press intern for Doctors Without Borders. Her media experience includes being a freelance reporter, the International and Features Editor for Boston Metro, and the Executive Editor of Subscription Insider, an online business publication for which she single-handedly generated $200,000 in annual revenues.

Minal’s thought leadership has been published in the Stanford Social Innovation Review and she has been a guest on several podcasts and radio shows, including The Kojo Nnamdi Show on WAMU/NPR, and an invited speaker at many conferences, including the Public Media Development and Marketing Conference hosted by Greater Public.

Minal has a B.A. in English from Bowdoin College, a Master’s degree in clinical psychology from Fordham University, and was formally trained in organizational development and change leadership at Georgetown University. In 2016, she was selected as a Digital Production Fellow by Organizing for Action, the nonprofit advocacy group started by President Barack Obama. She currently serves on the Board of Lifestock International, a non-governmental organization dedicated to improving the livelihoods of livestock holders around the world, and on the Advisory Board for Bring Change to Mind, a nonprofit seeking to end mental health stigma. She is currently under contract to write two books on diversity, equity, and inclusion, due out in 2021.

Joe Shaffner

Communications Manager

International Center for Research on Women (ICRW)

Joe is thrilled to be making his third appearance at NTC and second year speaking at a session. He has over 15 years of experience in communications, marketing, client relations, partnership development, business development, project & process management, and team leadership. He leads the communications department at the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) and is a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer. Previously, he served as marketing manager of an international development consulting firm.

With a master’s degree in Public Relations & Corporate Communications from Georgetown University and a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Joe has gained broad experience working with agencies, corporations, nonprofits, small businesses, and individuals aiming to grow capacity and develop capabilities.

Last year’s session at NTC was “Disrupting Unconscious Bias As We Grow Our Brand,” which was part of the marketing and communications track. This year’s session is intended for leaders and mid-level managers. Previously, Joe took a Racial Justice training through Race Forward and spent a year engaging audiences on Facebook with posts on a range of privileges.

Sarah Boison

Director, Digital Strategy

Communities In Schools

Sarah Boison is the Director of Digital Strategy at the Communities In Schools National Office based in Arlington, VA. In her role, she leads development of the web, social, email, and affiliate engagement strategies for national and fundraising campaigns, events and projects. With nearly a decade of experience leading digital communications in the nonprofit sector, Sarah believes in cultivating strong and highly-engaged online communities around social issues and causes. She has an eye for enhancing the user experience through owned, shared, and paid media platforms. Sarah enjoys increasing conversations around powerful and dynamic issues that directly impact young people of color, students with disabilities, low-income rural, urban and suburban communities and the caring adults that work tirelessly each and every day to break down the institutional and systemic barriers that prevent students from receiving a high-quality education and having a fulfilling life. Sarah is a native Marylander and she currently resides in the Bowie, MD area. She received her bachelor’s degree in Public Communications from American University and a master’s degree in Public Relations and Corporate Communications from Georgetown University. In her spare time, Sarah enjoys binging Netflix movies and shows, going to concerts, and spending time with her loved ones.

Ola Ojewumi

Founder and Director

Project ASCEND

Ola Ojewumi is an activist, journalist, and a community organizer based in Washington, DC. Presently, she works as a contributor at the Huffington Post and within the civil rights division of a federal agency in Washington, DC. The White House, Marie Claire Magazine’s online publication, and the American Association of University Women have published her writings. Recently, she was tapped to serve on the Board of Trustees for Colin Powell’s youth education nonprofit organization—America’s Promise Alliance. She founded two nonprofits, Sacred Hearts Children’s Transplant Foundation and the Project ASCEND College Scholarship Program. Ola initiated these charitable efforts after receiving a heart and kidney transplant. Thus far, the White House, MTV, Glamour magazine, Intel, Essence magazine and the Huffington Post have praised her initiatives. Additionally, Glamour Magazine has named Ola among the top 10 most influential college women in the United States. Ola holds a strong passion for writing and speaking. She’s held internships in the White House, Democratic Leader/Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, Democratic National Committee (DNC/Democratic Party), and Congressmen Albert R. Wynn’s Congressional Office. Additionally, she’s served as Public Policy and International Affairs Fellow at the University of California, Berkeley and a DNC Hope Fellow.





March 24, 2020


1:45pm – 3:00pm



Collaborative Notes

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Session Evaluation

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