pandemic COVID 19 innovation
Life Lessons,  Professional Development,  Self-Care,  Social Justice

COVID Pandemic: A Threat to EDI Efforts – or an Opportunity for Leaders to Innovate?

“We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey.”

― Kenji Miyazawa


Our mission as change agents has never been tougher.

The global crisis caused by the pandemic has affected every aspect of our lives. While we have heard and witnessed many acts of kindness and goodwill, the ugliness of racist slurs, longstanding prejudices and hatreds has ballooned as some look to lay blame for what has happened.


Consequential to the Pandemic, Deep Inequities Become Obvious

The pandemic has spotlighted the cracks and brought to the surface the inequities that are in our current system.

Let us embrace this time for thoughtful analysis and to think innovatively – outside of the box – and rise from the pain into a new awareness and respect for the many ways that diversity benefits humankind.

During this chaos and uncertainty, there is also immense opportunity for change.


“Our ability to reach unity in diversity will be the beauty and the test of our civilization.”

-Mahatma Gandhi


There Is No Normal Now. And We Can’t Return to the Old Normal.

As leaders in crisis management, we need to have a heightened and consistent attention to equity, diversity and inclusion issues.

As folks struggle with daily living, hardships, layoffs and furloughs and the uncertainty of the future, we need to put people first in all our policies, practices, services and programs.

And that means using an Equity and Inclusion Lens to prepare our transition into a ‘new’ normal and way of serving – one that embraces the full breath of differences, and specifically race and class, to ensure we meet the needs of everyone.


An Equity & Inclusion Lens is a Key Tool for Leaders

Many leaders are already using an Inclusion Lens during COVID-19 – looking at the vast scope of flaws in the system that the pandemic has glaringly revealed. But we cannot move too quickly and make fast decisions without considering EDI. In the turmoil, it is too easy to let our equity and inclusion efforts fade into the background.


There is no fast fix to the pandemic – and there is no fast fix to achieve greater equity and inclusion, especially now when it feels like we’ve taken many steps backwards. As change agents, for every idea we bring to the table, let us use our Inclusion Lens to ask which groups:

  • will probably have their needs met – and which may not?
  • might face extra barriers and hurdles?
  • might be unintentionally or negatively impacted by a new idea, program, policy or practice?


The Covid-19 crisis has painfully revealed the gaps and flaws in our system, and members of marginalized groups have had even greater adversities thrust upon them.

Using our Inclusion Lens, we need to reflect on how current policies and practices created those gaps in the system, possibly unintentionally – and how we can revise these and design new services, programs, and policies that are far more inclusive and equitable.

Rate your current policies and practices and those that you are planning. How inclusive are they?


Scale 0-10:

0 = not at all     –     1     –     2     –     3     –     4     –     5     –    6    –     7     –     8     –     9     –     10 = completely


How did they score, honestly?


The Old Way? Maybe It Wasn’t That Effective After All

 As we move forward, we must do away with the worn-out phrase “It’s always been done this way.” The devastating impacts of Covid-19 have shown us that doing things the old way again and again has brought us to where we are today.

Can you relate?


As we move forward in our engagement process to develop more effective inclusion policies and programs, there will be those who disagree with our intentions. As we anticipate and engage their resistance, we need to start a dialogue and ask:

  • Can you say more?
  • Can you help me understand your perspective?
  • Can you give me an example to help me understand where you are coming from?
  • What are your concerns?
  • What are your intended outcomes behind your ideas?


It is important to invite others into the conversation across group identities to add multiple perspectives as we also share our intentions, perspectives, and strategies.


Change: An Often Uncomfortable Path to New Growth

The world is in grief and mourning. Yet it is also a time of transition.

Change can be frightening. It can be uncomfortable. I know we all get that.

We can take what worked for everyone from the past, end (or at least modify) the practices and policies that weren’t working, and incorporate new, inclusive programs that meet everyone’s needs.

Our work as change agents is exhausting, and this pandemic has overwhelmed us. We may feel isolated as we continue our efforts for greater equity and inclusion. We must not forget that we need to take care of ourselves: practicing self-care has never been more important.


Take time for YOU. Do something you enjoy, whether it’s reading, hanging out with friends, walking the dog, listening to music, or planting flowers in a garden. Whatever brings you joy, just do it.

Indeed, it is a time to pull out the unproductive weeds of the past – and cultivate the beauty of a diverse garden. Like the old Islamic proverb says, a lot of different flowers make a bouquet.


“When everyone is included, everyone wins.”

-Jesse Jackson


Interested in learning how you can use an Equity & Inclusion Lens to guide key decision-making & planning efforts at your organization? Get fast, free access right here to a recent webinar I presented: Strategies to Use an Inclusion Lens in Crisis Management.

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