Building powerful coalitions : Active Allyship with Dr Poornima Luthra

“Are we coming from Deep curiosity… are you ready to challenge the norm and become a catalyst for change in your organisation?”

Poornima and I had a rich and fun exchange on building powerful communities to create more inclusive environments

In a world that is increasingly diverse, the concepts of inclusion, powerful coalitions, and allyship are more relevant than ever before. Poormina isn’t just advocating for these principles; she’s calling for a revolution of active allyship. Given the move towards more networked and interconnected organisations – the need for communities of people collaborating for the greater good has never been more present.

Poormina and I delve into the world of allyship through honest introspection and deep curiosity. We discuss the need to confront our biases and privileges – that often lurk unseen, and subtly undermine the very fabric of the systems we live and work in. Just like termites that silently damage a structure from within, these biases can erode the foundation of a healthy workplace. Dr. Luthra invites us to approach such discussions with curiosity rather than defensiveness. It’s not about pointing fingers but about recognizing that we all have blind spots that require attention and that we have both personal and collective agency to create these conditions differently.

Poormina shares her stories, research and insights from her work with leaders across the globe as we look more closely at how we can make inclusion a reality for organisations and communities alike.

The main insights you’ll get from this episode are :

–       Allyship is about taking personal action within communities and networks – a lifelong process of building supporting relationships with people from underrepresented groups and with different intersectional identities.

–       The opposite of active allyship is denial, e.g. the increasing proportion of people worldwide who are anti-inclusion; the majority of people are passive allies of DE&I, i.e. they believe in it but don’t know what to say or do to further the cause.

–       The important shift is from passive to active; being a bystander is not an option given that there is much to address. Not speaking up is the same as doing nothing; choosing not to act makes us complicit in allowing discrimination to continue and we all have biases thanks to our brain!

–       Seven behaviours characterise an active ally:

•      deep curiosity (about our own intersectional identity)

•      honest introspection (taking a deep dive into our biases)

•      humble acknowledgement (understanding privilege and using it to lift others)

•      empathetic engagement (confronting “termite” biases and microaggressions and their profound negative impact)

•      authentic conversations (that are deeper, open and more nuanced – this requires psychological safety)

•      vulnerable interactions (storytelling, making a difference)

•      courageous responsibilities (accepting that we have to do more)

–       Gaslighting is very widespread and can be defined as behaviour over time that belittles, discounts and/or invalidates people’s experiences. It is a strong term that requires careful use.

–       Micro-gaslighting can be a one-off but you feel it – an active ally will create a safe space to talk about such experiences.

–       The allyship comfort zone is about moving away/on from the eggshell zone; it can be likened to a muscle that must be trained/strengthened by starting small, building confidence and then expanding to learn.

–       The ‘Amplify, Boost, Connect, Defend’ approach to sponsorship (Rosalind Chow), is aimed specifically at supporting marginalised groups and aims to act as an anti-discrimination voice; we must ask questions without aggression, accusation, etc.

–       Rather than ‘fixing the minority groups’, we must fix the system. Systemic bias exists but it is created and upheld by individuals so the change must start with one person and from there it can be escalated and acted upon.

–       Leadership as the capacity of human communities to shape their future means that we must learn from our mistakes and challenge the status quo, moving from unconscious to conscious behaviour and choosing the hard path of courage over comfort.

–       Education makes the difference and is pivotal in shifting mindsets towards inclusion – it gives us the power to transform society. The world is often about perfection but we are all works in progress.

 Find out more about Poornima and her work here ;

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Suzie Lewis

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