Case Study: Large, Nonprofit, Regional Theater
“There is a level of freedom that is born out of the work.”
- Self-awareness & Individual Growth
- Shared Language
- More Diverse Programming > More Diverse Audience
- 50% New Hires Identify as BIPOC
- From Ally to Accomplice 5-Month for 15 staff members
- From Ally to Accomplice 5-Month for an additional 15 staff members
- Team Engagements
- Executive Coaching
- Formed a Racial Equity Task Force with staff and board members
- Reprogrammed a racially problematic musical
About the Organization
Located in East Haddam, Connecticut, this organization is a nonprofit dedicated to the preservation and advancement of musical theater and the creation of new works. The organization produces both new and newly revived musicals each year on their main stage at the Opera House, and on a second stage in Chester. This totals more than 400 performances during the April to December season attracting 130,000 patrons to the Connecticut River Valley.
Before The Woke Coach
The organization described themselves as exclusive, well-meaning, well-intentioned, but very unaware of the damage they were doing. There was misalignment and no real understanding of what inclusion really means and how to actually put it into practice. While the team perceived that they were doing the work of true inclusion, in fact, for them inclusion meant going “all out” in singular circumstances, but not in every instance. As a result, the staff did not have a comfort level or a shared vocabulary in order to do the work.
Why did they engage The Woke Coach?
In the wake of the racial awakening that was occurring around the world in 2020, the organization’s leadership agreed that they were finally serious about their racial equity failure and needed some help. They reached out to The Woke Coach about helping to facilitate the work with their board and staff with the ultimate goal of leading institution-wide coaching and training.
The Woke Coach engaged a cohort of 15 staff (comprised of members of leadership, management, and individual contributors) in the five-month version of our signature program From Ally to Accomplice®. This offering is specifically designed for leaders and managers who are committed to authentic personal and professional cultural competency leadership development and creating inclusive workplaces.
The program included:
- An all-staff DEI survey
- The Intercultural Development Inventory® for the cohort
- Four, 2-hour team engagement sessions
- Contextualized coaching sessions for the two senior leaders
- Customized homework and learning assignments
- A capstone session for the full cohort
While the aforementioned work has been completed, The Woke Coach will continue our engagement with this organization. We will begin a new cohort in Q1 2022.
The work with The Woke Coach has helped the team members contribute to a more purposeful and understanding organization. They have started to include their DEI efforts in every aspect of their work. And while the partnership has just begun and the work continues, after seven months of working together the organization has made several strides:
A Shared Language
The team now has a common language and a level of safety around engagement in the work of diversity, equity and inclusion.
The Staff is Onboard
The organization has created an Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Justice statement that expresses and affirms their commitment to the work. They work daily to ensure that not only are the words an accurate depiction of their efforts, but their actions support the language as well.
The organization also formed a Racial Equity Task Force that is composed of members of staff and the board of directors. That group is responsible for planning and ensuring the implementation of their DEI work.
Greater Accountability & Increased Responsibility
At the recommendation of The Woke Coach, the team worked to reprogram a racially problematic musical.
Regarding that experience, a member of the leadership team offered: “If we had not had the accountability tools that we received by working with The Woke Coach, it would have been easy to avoid that responsibility. Our work with that team put the responsibility at the forefront of our minds. Knowing that now, we can’t move away from it”.
The work with The Woke Coach has made the organization more aware of ensuring that the work is occurring both inside and outside of the organization. The team continues to have conversations with their funders and partners about their DEI work and holds them accountable to enacting and engaging in more equitable and inclusive practices.
Increased Employee Enthusiasm for DEI work
Initially employees had put a wall up, but after the first session that wall began to come down.
“We are excited about the fact that the cohort is now a group of evangelists in the organization. That helps us keep each other accountable across the organization.”
The organization has programmed three exceptional projects that will elevate BIPOC artists. They are making more efforts to hire more diverse designers. That work has resulted in a partnership with a Black lighting designer and an Asian American choreographer-- with more partnerships on the way!
More Diverse Audience
The audience now includes more BIPOC in response to more diverse programming.
The organization is making community connections that are leading to actual relationships. These relationships will have a positive impact on the artists that they bring to town, the new audience members who find their way to the theater, and their continued ability to hire and retain top diverse talent.
Improved Hiring and Recruitment Process
The organization has unveiled a new hiring process. That process has led to 50% of the new hires being BIPOC. For every open position, there is not only an expectation of a diverse hiring pool, but a process to ensure it.
Greater Overall Awareness of DEI Issues
“The work with The Woke Coach has supplemented, and enhanced our ability to engage our daily work with a great level of detail and a more sensitive eye.”
According to the staff, their eyes have been opened. Engaging in this work has helped inform their internal processes. They have the vocabulary and are looking forward to further refining their processes and continuing their DEI work.