What Are You Willing to Lose?

Diversity Talks
4 min readFeb 28, 2022


Allowing our Organizational Values to Grow as We Do

Dr. Kiara Butler, CEO & Founder

The Backstory:

In 2020, I looked up and realized that my team had grown exponentially — we were no longer a team of two. And we had not just grown slightly, we had tripled. With this growth, I recognized that we were beginning a new chapter of our organizational identity and collectively, we should explore what makes us, us. This meant committing time, energy, and resources to reestablishing our organizational values as a team. It also meant giving up some of the control that I had become accustomed to as a founder of the organization.

The Process:

In 2021, we decided to make our mission, vision, and theory of action more reflective of the organization we currently are, which is explicitly anti-racist. With this, we recognized that our values also needed to be revamped. This process was a long one — it took 3 months of brainstorming, wordsmithing, creating, and debating. We first identified our own personal values and then looked for overlap amongst the team. From there, we narrowed it down to a key set of values that we felt represented both our current selves and our best selves, making sure to not replicate the very systems we are trying to dismantle. This took time. A lot of time. In the colonized culture, we are constantly being told to produce, produce, produce — but I realized early on that this work was essential, even if it meant committing to fewer workshops. What resulted was this list of values that resonate with us, center us, and keep us accountable.

What I was willing to lose:

The value that resonates most with me is the disruption of power. For those that know me, it should come as no surprise that this is the one I connect with the most. I hate rules. I question authority like I breathe. There are a lot of power dynamics in our society that we consider the norm, even though they are deeply inequitable and unjust. These power dynamics get ingrained within us at an early age in the K-12 system, and they are very hard to shake, which is why many organizations replicate them inadvertently. In reflecting on this, I recognized that I had to examine closely when and if we were doing that as well. As a part of disrupting power dynamics, I had to relinquish some of my own. I had to make space for everyone to have a part in making them and I had to let go of my own expectations around the timeline.

Ensuring the values are living:

Once I let it go, I was able to be more open to the lessons we were capable of learning throughout this process. One major epiphany we had was just how much we shared. So many of our personal values overlapped, and almost all of them fell within the PERM framework. We were so aligned that it made creating that shared list easy, and it reinforced that we had found the right team. We also recognized the things we still want to develop because of this committed exploration. Values like courage and personal accountability — we want to learn how to live those better and hold ourselves to the same standards as our workshop participants.

People love to solve problems outside of themselves and rarely do they look internally. Our entire professional focus is helping others address the problems within their organizations, and we needed to turn that lens on ourselves too. If we want to encourage our participants to have difficult conversations in our workshops, we have to model that type of vulnerability.

In order to ensure our values are living (and not just stagnant words on our website), we are incorporating them into our performance reviews and are going to frequently discuss how they are being integrated into our work. We’ve also created an organizational assessment that we have piloted on ourselves so we can make sure that we have a data-driven approach for accountability. In the coming months, we will provide the organizational assessment as a service for partners and districts to assess their ability to foster understanding, communication, and interaction with people across cultures. This organizational assessment will provide a foundation for our partners to begin creating more anti-racist workplaces that are value-centered.

Advice for other Leaders:

Take the time to do value setting collaboratively. Shared leadership and decision-making are some of the first steps to creating a more anti-racist environment. It might not always fit into your timeline or look the way you expect, and you may have to give up some of your power, but in the end, the result is much more grounded and focused. Investing time in people over programs is never wasted time, and this was an important example of that.



Diversity Talks

Diversity Talks shifts mindsets. We partner with organizations to create unique learning environments where the most marginalized voices are at the forefront.