Image by Sean Benesh


Following yet another surge of white supremacist activity, nonprofit and philanthropic organizations continue to grapple with their roles in dismantling systems of oppression. Much has been written about what is needed for equity processes to succeed, particularly around who needs to be on board, how to engage organizational staff and leadership, and how to navigate resistance to the work. Less has been covered about how facilitators and organizational leaders keep their organizations together during that process -- and what happens when they fail to do so. 

This research aims to better understand the factors that help organizations weather tension and conflict inherent to equity processes, and what happens when their ability to do that comes into doubt. More specifically, this research aims to focus on questions such as:

  • How do facilitators create strong “containers” for participants to engage in the vulnerable, risky and tense work of moving through equity processes?

  • How do facilitators help their groups through times when conflict boils over and equity conversations break down? What do accountability and repair look like in these situations? How do equity facilitators know when it’s time to walk away?

  • Beyond white fragility and general resistance to antiracism, both of which are well-documented, what individual, group and organizational dynamics hinder equity processes and how can they show up?

  • What roles can staff and board members at all levels of leadership play in keeping groups together as they move through equity processes?

  • What can we learn about these questions from equity processes that sputtered, false-started or failed outright?

By better understanding how facilitators of and participants in equity processes manage personal and group dynamics throughout those processes, we can better equip organizations to support deeper healing, stronger relationships, and, ultimately, more transformational equity work.

Research Methods

The research will draw heavily from the experiences of facilitators and participants in equity process, with an emphasis on stories. As resources permit, this will include a survey and interviews to learn from facilitators’ and participants’ feelings about and experiences with equity processes, as well as case studies/witnessing with participating organizations at various stages and levels of success with their equity processes. The research will be guided by a group of emerging and established field leaders, researchers and equity process facilitators. The group would have up to 15 members and meet about three times over the course of the project.

Supporting This Research

This research will be funded entirely by individual support and organizational sponsorships. Sponsorship is available to organizations at tiers ranging from $1,000 to $15,000. Interested organizations should contact Tamir Novotny, Principal, Ahimsa Strategies at for more details.