In June of 2020 we published a statement titled Black Lives Matter: What We Believe and What We Will Do.
In this statement, we said what we believe, what we would do, and how we would hold ourselves accountable. This post is a follow-up to the statement made in June, revisiting what we said we would do, what we have done, and what we will do moving forward. I will address our original statements out of their original order because I want to start with the training and coaching component, which was number 6 in the original post. I want to mention this first because it has been such a foundational component of our work with many implications that impact every aspect of how we move forward. When referring to each item in the previous post I will use the original numbers.
We will initiate training for our entire team that focuses on implicit bias, anti-racism, and building an inclusive workplace culture and organization.
AVP engaged DeEtta Jones and Associates (DJA) to work with the entire team and with leadership on a variety of issues revolving around equity, diversity, inclusion and anti-racism (EDIAR) over the course of several months. This work included DJA facilitated listening and discussion sessions with the entire AVP team, dedicating a half day of our fall team retreat to working with DJA, a review of policies and procedures, a review of job descriptions and hiring practices, exploration of establishing advisory boards, and focusing in on matters have power dynamics, transparency, equity, and inclusion at their core, such as the decision making process within AVP. We delved deep into articulating the company that we are, the company that we aim to be, and what our path ahead looks like (more on this in point 7). We have made many changes already, and continue to process and work through the trove of valuable feedback that DJA provided us with. In 2021, we will allocate at least 15% of our professional development and coaching budget to focus on EDIAR with DJA and others.
AVP will dedicate $50,000 in pro-bono services to projects, causes, initiatives, and campaigns in support of addressing issues of inequality, injustice, racial discrimination, and oppression. As we figure out the details of where and how these pro-bono services will be allocated we will report out on the specifics in order to be transparent and accountable.
We have followed through on this commitment through two primary efforts. The first was a series of online training sessions provided to staff members and affiliates of WITNESS, a not-for-profit dedicated to protecting and defending human rights globally and one of the first human rights organizations to focus on the use of video documentation. AVP developed curricula and provided three extended online training sessions diving deep into video forensic analysis and authenticity, using methods and technologies developed by AVP. This effort amounted to $15,000 in pro-bono services.
The second effort consists of a $35,000 commitment of in-kind services that will be utilized in 2021. These in-kind services will support the fulfillment of the Black Voice News project named Save the Black Press. The following quote from Dr. Paulette Brown-Hinds, Black Voice News publisher and project director speaks to the significance of this project.
“From the data journalism of publisher Ida B Wells and the visualizations of Crisis Magazine’s founder W.E.B. DuBois, the Black Press’ reporting using data is a significant part of our journalism history. With modern technology the tools may have changed, but the mission hasn’t, to empower our community through information. We believe that our successful future relies on well researched, data informed, solutions oriented journalism. Our project will provide access to the data news publishers need, programming to support it, and a revenue model to sustain it.”
AVP will offer 8 hours of paid time off for employees to volunteer in support of causes and organizations that they believe in.
This is a stated position of AVP that we will turn into a policy as we continue working on revising our policies. AVP welcomes team members to share the work they are doing but we do not ask people to report back on which organizations they are supporting.
AVP will financially support organizations fighting for racial justice, including the ACLU, Black Lives Matter, Campaign Zero, and Color of Change.
We approached this by giving at national and local levels. We asked our AVPeeps in each region of the country to research the organizations they wanted to give to and we donated $5,000 across the following organizations:
New York and New Jersey
- The Audre Lorde Project: https://alp.org/
- New Jersey Communities United: http://unitednj.nationbuilder.com/
- Equality for Flatbush: http://www.equalityforflatbush.org/
- Families Against Mandatory Minimums: https://famm.org/our-work/states-where-we-are-working/florida/
- UNCF: https://uncf.org/programs/florida-impact
- Southern Poverty Law Center: https://www.splcenter.org/state-offices/florida
- ACLU - https://www.aclu.org/
- Black Lives Matter - https://blacklivesmatter.com/
- Campaign Zero - https://www.joincampaignzero.org/
- Color of Change - https://colorofchange.org/
With a team of our size it is representative of our past failures that a visit to our website shows a preponderance of white faces. This has the larger implication of failing to amplify perspectives and voices that ultimately shape the communities we serve and the professional fields we work within. There are no good excuses for this. Making sure that we prioritize hiring and giving a platform to BIPOC will be front and center as we continue to grow our team.
To be clear, we understand that recruiting must be accompanied by a holistic, genuine, and sustained effort to address matters of EDIAR in order to create a culture that attracts and retains BIPOC team members. The work discussed throughout this post, and this post itself, is aimed at cultivating such an environment and culture. The results of this effort are best measured over time. While recognizing the longer term trajectory for measuring our progress on this commitment, there are several smaller steps we have taken on the hiring and recruiting front so far, and we will continue to expand these efforts.
- We updated our job descriptions to add language, including the following:
We are deeply committed to creating a more equitable and inclusive world. We pursue our values through our work, ensuring that accurate and authentic data is used to create breakthrough solutions and solve knotty problems. We also stand firmly committed against systemic racism and all other forms of oppression and hold ourselves accountable for taking actions that reflect our values. With these values firmly in place, we welcome potential team members who share our commitments and reflect a diverse array of lived perspectives and experiences.
- We are contracting with a recruiter that is focused on diversity.
- We have sponsored job posts on platforms including divercity.io and diversifytech.co, placing a focus on diversity. We will continue to research and increase our use of platforms aimed at diversity, as well as seek strategic partnerships to increase our reach in our ongoing hiring and recruiting efforts.
- We are updating our values statement on our website to include our ethical pillars which are much more specific and explicit about matters related to EDIAR.
We will amplify the voices of people and organizations who are doing hard work to help bring about progress and change.
When we wrote this originally we thought of this being in the context of social media. In fact, we didn’t do a whole lot of this in that context. Reflecting back on the past months I believe the ways in which we have done this is through our financial contributions and our pro bono services. I believe that amplifying in these ways, following through on the items listed in number 7 below, and cultivating an environment and culture that promotes open discussion and action on EDIAR matters may be the biggest impact we can have. Having said this, social media has its place, and we will be there to bolster the people and words that need amplification to bring about progress and change.
The preceding points are just the start and they are not enough. We know we have work to do and we will continue to add to this list of action items and hold ourselves accountable for following through on them.
Our work with DJA laid the groundwork for systemic and foundational change in the organization. As we embark on this path, we know there is a great deal of ongoing work to do. We will continue to report out to remain accountable and transparent. At this moment, here is where things stand:
- We established a framework for accountability that lays out a phased approach to moving forward on multiple fronts. We have integrated this into our quarterly and annual strategy and planning processes and made it part of the dashboard we use for tracking and reporting on key metrics.
- We will be adding a group of ethical positions to our values statements and publishing these on our website by the end of March.
- We will review and update our internal company policies according to DJA’s feedback by the end of March.
- We have begun documenting and implementing a decision-making model that brings much more transparency and clarity to the key decisions being made in AVP. This includes information about the decision being made, the people responsible for making the decision, the process and timeline of making the decision, the final decision point, and associated communication. The relationship between decision making and EDIAR may not be apparent, but in our work with DJA we came to understand that the decision making process is one of the most critical elements impacting the perception and realization of equity and inclusion within organizations. This will be finalized and published internally by the end of February. We will share portions of this publicly by the end of March.
- We are working on establishing a pilot advisory board that we can learn from and expand on over time. This will be setup around our product Medex, a video authenticity tool that is used by law enforcement, human rights organizations, journalists, and big tech. We are establishing this advisory board with a focus on issues of equity, diversity, inclusion, and anti-racism in the development and deployment of this technology. This will be headed up by Bertram Lyons, AVP’s Managing Director of Software. We expect to have the advisory board established by the end of September 2021.
- We are committed to continuing reporting out at least semi-annually to share our progress and holding ourselves accountable on this work.
Thank you for taking part in this journey along with us and helping us keep our lived values in alignment with our espoused values. Take good care and be well.