When we talk about building a more anti-racist, anti-oppressive world, it’s often framed as doing “the work.” It’s called “the work” because it’s not something that happens overnight, and while we can approach it with joy and optimism, it is frequently difficult and painful. We know that building a better world with one another is ongoing; it doesn’t happen once every four years at the polls and it doesn’t just happen during demonstrations in the streets.
As an arts service organization, Fractured Atlas is dedicated to supporting our community. Our primary community is made up of the artists we work with through programs like fiscal sponsorship, but they aren’t the only community we’re accountable to and work to support. Our other community is made up of fellow arts organizations, nonprofits, and other businesses that hold our shared values as an organization. They understand the value of building equitable workplaces where employees can thrive, both because it is the right thing to do and because if a team is able to work well, they are able to thrive.
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When I started at Fractured Atlas, it was mid-February and in a world that doesn’t exist anymore. My entire experience of working here has been defined by the pandemic, by trying to meet the urgent and deep needs of our community. That is to say, the onboarding has been a little unusual.
With my heart pounding out of my chest and feeling an urge to vomit, I raised my hand and then watched as the microphone was tossed across the cavernous room towards me. There I was, shakily holding one of those foam box microphones and standing in a room of some of the most recognized CEOs and companies in the U.S. I then opened my mouth hoping audible words would form as I nervously said that I didn’t think the Conscious Capitalism movement would be sustainable if it didn’t confront capitalism’s role in perpetuating racism and oppression.
In this digital age where our cellphones are our computers and Twitter gives us the news of the day, it can feel very refreshing to hear a live person on the phone when you are trying to get in touch. At the same time, it can be a bit frustrating when you cannot get through nor receive an instant response.
Grants! Grants! Grants! Everyone loves the idea of receiving a nice juicy grant award to subsidize their project’s expenses. Who doesn’t?! Grants can give you access to way more funding than you might be able to raise through individual donations or a crowdfunding campaign. They can even sometimes give you access to institutional support or advice in addition to funding.
We all have job interview horror stories. Mine have included interviewing for a gallery communications position where the interviewers spent the hour complaining to one another about how dysfunctional the gallery was, getting ghosted by the HR representative I was supposed to meet with, and having an interview for a retail job consist entirely of taking pictures of me instead of asking any questions about my experience (I could say RIP American Apparel, but I wouldn’t mean it). A major feature of bad interviews is the inappropriate question. The interviewer asks you something that doesn’t quite feel right, that doesn’t relate to the job, and that makes you divulge something about yourself that you don’t want to (and shouldn’t have to) share. It’s hard to know exactly how to respond to these inappropriate interview questions, especially when you really need a job. And right now, a lot of people really need a job.
Someone recently asked me, “When do you think we can start pushing our teams to achieve pre-pandemic performance levels again, I mean, it’s been five months?” This past March in North America a giant remote work experiment began for many as an Adrenaline-fueled sprint. Organizations raced to get workers set up with home offices, stores sold out of computer monitors and tablets, and internet providers were inundated with rush requests to set up new or upgraded access. Coworkers helped each other learn how to use Zoom, access files on the physical server still located in their office, and move money without the ability to access check stock. The thought for many was, “let’s hunker down for a bit until this blows over. We’ll see each other back in the office in a few weeks, maybe a month or two, tops.” That moment feels like it was a lifetime ago.
It is with a mixture of sadness and profound thanks that we say farewell to Shawn Anderson and Pallavi Sharma later this month. After nearly a year of planning and preparation, Shawn and Pallavi will be departing Fractured Atlas on August 31 to pursue new opportunities and new challenges. With their departure, the four-person shared, non-hierarchical leadership team will become a two-person leadership team. Lauren Ruffin and Tim Cynova will stay on in their co-CEO roles, continuing to guide the organization and engaging in the exploration of new structures of leadership and decision-making begun several years ago.
We’re in a moment where workplaces are having more serious conversations about how to become more equitable, less racist, less oppressive. If you aren’t in management, HR, or operations, it can feel like you’re waiting around for the decision-makers at your organization to implement change, however long-overdue.