In response to racial injustice: From words to action

We work closely with our clients to ensure their content has relevance, resonance, and utility. One of our hallmarks of good thought leadership is in-depth prescription. Almost anyone can describe a problem; the hard work and the real contribution is providing specific guidance that will have an impact.

The problem facing all of us is clear. Systemic racism and deep-rooted inequality and injustice is the problem. It’s evident in our health care and education systems, the workplace, the racial wealth gap, uneven access to healthy food, the killings of Black Americans at the hands of police, and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic—which is taking a disproportionate toll on Black and Latinx people in every way possible, from health outcomes to economic devastation. The public reaction to George Floyd’s murder and weeks of protests suggest we’re waking up a little bit, but there’s work to be done.

Corporations are taking note of the public unrest, sending mass emails and committing to do better. Social media feeds are overflowing with resources. Our recent Gold Standard looked at how professional services firms are responding. Some describe the problem, some make actionable commitments and promises. But how do we ensure impact? How do we make this moment different from the past?

Take, for instance, this 1968 Esquire interview, in which James Baldwin describes a job program in great detail, calling out industries and companies that can make way for change. That is the very element of thought leadership we strive for in our work: well-articulated prescriptions and a thorough accounting of the actions that will push us in the right direction. Notably, this interview took place just one year after the Detroit Riots and a couple months after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. Now, in 2020, we have yet to adopt the prescription laid out so well before us.

We tell our clients that the best prescriptions are supported by numbers that detail the impact (for instance, after implementing a solution, one company achieved a 20 percent reduction in operational costs or met its digital transformation goals three weeks early). We advise them that this level of detail conveys accountability and credibility. Now, to keep us all accountable, we need to detail the results and impact of our collective anti-racism efforts. In response to protests, Minneapolis councilors voted to dismantle the police department; New York City has committed to reforms; and Confederate statues across the country have come down. Looking one step ahead, what impact can we see from these responses? What happens when budget is redirected from police departments to underfunded schools that serve mainly children of color? Or when a company puts effort behind improved access to healthy food in an underserved Black community? How does public perception of a city shift when it no longer glorifies slavery with its monuments? If we want to move the needle, we need to hold ourselves accountable to results and impact. Otherwise, our prescriptions become just words on a page.

As we more actively and consciously work toward change at Leff, we need to follow our own counsel: understand what works, detail the prescriptions, highlight the numbers to show what’s been effective and hold ourselves accountable, and make it repeatable. We are making donations to organizations we support. We’re revisiting our hiring practices, which have been based on referrals for much of our 10-year existence. What that means is we end up with candidates with similar backgrounds as us, because that is the injustice of the system in which we live and work. We also need to rethink how and where we spend our company resources—everything from who our suppliers are to where the company buys our Friday all-team lunch. We will support our colleagues’ individual commitments to anti-racism by removing, to the extent we can, some of the barriers that can stand in the way—time and cost. And as content creators, we need to make sure the content we create represents and amplifies more diverse voices, including on our website. 

Let’s get moving.

Alia Samhat

Alia is a partner at Leff. Her expertise is in creative strategy and content development. She spends her time working with writers, marketers, designers, video producers, analysts, and subject matter experts to produce meaningful work.

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