Back to Blog

Embracing Anti-Oppressive Practice in Nonprofits: A Call to Action

antioppressive design nonprofits social impact Mar 12, 2024

Embracing Anti-Oppressive Practice in Nonprofits: A Call to Action

In my decade-long journey working within the nonprofit sector, there's one glaring omission that stands out to me now more than ever: the absence of discussions around anti-oppressive practice in leadership circles.

It's baffling to think that in an industry ostensibly dedicated to social justice, terms like anti-oppressive practice rarely found their way into our boardroom conversations or strategic planning sessions. Instead, our focus remained fixated on service delivery metrics, hitting fundraising targets, and achieving program outcomes.

Looking back, I realize the extent to which we were operating within a void—a void that perpetuated systems of oppression even as we endeavored to dismantle them. How could we claim to be champions of social justice while neglecting to confront the very structures and dynamics that uphold inequality and marginalization?

Anti-oppressive practice isn't just a buzzword; it's a foundational ethos that should permeate all facets of social justice work. It acknowledges the pervasive influence of power and privilege across multiple levels, shaping our interactions, policies, and institutions. It demands a critical examination of how intersecting identities—such as race, gender, class, sexual orientation, and gender identity—contribute to systemic inequality.

As practitioners of social impact, we bear a moral imperative to address not just the symptoms but the root causes of injustice. This necessitates centering anti-oppressive practice in all aspects of our work, from recruitment and leadership development to program design and community engagement.

However, paying mere lip service to anti-oppressive principles isn't enough. We must actively embed them into the DNA of our organizations. This entails providing ongoing education and training for staff and board members, reimagining organizational structures and processes, and committing to centering and amplifying marginalized voices from inception, not as tokenistic gestures.

At Design for Social Impact, we've made it our mission to support organizations committed to designing equity-centered programs, policies, research, and learning initiatives. Through online courses, customized workshops, strategic guidance, and consultancy services, we empower changemakers to embrace anti-oppressive practices authentically and effectively.

But our commitment doesn't end there. We're dedicated to walking the talk by redistributing a percentage of our revenue annually to grassroots community groups and creating pathways for alumni from underserved backgrounds to collaborate with us and receive fair compensation for their contributions.

Visit our website to learn more about our work, or reach out to me directly  at [email protected] to explore potential partnerships.

We want your equity challenges.  

You may be grappling with how to make your programs more participatory;  designing a new research project and want to make sure it is inclusive and non -extractive or you may want to set up youth-, or community-led advisory structures but don't know where to start.

Tell us your problems!

We've put together a super simple form here where you can submit your social impact design challenge to us. You'll receive fresh perspectives and innovative solutions from brilliant minds, and they will have the opportunity to put theory into practice.

Together, let's dismantle oppressive systems and build a more just and equitable world.

#socialimpact #nonprofits #equity #antiracism #antioppression


Get actionable SocialĀ impact adviceĀ delivered to your inbox.

Creating Social Impact is a Journey, Not a Destination. Let us be your bi-weekly guide, offering bite-sized insights, stories, and opportunities to help you make a lasting difference. Sign up for our newsletter on Design for Social Impact and join us in the marathon for a more just and equitable world.

We hate SPAM. We will never sell your information, for any reason.