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  • Writer's pictureYoo-Jin Kang

Make Affinity Groups Part of Your 2021 Resolutions

Updated: Dec 16, 2020

We're mid-December and 2020 is thankfully coming to an end. Now, more than ever, we should all be thinking ahead to 2021 and beyond. For some, this year was a year of awakening, uprooting, and deep reflection as our nation faced a global pandemic, uprisings for racial justice, and calls to action. This is the perfect time of year to make plans and resolutions for the year ahead!

As you consider what to do to make your organization or company more inclusive and supportive for staff and team members are the establishment of affinity groups.

Affinity Groups are employee-led resource groups that provides intentional space for staff with marginalized and historically excluded identities. Organizations can advance equity and support a diversity of backgrounds and experiences through affinity groups. These groups can center race, gender, sexuality, disability, age, and more. Affinity spaces foster safe(r) and brave(r) spaces for employees across organizational positions to connect around equity issues, opportunities for professional development, and foster a culture of celebration of identity. As organizations commit to antiracism and dismantling white supremacy culture within their work cultures, this is but one step to support staff growth and retention.

Not only can affinity spaces be a listening and reflection space, they can also be a space for cultivating change and advocacy. My experience establishing and co-leading American University's People of Color (POC) Affinity group has been one of the most affirming, humbling, and rewarding experiences in my career. Through the POC affinity group, we create a space where people can show up as their full selves and share their honest experiences working within a predominantly and culturally white organization. Some folks have shared that within this group, they've found a true space of belonging and authenticity in a way they had not felt previously.

In addition to providing space for sharing and community support, the POC Affinity group also works to bridge gaps in knowledge and connection between senior leadership, administration, and staff members around matters related to employee sense of belonging, racial climate, employee retention, and more.

Wondering what other benefits affinity groups offer?

  • Affinity groups can help organizations advance their diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) initiatives by providing a formal resource for staff and leaders to acknowledge, discuss and dismantle oppressive systems within the organization.

  • Affinity groups can help leaders identify potential blind-spots in terms of employee experience, hiring, retention, policies, and team belongingness.

  • Affinity groups provide opportunities for interdepartmental collaboration, mentorship, and relationship-building, particularly for staff and leaders who do not usually have opportunities to do so otherwise.

  • Affinity groups can create an inclusive and supportive work environment, particularly in organizations that are largely homogenous.

Ultimately, the long-term vision within any organization might be to strive toward a culture of belonging, equity and inclusion to the point where affinity groups are not needed. Until then, affinity groups can serve as invaluable spaces to begin the process of trust-building and truth-telling.

Is your organization ready to establish affinity groups as part its equity strategy and strategic plan? Connect with us to start putting theory into practice. We'd be happy to hear from you and provide you with the support needed to launch affinity groups for your community!

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