What Does it Mean to Be Black-Led?

 SNS’ research project focused on exploring this question by engaging over 100 Black leaders across the United States. 

About the Black-Led Project

The project began in 2022 as a research project to explore more deeply what it meant to be Black-Led as a young and growing organization that does race equity work. The first phase included interviews with 27 Black Leaders: executive directors, deputy directors, race equity officers, and race equity consultants. These interviews were powerful, insightful, and educational, as we dug past the traditional qualifiers of leadership demographics to help identify:

  • How lived experience positions Black leaders for equitable leadership
  • The internal/external challenges faced by Black leaders, and
  • What actions and resources promote the success of Black-Led organizations.

The next phase in 2023 will engage nearly 100 more Black Leaders through interviews, surveys, and focus groups. We will then use our findings to develop new SNS training offerings and resources so that as many people as possible can learn and grow from this synthesis of invaluable wisdom.

Why this project is important to SNS as an organization

Through the interview process, our leaders were deeply moved by the validation of their own experiences as Black leaders, and the clarified language for the more particular nuances of responsibilities and opportunities that they have faced. As the project progressed, they also gained more confidence and conviction to lead as their authentic selves, and more clarity about their own areas for growth and improvement.

As an organization, our team processed the meaning of a “people-first organization,” which the research emphasized as a high priority for Black-Led organizations. We implemented new ways to operationalize trust-based principles of wellness, accountability, communication, and transparency. We were also reminded that commitments to this cultural disposition will be “forever work,” and that there is no finish line. We continue to be reminded and inspired by the fact that this truly is work from the inside-out: The more that we have centered these values, the greater the effects have spread throughout everything that we do, from our programming, to our board, to our external communications.

This project has become the missing puzzle piece to help actualize SNS’ mission.

A deeper, more nuanced understanding of the meaning of “Black-Led” is necessary to be in active Allyship with Black movement building – a type of Allyship needed now more than ever.

This directly informs how we at SNS deepen and expand the Allyship work that we drive as a Black-Led organization ourselves.

Why this project is important to the Allyship movement

The more we learned about the values of Black-Led organizations and how to center those values, the clearer it became that this information needed to expand beyond our small team. We decided to share our findings at our virtual Allyship Summit last Fall, and the reaction from our 100+ participants was incredible. The overwhelming feedback was that this information needed to be shared as widely as possible.

We are committed to sharing our findings from our research through training offerings and resources so that as many people as possible can learn from this important work and also deepen their understanding of what being in active Allyship with Black movement building looks like.