As an organization Marnita’s Table mission is to ensure that Indigenous and people of color, immigrants, the disenfranchised, the poor, the fragile, the LGBTQ+, the traditionally unheard and excluded are actively and intentionally included and valued at the policy-making and resource-sharing table.
We are honored that in our 13th year 70% of our income comes from clients who hire us to bring community together to find common ground across difference. Increasingly, that means not just catalyzing new relationships but also requires that we accurately record, reflect, and report what the comments, feedback, concerns, intentions, and sentiments of the community. This is especially essential when working with and for those from often marginalized groups as their input on for improving systems and outcomes is often ignored or sidelined in favor of changes that only help the dominant culture or maintain the status quo. It is our goal to support community efforts in inspiring investments in more effective, holistic, community-based restorative practices that are formed bottom up and not top down.
Here are the improved processes we are immediately undertaking in order to ensure maximal effectiveness and accountability on the part of system decision makers.
We have found seven areas where we can substantially improve our engagement and relationships with and in community when acting as the convener and liaison between community members and institutions, systems, and resource holders.
1. On a go forward basis, we will report directly to the community via our website and our soon to be launched online reporting portal “IZI Access” to our “Big Books of Everything.” This will ensure the community has unfiltered access to and is able to review the feedback given during the conversations without having to go request reportage or documentation from systems players and institutions. We will directly report all results to participants in the way you most desire hearing the information. (It does take two to three weeks to synthesize and download all of the feedback received during our process).
2. If the system holder is seeking to do more than catalyze new connections, the systems decision makers will be required to explicitly state how it plans to maintain relations and/or use the feedback provided by authentic community voices, and what the next steps will be after receiving said feedback.
3. We will be giving even more intentional pushback against extractive relationships. Community will not be subjected to repetitive community engagement due to new leadership or due to inaction on the part of the system calling for “engagement.”
4. Incorporate how the community itself would like to hold the systems participants accountable for breaches of trust. We acknowledge accountability does not always look the same in every relationship between different communities and institutions or systems. When system holders ignore feedback it is the community who should determine what the most restorative and authentic accountability process should be.
5. If systems fail to honor our community engagement process we will look for independent funding to continue welcoming and providing space for authentic community voices. We strive to continue to bring our transformative model of Intentional Social Interaction (IZI) and authentic welcome to communities even when relationships with system holders are no longer sustainable.
6. After an IZI or series of IZIs Marnita’s Table will explicitly ask the community what the next steps should be including how and when community members should be contacted and how they would like their privacy managed.
7. We are committed to protecting your voices, especially those of you who are marginalized and and often excluded from the decision making table. In keeping with standard best practices, sensitive information is de-identified in all reports. All guests explicitly have to opt into sharing their contact information with systems holders and one another if they decide to be a part of a community advisory board or other initiative. We will only share contact information as it is necessary for any collaborative efforts between bubbles of isolation role and only after YOUR explicit opt-in.
We seek to continually improve our ability to serve the community. What additional steps do YOU recommend that we can undertake to ensure that YOUR voices are honored and are at the forefront of all community engagement processes?
If you or anyone you know is interested in what authentic and accountable community engagement can look like, please consider liking us on facebook.com/MarnitasTable, contributing and attending our upcoming events!