iF Insights: iF's DEI Journey
Intentional Futures' DEI Journey
Phases #1 and #2
“Oftentimes when talking about race-related issues, we immediately feel consumed by emotions. We feel rage and disgust from the undercurrent of the history of oppression and slavery, and our thoughts go to the questions and confusion.”
- iFster
Phase #2: A Brief History of Race

Intentional Futures as an agency and collection of individuals is on a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) journey. The intent of this journey is to evaluate the current state of our policies, practices, client work and culture with a DEI lens, but also to celebrate the unique cultures, backgrounds and expertise of iFsters. As we continue on this journey of self discovery and critical thinking, we invite you to join us and welcome all that you will contribute to make this a transformative and fulfilling process.

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We’d like to first note that iF’s DEI work now falls under the title of “Cultural Integration and Awareness.” Jackie, iF's Cultural Integration and Awareness Director explains the decision for the change as follows: “'DEI' tends to feel focused on destination or outcome so much that we neglect the journey and process that it takes to get there. We want to recognize that our practice at iF is intended to be a process, thus the name change.”

Cultural awareness is the ability to perceive the differences that exist between cultures. It facilitates the understanding of how one’s culture differs from others and the ways in which they interact.

Cultural integration is the process through which one leverages their awareness in practical ways to engage with, integrate, and validate a culture different from their own. This could include the responsible adoption of another culture or its integration into the dominant culture without erasure or appropriation.

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After an introductory session where iFsters were allowed the space to share about themselves and learn about each other, a three-hour training session titled “A Brief History of Race in America” was facilitated by Jackie St. Louis, Director of Cultural Integration and Awareness. The goals of this session were:

  • Learn about the early history of America
  • Learn how and why race was constructed &
  • How it continues to shape America
  • How race and racism manifests in our modern society
  • Develop a framework for understanding socio-cultural-economic dynamics within a modern context

This training centers the history of Indigenous Americans and people of African descent because of the uniqueness of their experiences in North America, and the significance of their story as it relates to the creation of white dominant culture. These two groups more than any other bore the brunt of the brutality at the foundation of North American history, including the slave trade and Indigenous American genocide. The stories of these two groups of people in the United States are indispensable in understanding the country’s origin, and race and culture as they exist today. The suffering and experiences of other marginalized groups were acknowledged and briefly touched upon but not explored in-depth due to time constraints. Participants were encouraged to continue their learning journey by pursuing further knowledge on this subject matter.

iFsters were challenged to confront not only the past of the United States but also racism’s new frontier and how it manifests in white privilege, hyper-activism, white guilt and and white fragility.

At three points in the three hour period, participants were asked to evaluate and share on the basis of:

  1. Head: what I think, or the intellectual
  2. Heart: what I feel, or the emotions
  3. Hands: what I do, or the actions

This sharing activity was designed to engage the many expressed feelings of sadness but also expressed their desire to further the discussion and effect positive change.

This session “The History of Race in North America” aims to help participants from the organization develop a lens through which they can evaluate equity and apply it to their lives and work, and create a common starting point from which to do so.

The immediate next step was establishing small groups of iFsters to continue the discussion that began during the training. These groups will be led by volunteers who will support this process by facilitating and taking notes that can be shared out to the entire company. We thank all iFsters for their participation and are look forward to sharing what we learn from the small group gatherings.

List of resources shared by iFsters to educate, act and donate, particularly specific to the Native communities of the Seattle area:

  • King Leopold's Ghost is a compelling book on Belgium's exploitation:
  • Eighth Generation provides a strong, ethical alternative to “Native-inspired” art and products through its artist-centric approach and 100% Native designed products.
  • Real Rent calls on people who live and work in Seattle to make rent payments to the Duwamish Tribe. Though the city named for the Duwamish leader Chief Seattle thrives.
  • Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration, By Isabel Wilkerson.
  • The Duwamish Tribe of Indians was recently denied federal recognition, but they know who they are. Here’s 10 things you should know about them.
  • Seattle Urban Native Nonprofits (SUNN) collaborative serves the Seattle-King County area, a region that is home to a thriving and vibrant Native community encompassing a rich blend of Tribal cultures, multi-generational families, and individuals with many talents and professions.
  • Little Justice Leaders (subscription box) and Honest History (magazine) are kid-resources to learn about race and justice
  • They Were Her Property by author Stephanie E. Jones Rogers- A bold and searing investigation into the role of white women in the American slave economy.
“The hope is that this will create a foundation of trust that we can build on with other DEI exercises, and this was a beautiful way to start that.”
-Victoria Burwell, President, Intentional Futures
Phase #1: The Tree of Life

Intentional Futures as an agency and collection of individuals is on a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) journey. The intent of this journey is to evaluate the current state of our policies, practices, client work and culture with a DEI lens, but also to celebrate the unique cultures, backgrounds and expertise of iFsters. As we continue on this journey of self discovery and critical thinking, we invite you to join us and welcome all that you will contribute to make this a transformative and fulfilling process.

During the first phase of iF’s DEI work, we spent five hours together over two sessions with the following goals:

  1. Organizational members increase personal self-awareness
  2. Organizational members experience each other as individuals

This “Tree of Life” activity was designed to help members of the organization reflect on their life and how it has come to shape them as individuals. Prior to meeting, all iFsters were provided with questions for the activity. iFsters were asked to envision themselves as trees: the roots are the past which shaped you, the trunk is what makes you who you are, and the branches are your connection to your community and the world. All participants had up to seven minutes for their presentation. Observers were not allowed to ask any questions and they listened silently until it was their turn to present. The result was a powerful experience in discovery and connection– one that is difficult to come by in a virtual workplace.

Not only did iFsters learn about their coworkers in an entirely new light, they began to understand that bringing your whole self to work is not an easy or normalized task for many: “It allowed us to collectively acknowledge that everyone is dealing with their own things in the background, and I think the exercise allowed us to do it in a healthy way that didn’t force us to compare. Our experiences shape how we see the world, which is important to keep in mind when you have tension with a colleague.” -Tynan Gable, Strategist

As the company moves forward in this journey, our understanding of ourselves as trees, and the experiences that have shaped and driven us will serve as a foundation from which we can collectively begin to explore the concepts of DEI: “The hope is that this will create a foundation of trust that we can build on with other DEI exercises, and this was a beautiful way to start that.” -Victoria Burwell, President

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Jackie St. Louis, iF’s Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and the Tree of Life’s creator reflects on the intention behind the activity:

“Racial Equity is both a process and a destination. Though seemingly straightforward, attaining a state of true equity has proven elusive. The United States of America is among the most racially and culturally diverse countries in the world and this is increasingly reflected in the places that we work. The events that led up to the summer of 2020 brought to the fore, the ongoing challenges we face as a nation in relating to each other. Cultural clashes do not always end in death but are almost always violent. The reasons for which we have these negative interactions have their root in longstanding beliefs about human beings-what makes them alike and different. To say that our problem is one of distrust would not be too far off the mark.

To be a part of the solution, many organizations embarked on their respective journeys toward being more equitable and antiracist, with perhaps many having done so exclusively focused on the destination rather than the journey to get there. There is a reason why the scourge of sins past still cast a shadow over this country in the form of discrimination, racism, and gender-based oppression. Despite all our advances and progress, we collectively hold on to the manufactured belief that we are fundamentally different based on: race, gender, age, ability, culture, ethnicity, identity, and socio-economic status. Yes, we are different, but not in ways that would account for or justify our mistreatment of each other.

The “Tree of Life” activity was designed for the specific purpose of bringing together people collectively moving toward the destination, to ground ourselves in the shared humanity of each other and for developing a greater understanding of our own internal processes and motivations. We hope that after having done this activity, participants would have realized their endless capacity to extend grace toward each other in humility and be resolute in doing the same for themselves.”

To learn more about Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Intentional Futures, send a message to jackie@intentionalfutures.com