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Exploring Nonprofit Decolonization Concepts

In 2020, the black lives matter movement inspired us to further prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) conversations during our board and staff meetings. It then led us to explore concepts of decolonization by researching authors and speakers on the subject. During our board retreat in April 2023, we collectively decided to consider these concepts as an integral part of shaping the future of Play for Peace as we commemorate our 25th anniversary this September.

To this end, director Sarah Gough and community members Agyatmitra and Katrin Huenemoerder met with a group of students from a Knowledge Management Institute Organization Development course led by John Hovell and Sharon Varney to develop a plan for tangible actions. We are now establishing a Council made up of community members, to review, reflect upon, and incorporate these concepts into our practices where they are missing. We are excited to embark on this transformative journey as we strive to enhance Play for Peace's positive impact on the world.

The process of decolonization can support a nonprofit organization in several ways. Decolonization involves recognizing and dismantling the structures and ideologies that perpetuate colonialism and its effects. By incorporating decolonial practices and perspectives, nonprofits can create a more equitable and inclusive environment that better serves marginalized communities. Here are some ways in which the process of decolonization can support our work:

1. Reevaluating power dynamics: Decolonization calls for a critical examination of power imbalances within an organization. Nonprofits can engage in introspection to identify how power is distributed and ensure that decision-making processes are more inclusive and participatory. This may involve sharing decision-making authority with marginalized communities and amplifying their voices.

2. Redefining knowledge systems: Decolonization challenges dominant knowledge systems that privilege Western perspectives and marginalize indigenous knowledge. Nonprofits can actively seek out diverse knowledge sources and incorporate them into their programs and initiatives. This might involve engaging with local communities, learning from indigenous knowledge holders, and valuing diverse cultural perspectives.

3. Centering community ownership: Decolonization emphasizes community self-determination and ownership. Nonprofits can strive to build genuine partnerships with the communities they serve, involving them in the design, implementation, and evaluation of programs. This collaborative approach ensures that initiatives are culturally appropriate, relevant, and sustainable.

4. Addressing systemic inequities: Decolonization involves acknowledging and addressing the systemic inequities that stem from colonial legacies. Nonprofits can adopt an intersectional lens to understand how multiple forms of oppression intersect and affect marginalized communities. They can work towards addressing these inequities through advocacy, policy change, and resource allocation.

5. Restoring cultural autonomy: Decolonization recognizes the importance of cultural autonomy and revitalization. Nonprofits can support this process by promoting cultural preservation, language revitalization, and the celebration of diverse cultural practices. This can include organizing cultural events, supporting traditional arts and crafts, and providing platforms for cultural expression.

We know that decolonization is an ongoing process that requires continuous learning, self-reflection, and adaptation. We are creating the Council in order to engage in dialogue, listen to marginalized communities, and be open to feedback and critique as we work towards decolonization. We acknowledge and are grateful for the resources and materials available  from that have guided this process including Renee Hatcher, Rose Worden, Patrick Saez, Neesha Powell and Virginia Thomas.

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