Special Issue of Organization Development Review, Guest Editors John Bennett, and Yabome Gilpin-Jackson
This issue was born out of the desire to serve our field at this time of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity, especially since the disruptive events of 2020. As a result, many old practices have become ineffective, much of what we think we know is challenged—how we do work, how organizations (and societies) configure, organize, and adapt to new normals are all in the spotlight. Every day, we experience, see, or learn more about global health threats, major economic upheavals, inequalities, injustice, flaws in human relations, racism, equity, and our hallmarks of governing.
We are in a space where the status quo is breaking down, there is complexity at the edge of chaos, and the “new normal”has not yet arrived. In that space, we keep yearning for a return to normalcy, where we can escape the dissonances, disturbances, trauma, and disruptions and get as quickly as possible to the other side of a new order. Yet, as Organization Development (OD) scholars and practitioners, from our conceptual backpack, methodological tool kits, and applied behavioral science roots, we know that there are ways we can contribute to organizations and the world, in and through the transition. We know that in the space between disruption and emergence, there is great possibility for transformation and opportunities to intentionally design and create the conditions for a better world. So, we asked you to respond to the call: In an Era of Transformative and Traumatic Disruptions…What Can OD Bring?
Our purpose was simply to seek guidance from OD scholars and practitioners to collectively ground us and shed light on the possibilities for the sustained impact and contribution of our field to an emerging world. This call was an attempt to help us as a field better see the system, sense the possibilities emerging, make meaning of the challenges we are collectively experiencing, and amplify our contribution to the design of a better world that works for all (Oshry, 2007).
An unprecedented 50 of you responded to the call for abstract submissions. This signals the energy for contribution that we are offering our field and we commend each and every one of you. We encourage you to continue with your work and to continue finding ways to share it with others, whether your work is profiled here or not. As a result of the tremendous response, we decided to release two volumes of this special issue with a total of twenty-two articles.
In the first issue, we highlighted twelve articles that showcased the role of OD in Times of Disruption. In this second issue, there are ten articles that speak to Justice, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (JEDI) in Organization Development. This issue of Organization Development Review scales to our role in impacting the greater whole of societal issues within organizations and beyond. As shown in the Global Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Benchmarks Report, curated by 112 experts from around the world, OD is one of five approaches responding to the need for a systemic and structural change approach and “supporting scholarship, theory, and a body of work” to address JEDI concerns (Molefi, O’Mara, & Richter, 2021, p. 12). This issue contributes to that growing response and body of work in JEDI and upholds the foundational social justice and humanizing values of our field.
Here is an overview of the articles in this issue:
- Katz and Miller provide us with a perspective about raising the bar on addressing inclusion, diversity, and systemic change by suggesting that the bar is being raised on organizations and their leaders to lead differently, to engage differently and to change the very nature of work and organizations. They identify organizational responses to Black Lives Matter and the current reality for People of Color, then identify the role of OD practitioners as key partners in the change process and how OD can assist organizations in taking transformational steps to accelerate change.
- Next, BeLue, Dix, Ahmed, Ahmed, and Taylor present a case study of a Black-created and led community-based organization located in the Promise Zone of St. Louis, Missouri. This case illustrates a consultant-client collaboration of over four decades to address social and health equity and trauma in a predominately Black community. They present the philosophical and theoretical framework that a Black-led organization employs to address historical trauma as well as lessons learned. They offer guidelines for OD practitioners who intend to work with Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) led organizations that serve disenfranchised communities.
- Oyedele and Perrone use Dialogic OD practices to engage in a field study to understand how to facilitate community interests in their call to defund the police. They present an exploratory study using applied principles of participatory action research based on interviews from key stakeholders. Insights from the findings provide a framework of strategic actions, informed by the OD lens, that will support the initial stages of a change management process around systems of community safety.
- Next, Rath and Raheja explore diversity and inclusion (D & I) from a Jungian lens of holding polar opposite masculine and feminine archetypal energies. They explore how the current times demand organizations shift from the conventional gender-focused way of dealing with D&I. This calls for focusing not just on the “WHATs” but also the “HOWs” of using OD principles in helping organizations create a diverse and inclusive environment.
- Then, Walker unpacks the pillars of white supremacy as defined in Tema Okun’s work. Walker explores both how OD practitioners may be unwittingly upholding these pillars and how they can disrupt patterns of racism or oppression in organizations. Examples of choices practitioners have to operate differently and principles of Dialogic OD that are supportive of helping organizations behave more equitably are shared. The article draws on research on power dynamics, change management, collaboration, and leadership and the author’s OD and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) practitioner experience within mission-focused organizations.
- Next, Applegate and Patterson describe the importance of white-bodied OD practitioners integrating a cultural somatics framework into their use-of-self skillset. A cultural somatics framework and practice teaches white-bodied OD practitioners how to regulate the response of their nervous system to the charge of race, allowing them to recognize and disrupt how internalized white supremacy is present in their mindset, behaviors, and actions. They discuss how a cultural somatics foundation is necessary for white-bodied OD practitioners to become more effective partners and allies to their Black, Indigenous, and People of Color colleagues in the work of imagining and creating just organizational systems and practices, and ultimately, dismantling racism in organizations and beyond.
- Next, Rosso presents promising theoretical frameworks and organizational strategies for effectively addressing Whiteness and engaging White leaders in justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI) work. Interview data from 16 JEDI leaders in healthcare and scholarly research were paired with orienting theories to develop recommendations for OD practitioners. This work shows that the most promising JEDI strategies utilize a culture change lens and incorporate a developmental model of positive, White anti-Racist identity. Recommended interventions involve a dialogic approach to build positive relationships, both among and between racial identity groups and concludes with two examples of promising interventions.
- Then, Song shares the challenges of creating meaningful inclusion within organizations by drawing upon personal experiences navigating corporate and personal identity as a remote worker and woman of color. She invites OD practitioners to leverage intersectionality as a critical framework in designing and implementing interventions. She concludes by inviting OD practitioners to reflect on a series of inquiries to help them deepen their reflection to create inclusive OD practices.
- Owusu and Wilde offer a dialogic prototype that lays out concerns about the field and practice of OD and its over-reliance on a pervasive narrative structure, the Hero’s journey, which limits our capacity to respond to the converging global crises that we face. They suggest that within OD, this is sustained by the problematic formulation of the practitioner as change agent and our alignment with power, resulting in harmful consequences for the practitioner, their clients and the world. Despite the prevalence of this singular story, there are alternative narrative structures—often arising from those with marginalized experiences and identities—that can animate a reformulation of OD practice. These narrative technologies hint at potential pathways for OD to thoughtfully and ethically contribute to a transformative integration of theory and practice.
- Finally, Vivian proposes the idea of consultant as healer, offering a framework of understanding how consultants can act as healers. The framework rests on the premise that healing is a process of making whole again. and that the actions of a healer are manifestations of love and compassion. This paper explores the components of the healer role, understanding traumatized systems, the process of helping client systems heal, and challenges of this work.
We hope that the articles in this issue contribute to your scholarship and practice and that collectively, we will continue to powerfully share the impact of OD in these times of disruption.
© 2021, Organization Development Network, Inc.