Julian Newman is a storyteller and the founder and CEO of Culture Creative, a award- winning firm specializing in diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) consulting. He chats with MiBiz Associate Publisher Justine Burdette and Staff Writer Kate Carlson about why businesses need to treat DEIB work like all other operational cadences, how to build a future based on hope, and where West Michigan needs to put effort to move from “cosmetic inclusion” to “catalytic inclusion.”
How Newman got into diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging (DEIB) consulting:
Well, I got into it accidentally. Fifteen years ago, I moved from the West Coast to the Midwest, and my older daughters were starting elementary school and the experience that they were having at school was very different than the one that I had when I was growing up. They were experiencing racism and discrimination in ways that I didn’t think we were doing anymore. And in my efforts to advocate for them, I got connected to some local organizations and that really started the ball rolling in terms of me being a part of this work and it becoming part of my life’s work.
How Culture Creative approaches this work differently:
Much of this (DEIB) work does such an extraordinary job of focusing on what has happened — the history of things and how this impacts what is happening. But the thing that we don’t focus on to the same degree is what happens next. And so I think it’s important for us to talk about history, but we also have to talk about the ‘can be.’ Hope is so important in terms of giving us the inertia or the catalyst to pressing the challenges of change.
Parameters that Culture Creative suggests that businesses use to frame DEIB initiatives:
I think there are three different focuses areas: First, who’s at the table? When I talk about table, I talk about the decision-making table, the table of influence and transformation and change for an organization. So, who’s there? In addition to who’s there, second: Who is making decisions? So it’s one thing to have people present, but it’s another thing to have the people that are present actually have power and influence to do things at the table. And third: Who is it influencing, who is it impacting?
About organizational fatigue while engaging in DEIB work:
I think we have to look at diversity, inclusion, equity and belonging not just as, ‘OK, we trained you to learn about historical injustices that all of us have inherited.’ When I see this work being done that way, then I get tired. When I see it that way, it feels like, ‘OK, here we go. We’re going to talk about what we’re not doing versus what we have the opportunity to do.’ We must recognize there are some things that, though they have present value, the continual exercise of those things have value into the future too.