Reflections: Working at Next Street as We Strive to Become an Anti-Racist Organization

By February 11, 2021 News

At Next Street, we believe that economic prosperity and racial equity are inextricably linked.

That’s why, in 2019, we formed the Inclusive Impact Committee (IIC) to actively move the firm towards our shared ideals of inclusivity and diversity. Below, Account Manager Quadri Olanlege reflects on the progress we’ve made so far, and the work still to be done.

 

My name is Quadri Olanlege. I am an Account Manager with Next Street at the NYC Business Solutions Center in Jamaica, Queens. Over the last two years, I’ve been working to educate clients on what it means to become an entrepreneur and the various resources available to help you do so in NYC. 

I started at Next Street in November of 2018. Since my first few days with the firm, I was surprised by the candid display of commitment to inclusion, diversity, and equity amongst staff. Coming from my past corporate experiences it was refreshing to see a firm be transparent about its challenges and desire to improve. I have also seen real progression in the collaboration, representation, and shared understanding around racism in relation to our work. This has been through the efforts of our Inclusive Impact Committee, which I am a member of.

The Inclusive Impact Committee is one example of the intentional, thoughtful commitment to hold ourselves accountable to our firm values and becoming an anti-racist organization. This commitment paved the way for many other initiatives such as our Interwoven Workplace, designed to increase cultural interactions while connecting Next Streeters across practice areas of the firm. We also developed a ‘communities of practice’ model that similarly connected staff across practice areas and seniority levels to collaboratively drive Next Street strategy and development. Both initiatives centered on partnering staff across practice areas to leverage each other’s diverse backgrounds, experiences, and networks to better support Next Street’s mission.

Following our progress, the global pandemic, coupled with the murders of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and countless others have reinforced the urgency around addressing the systemic racial inequality that pervades all aspects of life in America. This prompted our management and Inclusive Impact Committee to want to do more. We reviewed our goals as a committee and coming out of those meetings the top priority on the list was hosting a firm-wide introduction to systemic racism to dive deeper into ways that we benefit and harm people of color in our practices. This allowed us to identify actionable next steps in our journey of becoming a fully anti-racist organization, including things we could implement immediately. These immediate actions included diversifying our own supplier pool and updating the language we use when discussing certain demographics. We also learned the importance of bringing in a third-party firm to facilitate an internal review, as it adds a level of objectivity and expertise.

The challenge we now face is how we can continue to set the standard for small business organizations. We have even brought in a third party to help hold us accountable to our commitments and build an action plan to restructure our firm’s foundation through an antiracist lens. It is clear to us that this work will take intentional and continuous effort and with the support of our leadership we plan to continue to invest in becoming an anti-racist organization.