Sapna speaking behind a podium


Thank you for visiting my blog! These are my personal musings about identifying and uprooting systemic inequities. I hope you find them fun and thought-provoking.

Moving From Scare City to Abundance

This is a love letter to my fellow DEI Consultants.

Lately, with all the pushback to DEI, I’ve been thinking a lot about scarcity. Scare City, more like, where fear is either a constant undercurrent or primary driver of our actions: the fear of running out of what we need, of losing income or health care, of losing identity or value, of not having or being enough. White Supremacy Culture is the capital of Scare City.It feeds us myths such as zero-sum thinking, wedge-issues, urgency, and bootstrap mentality to keep our energy low, so our resistance to the system is also low. It narrows our vision so we don’t notice other ways of doing and being; we don’t even notice our fellow humans. We only have enough energy to focus on surviving in the now. When we are in Scare City, we feel wrung out, burnt out. We feel alone. 

And that’s exactly what this backlash wants us to believe: that we are alone. It’s trying to divide us and break our networks by pitting us against each other for resources. It’s trying to scare us into retracting and recanting our values, to dilute our actions and center the comfort of those in power, to question the legitimacy of our work and of each other. The backlash wants us to see each other only as competitors for dwindling RFPs rather than collaborators who can complement each other’s work for greater social health. The backlash is pushing us towards Scare City.

In fall 2023, I was on that path without even realizing it. Like so many of us, I was hearing increased horror stories of whole DEI departments being laid off, doxing/trolling of DEI professionals, legal actions being taken against large and small companies for their equity efforts, etc. I was also noticing fewer inquiries in my inbox, and my budgetary outlook didn’t feel as stable as it had the year before. And, as a solopreneur, I started to feel more and more isolated without the support of a team to process this rapidly shifting landscape. I had a constant, low-grade fear that grew with each news cycle. I began shifting into a defensive posture, and it felt harder and more dangerous to say what needed to be said. And holding that fear was slowly but surely depleting my energy. Even my body was giving me physical signs of scarcity through flare ups of persistent pain. I didn’t consciously notice it at the time but in hindsight I see now that I was headed towards Scare City. 

It was at this time of growing fear that I was invited to attend an in-person convening of DEI practitioners, specifically to be in community with each other and think deeply about the needs of the sector. The conveners saw the trend that I and so many others were facing. They believed that the best answers would come from being in the same space, building relationships, and sharing energy and ideas. The gathering was small and intimate. The humans in the room came from across the country and were creative, kind, direct, generous, and provocative. We threw agendas out the window and focused on human connections. We ate and laughed and cried and thought expansively and collaboratively. We took the same advice we so often gave our clients and we moved at the speed of trust. In short, we spent 3 days together in Abundance. 

vivid painting of a lion resting under a colorful tree in bloom

Being in Abundance is the opposite of living in Scare City. Abundance centers and embraces our humanity. It allows us to invest in and derive strength from interpersonal connections. It recognizes that having strong networks of support allows us to see beyond our individual perspectives: to see more options, more choices, and more resources. And having a more expansive perspective gives solace while also reminding us of our potential, which helps keep us accountable to a higher standard. Abundance allows us to trust and be trusted, which in turn creates stronger interpersonal bonds. And these are the bonds we can lean into and rely on when fear threatens to sap our strength and energy. Scarcity wants us to think and act as if we are alone; but when we are in a state of Abundance, we know that we are never alone. 

I went into that convening tired and scared. I left shifted. In 3 days, I felt more nourished and connected to my colleagues and my work. I drew inspiration from others’ experiences and saw more options, more creativity, and more ways to flex with the changing landscape. I felt held by my colleagues, both with compassion as well as to a higher standard of accountability than I could hold for myself when in a place of fear. It was a form of professional self-care that I didn’t know I needed. It reminded me that in these times of backlash when our work is being attacked, when we are being told that we need to be in greater competition with each other for fewer resources, when we are made to feel at risk if we even dare to speak our values out loud, that is exactly when we need to double down on our networks, invest in our interpersonal connections, increase our collaborations, and hold each other with compassionate accountability. When we are together, we can see this backlash for what it really is: another myth straight from Scare City.

So, my big takeaway from that convening: I am committed to finding more ways to continue being in community with you all so we can collaborate and complement each other’s work. Two years from now, I want to find myself more connected and with greater networks of support and accountability than I was 2 years ago. Because I know this backlash will fade. It will ebb and flow just like they always do; which also means it will come back again in the future. And when it does, I do not want to find myself in Scare City again; instead, I want to be stronger and more invested with you in our shared Abundance.

If you feel the same way, here are a few networks to join:

Please share other opportunities in the comments. Thank you and be well together. 

Header image: Dryland image from rawpixel, licensed under CC0
Second image: Abundance Tree, painting by Anvar Saifutdinov, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0