At NRGI, we envision a world where natural resources enable fair, prosperous and sustainable societies – rather than undermine them. We seek to address long-standing inequities and power imbalances through informed, inclusive decision-making about the resource and energy sectors.
Recognizing that the extractive industries are inextricably linked with the colonial past and resulting inequities which persist at a global scale, we believe that adopting a diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) lens is fundamental to our work. As actors in the resource governance field, it is our responsibility to “walk the talk” internally and help make the extractive industries more just.
To understand our role and to plan our actions, NRGI has been looking inward for the past year to understand whether we are doing enough and whether our approach is right.
A year of learning and progress
Lasting change can’t happen without an understanding of the tensions that underlie inequities. Under the leadership of NRGI’s board and senior management, NRGI staff from around the world established a DEI action group, guided by the expertise of Under the Rainbow, an international social change consultancy based in South Africa. Through monthly learning sessions, members of the action group deepened our understanding of some of the key issues that contribute to perpetuating inequity across society and in workplaces. These included sessions on power and privilege, unconscious bias, decolonization and intersectionality, and conversations about how to avoid discrimination, racism and gender bias, among others, in our daily work.
We then opened the conversation to all NRGI staff, board members and several partner organizations through a consultative process through which they could share experiences and priorities for action. Our approach included a demographic survey, one-on-one interviews with staff, and a review of internal policies and practices.
Under the Rainbow’s analysis surfaced NRGI’s DEI-related strengths and areas for improvement. In terms of NRGI staff, Under the Rainbow found an equitable gender balance and diversity in our ancestral origins, with a majority of staff reporting backgrounds in the Global South. This overall composition is however not reflected in NRGI’s senior management, which is dominated by the Global North. Additionally, the analysis found that there is some homogeneity in our class backgrounds and education. And very few staff identify as disabled, or as members of sexual or gender minorities. Another challenging area is that of the composition of NRGI’s advisory council and governing boards, which are majority male and Northern, with limited ethnocultural diversity.
The analysis also found that there is an imbalance in Global North-Global South dynamics when it comes to structure, culture, decision-making and knowledge production. As an organization known for our knowledge production, it is notable that standards of rigor are seen as being set by staff in the Global North. While credibility and rigor are key to our reputation and impact, the question of who produces knowledge and what knowledge is cited is at the heart of this issue.
Exacerbating this North-South dynamic is the predominance of English as a working language at NRGI. While a common language is needed, concern about language ability can lead to some staff not speaking up, or to share their perspective and expertise, and can contribute to a sense of lack of trust and safety.
Our action group drew upon these conversations, consultations and analyses to create an action plan which will set the course for NRGI’s work on DEI, articulating our ambitions and what our expected outcomes are.
Our commitments to advancing diversity, equity and inclusion
With our DEI action plan we aim to respond to these findings, by both leveraging our strengths and confronting the challenges surfaced. The plan will contribute to achieving the following goals:
Goal 1.NRGI staff use shared language and enact a common understanding of DEI ambitions.
Create spaces for safe, courageous DEI-related learning in an inclusive manner
Shared values reflect DEI ambitions and are enacted through our policies, practices and ways of working
Goal 2.NRGI’s culture is inclusive, its practices leverage and augment diversity, and current power imbalances are addressed.
Increase multilingualism and inclusion through internal communications channels, meeting practices and valuing different expertise and experience
NRGI’s external communications are multilingual, reflecting and showcasing a diversity of global perspectives and voices
Voices and knowledge originating in NRGI’s program countries play a more prominent role in shaping NRGI’s strategy, priorities and contributions to global debates
NRGI’s collaboration around research and analysis is equitable, constructive and taps more diverse sources of expertise
Goal 3.NRGI’s staff, boards and advisory council reflect its values and ambitions concerning DEI.
NRGI recruitment and retention practices advance DEI goals and reduce unconscious bias
NRGI boards and advisory council are more diverse and inclusive
Mindful of the many external forces we face, NRGI’s 2022 DEI action plan identifies what concrete steps we can take to effectively improve the state of DEI in our own organization and to help shape the resource governance field more broadly.
NRGI on its own can’t change deep-rooted societal inequities. But we have a part to play in redressing past injustices and preventing future ones. Our action plan includes some initial steps that NRGI will take to contribute to greater equity in our field. For example: platforming more diverse voices in our content and creating working groups to ensure that our strategy and programming is more inclusive. We will also strive to integrate this work into the substance of our programming, including on a just energy transition, mitigating gender-differentiated impacts and expanding our stakeholder engagement to include marginalized groups.
Staying accountable to our commitments
NRGI is committed to learning and to ensuring that our plan isn’t a box-ticking exercise. Being transparent is part of staying accountable to ourselves, our partners and donors. As we implement our action plan, we will continue to listen to colleagues and partners, reviewing and adapting our DEI work regularly, and updating the plan annually. We will review progress on the implementation of the action plan monthly and we will share updates of our progress on our website. We recognize that success is a continuous journey to delivering lasting change, and we’re excited to have begun.
NRGI’s increased work on diversity, equity and inclusion has been made possible with generous financial support from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.