Welcome everyone to the Coworking Podcast. In light of the recent events, with racism, police brutality and of course, it so happens June is also about Pride month. For this episode, our guest is Anaia Daigle of the Indy Hall team from Philadelphia, USA.
Anaia will be talking about how it is to be an ally and be part of the resisting movement against racism. And how being an ally is not just calling out people about their racism or homophobia but also having to teach and learn how to be a more understanding and accepting community.
She also shares about how their team at Indy Hall is doing all they can to educate their community and be more inclusive.
What’s the difference between an ally, and maybe say a sympathizer?
That’s a great question. I think ‘ally’ is the most general term we have to describe somebody who is willing to actually change something in their personal life in order to move towards a more peaceful and just world, for the immediate benefit of people who experience different things than the ally. So straight person who can be an ally to queer people, a white person can be an ally to people of colour.
Very generally, being an ‘ally’ is caring about issues that do not Immediately affect your personal life. When you take that farther, and what I think ‘ally’ should mean, is someone who is willing to challenge ideas of racism and other ideas that keep marginalized people marginalized in cultural and systemic ways.
Being an ‘ally’ should mean being willing to challenge those ideas, and actually make personal sacrifices to meet those challenges.
Željko Crnjaković 0:03
Hello ladies and gentlemen and welcome to this week’s episode of the Coworking Values podcast . The sweetest smelling coworking podcast in the world. And this is the third in our series of podcasts based around Black Lives Matter, and inclusion and diversity. And the further we get into this journey, I’m still not sure how we’ve managed to give it that term of inclusion and diversity like a policy, when really we should have been anti-racist all along. And as I’ve said in different places, I am learning how to be anti-racist, even though I’m married to someone not from my country, and thought I knew about this stuff and I’ve read all the right books. As this topic has been thrust out into the public consciousness.
This episode is brought to you by Cobot, a leading management software for coworking spaces, office hubs and flexible workspaces around the world. One of the best things about Cobot is that it is produced by people who manage a coworking space and know the ins and outs of the main problems and issues, bugging coworking managers. So if you want more time for your co-workers and community, check out cobot @cobot.me and take your coworking management to the next level.
Bernie J Mitchel 1:25
I’m absolutely amazed at some of the things people are saying in retaliation to this movement. And then I’m also overjoyed at the massive response that we’ve had, to people writing to this podcast and seeing in the media and stuff like that. And yeah, this podcast is about coworking. Me and a lot of people connected to do this podcast, like scrambling around to find someone who could say what do we actually do in our coworking space other than liking Instagram posts and I was in an Indy Hall breakfast call with Alex and Marcela and lots of people, I can’t remember their names now… And he said what are you doing in Indy Hall? And I said, Oh, can you talk about that? And he said, no. But I can and here we are. So in Anaia, and what are you known for? And what would you like to be known for at this moment in time?
Anaia Daigle 2:21
Oh, my goodness. I don’t know what I’m known for. Not sure that I’m known. So, maybe it’s one answer to both questions. I’d love to be known for using techniques of participatory learning to make everybody’s life easier that I come in contact with.
Bernie J Mitchel 2:46
That’s a good answer. So that’s kind of what we’re going to do today. And before we go on, even with friends I’ve been talking to about race and stuff, for ages. I’d be more happy sky diving naked into a shopping centre than I would be talking about some aspects of this. And how do you feel about that? Are you really cool about this? Or is this like, momentarily awkward as we unpick 400 years of life?
Anaia Daigle 3:17
It’s definitely not comfortable, maybe awkward is not quite the right word, but it’s definitely uncomfortable, but something I’ve personally been really trying to commit to and trying to make a lifetime’s worth of commitment to in the past couple of weeks. Is – How to kind of make peace with it? The discomfort is just really a part of this and this discomfort is just not that big of a deal? I’d like to be making bigger sacrifices where just comfort is not the worst thing that I experienced.
Bernie J Mitchel 4:00
I think I’ve mentioned in every podcast that my son’s best friend from nursery – so he’s nine now- his best friend at school and nursery is nine, his mother is Nigerian and his father is Ghanaian. And then British black people are like, third generation here. And a few years ago, he said, Oh yeah, I’m going to have to have the talk with Nathan. I said; what do you mean the talk? is that like about the birds and the bees? All black parents have to have a talk with their kid about, if ever they’re involved with the police. It’s like, no, stand still be good. And I was like –What do you mean? We live in pretty much near the center of London. I was absolutely amazed it never occurred to me that someone I knew would be in that situation. And, why I say that is because I felt awkward. I didn’t know. He was like everyone knows, don’t you? So, before I tangent on my endless stream of anecdotes, so, in Indy Hall, you instigated this – Let’s talk about anti-racism and how it came in from long? How to develop a very anti-racist community. And my understanding is that, and correct me if I’m wrong here again, is that, Indy Hall is pretty white, and Philadelphia is a pretty black city. Is that correct?
Anaia Daigle 5:32
Bernie J Mitchel 5:36
People from Indy Hall have been on this podcast, even with everything you do, you still managed to end up with a building full of white people. And I guess that was one of the things that instigated what you’re doing.
Anaia Daigle 5:48
Bernie J Mitchel 5:50
So just talk us through the process, as if you’re standing in standing in front of a class and going “well, boys and girls, here’s what we’re going to do today”. My hope is that we can hack it together. Because we did no preparation for this podcast either than send an email. If I’m a community manager in any coworking space, primarily in Europe, how can I go about getting this conversation going? Which I imagine, and what was touched is the awkwardness, at the beginning of this podcast, people may feel awkward doing it…
Anaia Daigle 6:23
Absolutely. So, three weeks ago, things started really popping off in Philadelphia following the murder of George Floyd there were protests and what we’ll call moving and writing even though I have some conflict with those terms. All over the country and absolutely here in Philadelphia as well. And something that really kicked me into gear is the conversation became, not even before, the conversation started amongst our members, at least amongst our members in a public forum, which is our Slack community. People hopped online and talked about the property damage. And I don’t want to overly critique that because I’ve lived in Philadelphia my whole life, it was absolutely scary and upsetting to see property destroyed. But for that to start the conversation with truly no mention of police brutality, even at all, not even to mention, the specifics of what led up to this most gruesome outbreak of public outcry in response to police brutality. And it isn’t over. I mean, there have been in the past three weeks, but that first weekend was a very dramatic and public one. Whereas since then, I don’t think protests have been getting as much publicity.
But we, the Indy Hall team kind of had a very quick conversation that Sunday night of: okay, we’re going to kind of throw out everything we were thinking about this following week on scheduling all of our emails, our weekly announcements email, changing up how we do social media, basically just pressing pause on everything. Including a pretty big event that was supposed to be that Friday. Because we need to take time to be intentional about how we represent ourselves as the team community right now. Which I think is kind of the bare minimum, and I will say that Indy Hall as a community, as we’ve already said, it’s primarily white to a huge degree. And my first priority was feelings of comfort and safety of the very, very few black people who are a part of our community. And for my part, that feeling resulted in an email that I sent out to everybody, which I think was the Wednesday after the Sunday that the Indy Hall team had this kind of conversation of: alright, we’re pressing pause. We got to rethink our next steps… And I just voiced the discomfort that I felt of seeing how the conversation played out over a member forum, and how it felt. I felt pushed by that discussion, because there were multiple people having this discussion, and very few people really responding to it in the moment. And I really understand now that I’m choosing to give everybody the benefit of the doubt. I’m choosing to trust everybody’s intentions because they’re a part of my community. And I think that that’s a really important starting place. And I can’t go into wanting to make space for people if I don’t trust them essentially. But I just very publicly stated, like that sucked. I hated that. And I know I’m not alone in that. And as painful as that was for me to experience as an ally, it could have been a lot worse for a member of our community. I am an ally, but I’m also in a position of authority in this community where, as much as we don’t put a hierarchy between ourselves as the team and the members, the fact that I have everybody’s email and I have everybody’s attention. I have more access to conversation.
Bernie J Mitchel 12:02
There’s two things you said there is one about having more access to the conversation, which I think is something that, owners, operators and community managers can, I don’t want to say to save power, but like, you know, can instigate things. And also, can you explain the term ally because that’s been, if you’re paying attention, that’s been used a lot, but if you’re not paying attention, what’s the difference between an ally and maybe you could say a sympathizer?
Anaia Daigle 12:37
That’s a great question. I think a lot of people, and in other communities that I’ve been part of, an ally and sympathizer have actually really meant the same thing and accomplice is the new version of what ally should mean. Because honestly, when I think about ally, I wonder how many Europeans were aware of this, but after Trump was elected there was this thing of wearing a safety pin, visibly… Like pin a safety pin to yourself so that people, when looking at you, know that essentially you didn’t vote for Trump but also that you’re an ally, and that you disapprove strongly of all these racist antics.
Bernie J Mitchel 13:30
For the resist movement? There was a lot of stuff about resist when Trump arrived.
Anaia Daigle 13:38
Yeah, I really do not know how the safety pins thing works. I think the ally is kind of the most general term we have to describe somebody who is willing to actually do something in their personal life. To move towards a more peaceful and just world. For people whose experience is different than what we all know. A straight person can be an ally to queer people, a white person can be an ally to people of colour. So it’s caring about things that won’t immediately affect your personal life. And when you take that further, what people, and I think it should mean is, somebody who’s willing to challenge ideas of racism and ideas that keep marginalized people marginalized and systemic and cultural ways. Being willing to challenge that and actually make personal sacrifices to meet those challenges.
Bernie J Mitchel 14:57
There’s been a few conversations, like very light conversations. It’s not like I stood up in a train station and put myself at personal physical risk, but I was just drawing attention to shortcomings and certain things that are going on. And I felt just before bringing it up, I would rather give myself an electric shock than say what I’m about to say – and then when I said it, people were going Oh, yeah, you’re right. And then they said, we can’t really do anything about it right now, but I know you’re right. And then I’ve already opened the gate. So I’m like, well, you probably could if you wanted to, and I felt a bit of a shit head for saying that because making people wrong is not the way to go about this. And just because I think I’m so perfect, things come out my mouth in completely the wrong order. As many people listen to this podcast, and if you make someone wrong, you’re not getting anywhere. Think of all the classic heroic stories, you hear of people putting themselves at massive personal risk. And it’s not a lot to ask in the big scheme of things in your group of friends, is what I’m saying.
Anaia Daigle 16:17
Right, and if there’s a starting place for everybody, and it’s a different starting place for everybody because we all have different tools at our disposal. And this is really important to share a quote because I’ve been speaking for myself for far too long already in this. This is by Courtney Arial, who is a writer. I found an article she wrote years ago and it’s called For Our White Friends Desiring to be Allies. In this she very tenderly calls in a lot of calling in versus calling out, like calling in – and that’s what I tried to do in my email as well of calling somebody out with the intention of keeping them within the community, in a way, versus cancel culture and calling out or excommunicating somebody or cancelling them or whatever. So she has a lot of very, very kindly written critique for white people who desire to be allies, and this quote, I will put into my email that I send to everybody in Indy Hall.
‘Above all, I urge you keep trying, you’re going to make it through, expect this, keep showing up, be compassionate, lead with empathy always, keep learning and growing. If you do this, I truly believe you’ll be doing the work of an ally.’ And that’s a pretty low bar. If somebody feels they can’t do that, then they might need some help. And I think that’s the role of leadership in coworking communities is making yourself available for that help. Anybody desiring to be an ally, keep trying, expect to make mistakes and exist in those mistakes as well and like that’s what we were talking about earlier… This is so uncomfortable and we’re so scared of making mistakes, but we’re just not going to avoid them, and avoiding them shouldn’t really even be the goal because we are going to recover from these mistakes and recover having learned something new. And it’s really my train of thought, or I think that quote is very relevant.
Bernie J Mitchel 19:18
We will put that in the show notes for sure. And so what did you do as a community to get to that Google Doc? How did you get everyone to start throwing in and sharing what they thought and, it’s not like Ben Shapiro Twitter stream where you have to manage that level of horrificness. But how did you guide people there?
Anaia Daigle 19:48
Well, we lead by example. I’ll say. We started by sharing our personal experiences, just our personal experience of that couple of days leading up to this document being born. And we really explained the context for the document, something very specific and very relevant to our members. We did not present it as the end all and be all or this is the only document you ever need to read or engage with to be anti-racist, like, very explicitly – this is a starting point for us all. And as a community, we really value co-learning and we really value teaching each other stuff and learning from each other. So with that history, we kind of plugged this into that history. This is something we already do really well, is learn from each other, and as a team, we set the expectation, again, very reasonable of trying to get rid of every barrier to entry. So, part of that was making the document very functional and readable and being really intentional about formatting and the way the information is organized. So you don’t have to read the entire thing, you can kind of jump to a part that’s most relevant for you. And making the information as accessible as possible was a big part of our role in it. And that’s something that we do a lot, kind of giving every tool we possibly can to the community and letting them run with it. And our role is to lead by example. So, we added our own resources to the document before we showed it to anybody so that it wasn’t just a blank page for people to pour their thoughts and feelings on.
Bernie J Mitchel 22:17
Did you go around and -this is what I do, so maybe you’re more sophisticated than me- like go around and say to people; “hey you, I’m going to let this document out, make sure you put something in it, because otherwise it would just be us three”. Did you instigate contributions or did it just happen organically?
Anaia Daigle 22:38
I was more on the organic side. We definitely encourage people, and I think in other cases- not working on this document- but also getting people to engage with something brand new. We absolutely do that. We absolutely -I don’t want to say chase people down- but we make very, very specific invitations for people to contribute. The version of this particular document would be reaching out to the very, very few people of colour in our community, particularly, even fewer black people in our community, and asking them to kind of educate the rest of us. So, in this case, we did not chase people down. We did make it very clear that we did not want this book to be a document for allies to contribute to. We made it very clear that there was space and time for people to voice their emotions. Well, that’s actually another important point. So the document is very practical. The document is very; if x, then y. If you are an employer, here are resources. Here are ways you can use the tools of an employer to do anti-racist work right now. If you’re an employee, here are some things you could consider doing. If you are a designer, look at these options you have, stuff like that. We want it to be actionable. As well as having a space for emotional conversations as well, Alex has been running these. They are not group therapy. It really sounds like group therapy. He is not a therapist. It is not group therapy. We have been having more roundtable kind – very, very emotional discussions on COVID, so there was an already existing framework for an emotional discussion, but we did super intentionally separate the emotional discussion and the kind of actionable discussion, which I think benefited everybody.
Bernie J Mitchel 25:20
Can you say something about how the energy changed when everyone started talking about this openly in the community? Or did it not change at all? Do you know? And also I’m dying to ask, can you say something about it all being online at the moment because your space is closed, but it’s active online. So how do you think the energy and the dynamics played out?
Anaia Daigle 25:49
I imagine every single person experiencing it probably had a different experience. But I for me, it really put a bad taste in my mouth, maybe other coworking operators can relate to this, but I think there are times where we are really forced to represent the space and the business and the organization before we represent oursleves. And that I mean honestly… It all still weighs heavy on me. It broke my heart a little bit, on how this discussion played out and it still hurts. It literally hurt my feelings. And there were very, very few black people engaging in the discussion again, like we don’t have many black people who are members of Indy Hall, proportionately at least. The emotions were so palpable, and everybody was so raw. Everybody would say whether they were more concerned about police brutality or more concerned about a broken window. People were scared and they were vulnerable. And people were also pretty clearly feeling like they didn’t know how to interact with each other in the Indy Hall community, which is not something that I think is so common. We’re really lucky that people, especially in our online space, where we have people all over the country, all over the world, are part of our online community. So people who we’ll never meet face to face ever, probably, treat each other like old friends. We had people saying I don’t understand why this conversation is taking this turn. Multiple people said really explicitly like I want to speak my mind but I don’t think that would be welcomed right now, or I want to speak my mind but I am scared for what backlash I could get for how I think my feelings will be perceived. And then we had people going this is kind of bullshit. Why are we talking about broken windows?
Bernie J Mitchel 28:53
Two communities I’m part of online, one is – and this is one of those things where I’m pretty awkward saying – it’s about marketing and business, but it is very white, and it’s very Christian. So it’s not unhospitable but it is definitely very white and Christian. And, this huge wave of Black Lives Matter is so important and it came out of it. And I don’t think anyone disagreed with making Black Lives Matter a prominent part of that whole conversation. And there was a move by the organizers saying okay, we’re going to make this course here and we’re going to limit it to 40% white men, and then everything else has to be everything else. I say that in air quotes. And that’s how deadly serious you are about it. So, it’s actually the complete opposite.
It went way better than my own prejudice towards people I mean of white Christian men. And then in another community, I won’t go into all the details because we are here forever. It is Facebook group that’s attached to a paid course about building community. And there were 897 comments on this Facebook post where someone called someone out about their language and the way people went in… And after a while, there’s always like a few people that rise to the top, the way people went in and it really stirred up a lot of feelings. And I put something in there saying, Listen, you know, aren’t we a community about building community, and we’re acting like this? And it kind of went silent, I don’t know whether that was because I a part of that. I don’t know. It is unbelievable how people- I always say how people act- because I’m not picking on their behaviour but what it shows out and sort of a highlight for me, and do comment, is how I thought I saw things from people’s perspective, but I actually have less idea of their perspective than I thought had. Then imagine what everyone else is like when they get together. I’m not sure what you can do with that.
Anaia Daigle 31:32
By complete coincidence, a couple of days before George Floyd was murdered, I re-joined Instagram, which I had been off for a couple of years. That’s pretty much the only other online community, although I wouldn’t even really call it that, that I’m a part of, besides the Indy Hall one. And wow, the difference was pretty incredible. And it did make me think about something I got called out on Instagram… I follow very few people. I don’t have many followers. But I got kind of swept into, oh, I got a post about this post, about this post, and I wasn’t called out specifically like that, but there was this discussion about contributing to an echo chamber is really useless. And that kind of pushed me to be more honest with the Indy Hall community about how I was feeling about how the discussion was going, up until we as a team took a bit more control of the reins.
Bernie J Mitchel 32:59
With Kofi, couple of podcasts before this one – but I think he might have said in the podcast- saying how do we do this thing guys? He said – Just liking and tweeting, and Instagramming and saying, Oh, this is terrible. It’s like a dopamine hit. It’s not actually action. And, and I was like, so you mean I can’t just share a picture and go back to my profit? He says no, no, no you have to do something. And I’m a bit confused. Obviously we’re doing this podcast and stuff are already active in London, but actually doing something is really hard work to work out what to do and where to plug in. So where’s the community in the conversation now? Where would you like it to go? And what was your key take aways for fellow coworkers, community managers and owners in this whole new learning curve for us?
Anaia Daigle 34:18
The conversation has died down quite a bit. Although, in the public forums I’ll say it’s less of a discussion amongst people, the Slack channel. Like, even though there are still protests happening, people are not posting about themselves. People are still contributing to the document which is great. I will say, the barrier to entry is making everything synchronous and live, and it’s really important even though we held a live discussion that was not the only way to contribute to the document and making really detailed guides for people who want to contribute. It can’t just be done in one live event then is over. The document and the brainstorm sparked a collaborative and a more meaningful extension of a collaboration that’s already existed.
Rec Philly is another space in Philadelphia, which everybody ever works from. But then they are a mostly black community. And in the space is somewhat like coworking. It’s more targeted towards artistic industries, performance industries, writers, poets, designers, and many, many, many other kinds of creative folks are a part of that fundraising for micro-grants. So they’re partnering with a bunch of different organizations to raise up as much money as possible, and then Rec will be distributing the money that these other organizations raise on their behalf. Indy Hall’s been partaking in that. We’re also trying to raise up some hours, some one-on-one professional expertise hours in totally separate micro-grants, just to try and build some relationships between our communities because there’s a handful of folks who are members of both and they were actually really essential.
We could not have figured all this out without that input. So, we’re raising hours, a minimum of one hour for somebody who has valuable skills to share Which is something that I hope this is widespread, but certainly at Indy Hall, the people are so free with their labour and their expertise is incredible. I mean, I’ve gotten help with my taxes, health insurance, professional development stuff, like how to ask for a raise, how to rewrite my resume, like all this stuff that they could have been charging me a lot of money for. And I only got it because of my connection to Indy Hall. So we want to spread that out as much as we can. And so the conversation has kind of shifted from, what can all of us do no matter what? How do we as individuals participate in more personal action to, this is what Indy Hall is asking you to do, specifically? We’ve done the work to come up with these things. We’ve made it really easy for you to participate. And now we need you to participate, we urge you to participate. And part of that is, again, my number one thing that I will pass on to other people who cowork is, I think the bulk of our work is removing barriers to entry. As I’ve spoken about before, that’s making sure that document is extremely easy to navigate, extremely easy for people to read. Putting the work into actually organizing data or bits if its data to make sure that it’s accessible, making sure that there’s multiple ways to participate. So it’s not just, you show up at the same place at the same time, and that’s your only opportunity to be heard.
Making sure that we are making very, very, very specific asks of people when the projects are led by Indy hall or by community leadership. So I’m making sure that people know exactly what they’re being asked to do, exactly how to do it, and exactly what the consequences of their help will be. And then also things like matching funds as well. We’re raising money from micro-grants that will be distributed by Rec Philly. And Alex has started off with matching smaller donations. So he’s matching, he was matching donations under $25 made by community members up to $250. And then we had another member step up to do the exact same thing. So she’ll contribute $250 out of matching funds for people’s donations under $25. If that makes sense.
Bernie J Mitchel 40:31
Does that mean that if five hundred people give a pound, the amount going forward will be a thousand?
Anaia Daigle 40:50
Bernie J Mitchel 40:52
I’ve really confused myself so much there. I’m sorry to take so much time on this podcast. Could you just clarify where that will go? Is it Rec Philly coworking space?
Anaia Daigle 41:05
Yes. Space for creatives I think is there. I am not sure if Rec Philly is a coworking space but its pretty comparable. So, Rec Philly is raising money for micro-grants. The micro-grants are coming from specific organisations. Indy Hall for example, our micro-grants are available to folks who want to start their business within six months. We have made it quite general, but the point is targeting people who are interested in entrepreneurial exploits. Although some organisations will say that, our backet of money that is being distributed as micro-grants is available to folks who are artists or writers, even more specifically or single parents, or what have you… So Rec is this big umbrella, and they have been using their resources as an organisation to reach out to other friendly organisations around. I think mostly, locally in Philadelphia. But I am not sure about that. They’ve been raising amongst their own communities or some are already flat out donating on behalf of organisations and Indy Hall we’re have been fundraising and matching funds. But the money’s really coming from our community
Bernie J Mitchel 42:50
That is great. I am going to wrap up and I will link up everything on the show notes and everything that we have referenced in this. Like we both said in here said that there is a lot to read, but I would urge people to make the time and follow the links. Not every single link, but to get an understanding and perspective why this is such an important topic. Personally I thought I was a well informed citizen. It’s amazing that you don’t know what you don’t know. What is even worse is thinking that you know and then you have to do the work and get there. So, where is the best place to find you online?
Anaia Daigle 44:00
Anyone can email me on email@example.com
Bernie J Mitchel 44:08
Thank you so much for jumping in here. This is the most time we have ever spent together in our lives. It’s always great to hear from someone in the trenches of all that. Ladies and gentlemen if you go to the coworkingassembly.eu, that’s the website of the European Coworking Assembly. Go to the top there and sign up to our newsletter. Anti-racism, inclusion and diversity is a major topic that is being supported by a lot of people in the Coworking Europe conference event. You can hear about that and the European Freelancer’s event, which is going to be a big movement this year, mainly because it is online and we have the capacity. We would love for you to take part. If you know someone who has a story to tell or a practice to share about how to address, combat, keep the conversation alive around anti-racism, get involved, we would like to hear from you. Thank you very much.