Establishing new connections and resources while the world transforms.
Motivational speaker Mollie Marti said, “A noble leader answers not to the trumpet call of self-promotion, but to the hushed whispers of necessity.”
The global pandemic and Black Lives Matter movement provided not a ‘hushed whisper’ but a perfect storm of necessity for diverse small business leaders across the country. From the bones of cancelled events and shuttered businesses, one such leader answered the call with the formation of the nonprofit organization Global Economic Diversity Development Initiative, also known as GEDDI (pronounced JED-EYE).
The GEDDI mission is simple: To establish a fund that serves as a worldwide giving choice for racial equity and economic justice initiatives to create generational wealth that meets present and future needs—through creative and well thought out perpetual grant making.
As a Black female founder and CEO of the nonprofit, Tawana Bain is acutely aware of the disparities that exist for minority-owned businesses and for minority communities. COVID-19 and the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery served to shine a light on the cancer that is systemic racism in America. From the cultural inconsistencies of our health system—Blacks and Hispanics are dying at dramatically higher rates—to the social injustices wrought by those assigned to protect and serve, it was apparent to Bain and her colleagues that action was the only alternative.
“We have a responsibility to lead not just based on profits but also on morals. I want to affect the type of change that emboldens us to speak up and call out hypocrisy that is suffocating our ability to prosper,” says Bain. She didn’t stop with GEDDI. Once it was apparent that in-person events would be out of the question for the remainder of 2020, Bain and her team of advisors rolled the 3-year-old Derby Diversity Business Summit up under the GEDDI umbrella and made the 2020 conference 100% virtual.
Rebranded as the Pivot Champs Summit for 2020 only, the conference was held a few days prior to the rescheduled Kentucky Derby. The summit’s mission remains the same… to drive innovative strategies to attract diverse consumers while promoting the utilization of best in class diverse business leaders within the executive workforce and global supply chain.
Because the summit was virtual this year and in order to create economic impact while driving unity across the country, virtual city roundtables were added to the agenda with 20 cities represented. Host City Committees participated in one-hour roundtable discussions based on topics relevant to the pandemic and diversity.
Action requires consistency, so Bain and her team established a weekly digital dialogue series and blog to ‘assist with establishing new connections and resources while the world transforms’. Themes of the discussions have ranged from ‘Staying Professional While Black During the Race War for Justice 2020’ to ‘Diversity & Inclusion—Ensuring the Feeling of Belonging in the Workplace Bounces Back Post COVID-19’. One conversation, ‘Equipping White Women to Speak Up Against Racism’, was so popular it was brought back for part two. The panel conversations are open and candid, allowing for one-on-one meetings for Q&A with panel members immediately following—the virtual version of standing in line to meet and speak with panel members following an in-person event.
The call to leadership doesn’t tap everyone on the shoulder but when it does, it is the response that is most meaningful. When a successful leader’s foundation is shaken, it is what they do in response that is most meaningful. There is no question that leaders are tasked with turning challenge into opportunity, requiring the ability to be innovative, to pivot and to listen to those around them. Leaders who accomplish that goal with authenticity, honesty and an eye on the impact of their decisions, on not just the monetary ramifications but also on the social and moral impact, deserve to be lauded.
To quote that wise leader Yoda, “May the force be with you” GEDDI