Why Representation on Council Matters

Why Representation on Council Matters

Our lived experiences shape every decision we make. None of us are ever completely rational, and none of us have the whole picture.
We need leadership that can:

  • *listen deeply to the experiences of others,
  • *believe others when they share their experience (especially if it's different from ours),
  • *recognize that we have blind spots, and have some humility when they are pointed out
  • *seek out different perspectives and recognize and elevate leadership that shows up, even if it's not what we expected
  • *give others credit, appreciate, recognize and amplify their contributions

No one group has a monopoly on these skills or doing this work, but representation matters.  Reflecting the broad perspectives and experiences of our communities at decision making tables increases everyone's capacity for this kind of leadership and makes for much better decisions

Too often, people from marginalized or equity seeking communities:

  • *are dismissed and discounted.
  • *spend more time managing other people's emotions and reactions.
  • *work harder, for longer, for less (or no) pay and less credit
  • *have more knowledge and more experience, before being taken seriously.

This common pattern is not only frustrating, time consuming and upsetting individually, it also undermines any group or organization's ability to generate new ideas, accurately assess problems or challenges, and come up with solutions. It often means people with important and helpful experience, skills and perspective go somewhere else, but it doesn't mean they stop leading. It doesn't mean they stop doing their work.

Inviting people in, listening, and sharing power is how we build power -- together.

Across business sectors, the political spectrum, non-profit organizations, communities and in our personal lives, people and groups that hoard power and exclude people are typically surprised when it shows up anyway. It's not a secret. It was often right in front of their eyes -- they just weren't listening and couldn't see it. It doesn't matter where you are on the political spectrum, what your issue is or your line of business is, a lack of peripheral vision is common and costly.

City Council is making multi-billion dollar decisions for a municipality with about 80 distinct lines of business and a population of a million people. This is incredibly complex work and no single person has all the insight or understanding to do this effectively by themselves. In the context of a global pandemic, a rapidly warming climate, significant volatility and disruption in our economy and so much more, we simply can't afford the status quo. Without truly diverse experiences and perspectives at the table we don't have the information we need to make good decisions. Without a significant breadth of lived experience and expertise represented, there will be risks we don't see coming. Without diverse representation we lose out on important insights into the complex challenges we face and we lose out on many creative ways to address them. 

When we bring together different experiences and perspectives we make fewer mistakes and we get more robust decisions. Decisions that will more reliably stand up to scrutiny and inevitable disruption. The need for diverse representation at leadership tables, in every organization, and at every level of decision-making, is about democracy and equity. It is about making it possible for all members of our community to participate fully in public life, but it is also about strategic, robust decision making. It's not "just a nice thing to do", it's a requirement for effectively navigating an incredibly uncertain future.