How we picked speakers

Create Good 2021

Why so white?

Since the beginning of Create Good, we (co-creators Dawn and Brian Crawford) have handpicked the conference speakers. We carefully and purposefully selected people who were doing amazing work for their nonprofits. We picked on the strength of ideas and the strength of diversity.

We’ve always envisioned Create Good as the place where nonprofit communications are elevated and create a platform to let amazing people shine. Part of that is selecting people who are often overlooked and don’t get the credit they deserve.

If you check out our past speakers (2020, 2019, 2018, 2017) you’ll see all these rockstars, and we are honored they chose to hang out with all of us.

How It Changed for 2021

In 2020, for the first time, we decided to solicit our breakout sessions from the Create Good community. We knew that the pandemic presented a whole slew of challenges for nonprofit communications. Some that we knew about and ones that would surprise us. We knew that we wouldn’t be able to tell the full story of the impact of the pandemic on our nonprofit communicator community without accepting submissions from our community.

We structured it in a way we thought was fair. We evaluated the breakout session submissions based on the content and title of the proposed sessions only. When reviewing the proposals, we did not look at individual names or organizations attached to the submissions. We did not include a question about race/ethnicity on the submission form.

As we made our selections, we encouraged our consultant and agency-based speakers to bring a nonprofit partner of their choice. This was in hopes to round out the diversity of voices and storytellers at this event.

After we confirmed with selected speakers and the bios/headshots started rolling in, we noticed that we inadvertently created a homogeneous group of speakers for our breakout sessions. While we were focused on the topics, we also unintentionally picked many very smart and passionate speakers that are predominately white women and a few white men. This is not to take anything away from them, we are pleased and honored that our speakers chose to tell their stories. We’re so excited to hear from each and every one.

We knew all along that we would handpick our keynote speakers. We wanted to use this time to showcase rising stars and heroes in disguise to share 15-20 minute pre-recorded nuggets of inspiration. We are using that platform to lift voices from the full diversity of our community. But those slots are limited.

Learn + Act

From the beginning, we’ve infused the spirit of learning and then acting in Create Good. You can’t have one without the other if you hope to grow and change.

So, where does that leave us?

We have a problem to be solved for sure. Having a predominately white selection of speakers isn’t telling the whole story. We need to expand our community. We strive to tip the balance in 2021 and be better in 2022.

While we tried to create a fair submission process on paper, our biggest learning is that what we ended up doing is introducing “I don’t see color” into the process by accident.

We need to work hard to expand our community. During this year’s event, we’ll use lunch discussions to have tough conversations about how to grow our very niche community of nonprofit communicators to include more than just white women.

Since we recognized the error, we’ve been putting in the work to correct the imbalance for future events. We can’t say for sure that the open calls for submission will be going away because we’ve reached speakers way outside of our sphere and topics we could never have conceived of before. We’ll ask other very smart, very passionate, very informed, very inclusive organizations to help guide us on that journey.

What we can guarantee is that we won’t make the same mistake twice.

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