72andSunny believes that the best work of our lives will come from the most diverse and inclusive company culture where all individuals feel they belong. But despite best intentions, people of color did not always feel they could bring their full selves to work. We wanted to dive into this complex issue and initiate an honest dialogue around race in America and within our own walls. Our goal was to create a newfound awareness and make people more willing to discuss race, deepen connections within our community, and ultimately unlock new heights of creativity for us all.
Race is often an uncomfortable thing to discuss, especially in a corporate setting, but we challenged ourselves to address the subject head-on with raw honesty and vulnerability for the first time. We had a powerful message to land, but knew that appealing to logic would not be successful; instead we used our natural language of creativity to make people feel and connect with this issue and with one another on a much deeper level.
First, we recognized the reality that people of color have to navigate white (societal, agency) culture in order to be successful. When people of color walk through our doors everyday, there’s a fundamental shift that occurs, as if they’re moving between two vastly different realities. In one, you’re able to move freely as your whole self, fully engaged with the multidimensional aspects of your cultural experience. And in the other, your racial identity can be suppressed or overlooked for lack of understanding; this internal dissonance creates tension and obscures cultural identity and expression. Most (white) people are blind to this fact—we wanted to confront it, and discuss it as an agency.
We created Bring Yourself, a multimedia exhibit that revealed, for the first time, the aspects of one’s authentic self that are left behind every day.
We used transparent bags as a way to represent the notion that what’s seen as ‘cultural baggage’ should be proudly represented and celebrated and not something that should ever be hidden away. Nine agency hand-raisers filled a bag with items that represent who they really are, and recorded a raw, intimate interview that unpacked the significance of each item. We designed a gallery in our main auditorium where employees could listen to the video testimonials via headsets for an intimate one-on-one experience as well as see all of the bags displayed together. We also hosted a live panel for participants to openly share their personal stories and challenges navigating white culture. This vulnerable process opened our eyes to the emotional transition of moving between two worlds and allowed the agency to grow by opening lines of dialogue and creating an authentic space for cultural diversity, and creativity.
Bring Yourself was unique in that it provided a platform for people of color to tell their stories in their own voice at an agency level. It was a deeply personal and impossible to ignore. For most of the agency, it was the first time they were confronted with these realities, and challenged the status quo of our day to day interactions and how we approach each other, and the work we create, as a whole.
A truncated video recap was posted on the company’s social and sparked conversation through the industry and beyond.
We wanted to break down barriers, give people a platform to open up about their experiences, and ultimately start a conversation around race and how it shapes who we are and what we make. It was also important that this experience and exhibit come from our people directly. Over a year of meetings, creative exploration, and passionate dedication resulted in one of the most powerful discussions and experiences our company has ever been a part of.
Our metrics for this initiative are more anecdotal than data-driven. In the end, we believe the project achieved in creating lasting change by increasing the following, company-wide:
Awareness and understanding of how race impacts the everyday experiences of people of color
Sensitivity to cultural differences and identities
Empathy and curiosity about the things that make us different, and an open willingness to talk about them
Eagerness to pull diverse cultures forward in our creative work
While race will continue to be something difficult for people to discuss, our company continues to take steps, lead by those who are passionate about positive change, to make these conversations easier and make the act of simply coming to work be an experience where everyone can be their most authentic self.
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