A reflection: our anti-racism product donation program one year later

One of the main purposes of Poll Everywhere’s product is to give everyone a voice and broaden important conversations. Back in June, Poll Everywhere committed to building an anti-racist workplace and to engage in conversations about injustice. We took a pledge to take action and improve our organizational culture to become an anti-racist company and also support others who are committed to doing or already engaging in conversations surrounding racial dialog and equity work.

Donation of Poll Everywhere premium service to any organization doing racial dialog or equity work.

Since the start of our program, we have received a total of 268 applications and have supported organizations ranging from:

  • Both private and public schools (K-12 and Higher education)
  • Public health efforts for BIPOC and training future health care professionals
  • Permanent housing solutions
  • Professional development services to black, indigenous, people of color (BIPOC)
  • Bystander intervention, trauma-informed care, patient rights, de-escalation (i.e. alternatives to calling the police), and more
  • Independent diversity, equity, and inclusion consultants

Once applications were submitted, myself and two other DEI working group members would go through the review process.  After seeing so many applications come in, I asked our very own Daniels Lee (Frontend Engineer) and Ada Brewton (QA Automation Engineer)to reflect on the year we have had thus far and what they hope for the future.

Why is our donation program and our effort to support other organizations important?

“A critical first step towards racial justice is to openly acknowledge, uncover and truly be willing to see the opportunities and resources that are disproportionately withheld from non-white races. We are all living and steeped in a society that continues to be ruled and governed by white supremacy culture that falsely advertises a set of harmful ideologies and promises that we, as a vastly diverse spectrum of different cultures and identities, all have equal opportunity and the freedom to manifest our own destinies. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. Depending on one’s racial background, as well as gender identity, socio-economic class and ancestry in addition to many more, one’s opportunities are systematically reduced, broken down and left unsupported by existing white supremacy structures in place and are fully in effect.

This program exists as a small, symbolic gesture of recognition that there is a systemic issue at large that actively works to deny support and resources from black, brown and indigenous communities. This program attempts to divert some energy in the currency of software as a service towards communities of color whose basic human rights, health, livelihood, and liberation have historically and continue to be actively oppressed.

This program is symbolic in the sense that what we are donating is not fundamental to a person or persons’ well-being. No one truly needs Poll Everywhere to survive or thrive in the world. It is a gesture and perhaps a joining of forces with other organizations to grow a coalition of continued trial by error actions — because the allyship path is full of mistakes — and attempts to internally and externally be an influencer of change towards justice.” (Daniels)

“Racism and its violent effects are omnipresent in our country. I think people need to have uncomfortable conversations, ask tough questions, and examine some harsh facts in order to make things change. In addition to supporting work that’s happening across the country, it’s important to get involved in anti-racist work that starts in “your own backyard,” and learn to support and include the people around you.” (Ada)

As Daniels and Ada mentioned, our software is one way to bring voice and attention to anyone who is actively involved in making their organizations and work environments a better place for all to be heard and recognized for their contributions as they are.  Poll Everywhere is not nor should be the only solution. It is also important to make sure there is an action that follows any activity or diversity, equity, inclusion work survey that you put out. If there was a new learning moment at work about racial dialog and equity work, it is important to continue that self-exploration and learning outside work on a personal level, as well.

What impact do you think this program will have?

“Truly, the impact I long for this program to have is beyond any transactional usage of our software within an event, training or meetings. Our software may not end up meeting their needs or priorities may have shifted since applying. Whether those who apply actually end up using our software is beyond our control nor does it signify real impact.

I don’t quite know how impactful this program is or will be in the future, and I’m wary of labeling our program as “impactful” until applicants can more directly share and affirm how it has positively impacted them. My general sense is that our applicants are highly appreciative and grateful once being accepted into the program. Whether our donation goes on to actually move the heavy needle of exposing white supremacy and achieving more racial justice remains a constant question and is something we all need to continue being vigilant and honest about.

I can at least speculate for the impact of our program to hopefully allow for conversations and discussions around hard subject matter to be a little more holistic and accessible, particularly to those voices systematically oppressed.

I think this program is giving people resources that will help them facilitate hard conversations, share knowledge, and build stronger communities.” (Ada)

Diversity, equity, and inclusion work require trust. Both Daniels and Ada recognized that being vulnerable around such a difficult topic especially among people you may not have rapport nor trust with can make the conversation around racial dialog and equity that much more uncomfortable. This work will always be uncomfortable and in many ways needs to be. Poll Everywhere’s various activity templates and anonymity/upvote or downvote features are one way to help build trust and crowdsource what people want to hear or learn more about first.

The “project roadmap” (if you will) to diversity, equity, and inclusion across organizations is long, requires a large amount of labor from all those involved, and oftentimes it is met with limited resources. Oftentimes, folks simply may not know where and how to start the conversation. It will always be imperfect and yet it is still critical to continue to show up and do the work. Consistency followed with action is key for progress.

Here are some closing thoughts from Daniels and Ada.

What do you hope people will get out of the program?

“The impact I wish this program to have is twofold. For one, I wish for the applicants and their respective organizations to receive our donation as support and let this supportive energy come through as additional motivation and fuel to continue on their arduous journeys within the social and racial justice movement cycle. Many activist, justice-oriented, and education organizations are low on resources, money, and time with proven burn-out fatigue from the extra emotional, mental and physical labor involved.

Secondly, our software service is an alternative engagement tool to facilitate conversations and discussions potentially around difficult topics. It doesn’t always work out to make those discussions any easier. However, I do wish those voices who would otherwise not be heard due to environmental conditions, neurological disabilities, and/or any generalized fear of speaking to potentially have a new avenue to share and thus be less invisible. Even a short anonymous comment stating ‘I felt harmed by this’ can be all it takes to invoke an energy shift in the room and hopefully raise awareness that a violation occurred, which otherwise would have simply gone by unnoticed.” (Daniels)

“I hope people will be able to have productive conversations that include everyone, and most importantly, have honest conversations about what needs to change and how to change it. I hope people can use these tools to take their anti-racist work to the next level, whether that’s within a school, a nonprofit organization, or a workplace that believes Black Lives Matter.” (Ada)

As mentioned before, there is no finish line to diversity, equity, and inclusion. From this journey, we’ve learned many valuable lessons and hope to continue to learn more. If you’d like to get started on your DEI journey, or just want a way to start important conversations, click the links below to copy templates to some of our favorite DEI conversation starters. You will need a Poll Everywhere account to get started.

Please note: As of March 2024, we have discontinued our anti-racism donation program. Although we have discontinued this program, we remain committed to fostering an environment that creates belonging and celebrates diversity, as the core mission of our product is to make conversations more inclusive.