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Inspiring Conversations with Enlightened Solutions

Today we’d like to introduce you to Enlightened Solutions.

Hi Enlightened, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstory with our readers?
Enlightened Solutions is a research and advocacy firm that creates, implements and publishes research-based solutions that center the lived experiences of diverse people.

Historically, diversity and inclusion work has focused on proving the existence of a “problem” through inconsistent and/or incomplete Human Resource professional development courses. When working with individuals and organizations alike, we embrace pain-points for growth and emphasize holistic and collaborative problem solving. Through our six values (authenticity, lived experience, belonging, solutions-focused, imperfection and principle) we are committed to cultivating change within challenging spaces.

Enlightened Solutions focuses on unearthing, codifying and publishing tangible and measurable inclusion-forward solutions for individuals and organizations alike. We were founded on the belief that iterative inclusion-forward equity is essential to build economically sustainable, 21st Century systems. This work is urgent and vital in Northeast Ohio, a region that has the unfortunate dual distinction of being the worst city in America for Black Women and the poorest big city in America.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
In a word, no – but we know that generational change-making necessitates daily, measurable and financially unencumbered resources that center the voices of disinvested and marginalized communities.

While our region has invested millions in equity panels, forums and inclusion trainings, metrics and organizations refuse to budge and conversations remain stale. That said, the main conflict in our industry is financial and risk-taking reticence by our region. One of our favorite quotes is: “Budgets are moral documents.” Where and the process through which a region invests, determines the future of their residents and illustrates where stakeholder priorities lie.

Without tangible equity progress, we will hemorrhage talented Black minds and continue a long-term legacy of decline and disinvestment. Simply put, our region is leaving money on the table by not investing in the brilliance and lived experiences of our residents. The 21st Century economy will be built on diverse voices, ideas, and capital. Regions that get ahead of the curve now will be better positioned to maximize these fundamental changes, attract talent, and retain talent. If there is any American city where we should attempt to solve problems of exclusion and inequality, Cleveland would be the best place to start.

As you know, we’re big fans of Enlightened Solutions. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about the brand?
In 2020, CityLab/Bloomberg ranked Cleveland as the worst place in America for Black Women. The research relied on publicly-available large scale data like graduation rates, labor statistics, pay differentials, and healthcare outcomes. While this data is informative, this article and the research did not interview any Black Women living in any of these metropolitan areas. Enlightened Solutions decided to ask: What is life like for Black Women in the worst-ranked city? What are the textures and lived experiences of marginalization within Northeast Ohio?

As a result, Enlightened Solutions created and published, “Project Noir” a phenomenological research project which surveyed, interviewed and analyzed the lived experiences of Black Women in Northeast Ohio. This report is split into three major areas of discussion: workplaces, healthcare and education.

As the epicenter of inequality in America, our region is the best place to create solutions, helmed by the ideas and brilliance of the most marginalized. By researching the lived experiences of Black Women, we can substantially and positively change metrics for both race and gender (gender-expression) at the same time. Continued systemic marginalization will have catastrophic sustainability, socio-economic and environmental consequences for our region. Black Women are instrumental within all industries and key to our interconnected futures.

We’re always looking for the lessons that can be learned in any situation, including tragic ones like the Covid-19 crisis. Are there any lessons you’ve learned that you can share?
The most important lesson we learned due to COVID-19 was the importance of and necessity for flexibility in the workplace for women, especially Black Women and Women of Color. Due to the pandemic, the American workforce has experienced a catastrophic “she-cession,” a recession that specifically affects the economic, labor and employment rates for women.

Due to the overwhelming representation of women in service, healthcare and front-facing industry jobs, over 2.3 million women have left the labor force since February 2020. Roughly 40% of women 20+ have been out of work 6 months or longer since January 2020 – most of the women forced to leave the workplace due to a lack of equitable and affordable daycare, eldercare and school options for family members and children are not disaggregated and calculated in the unemployment rate. This has massive ripple effects for women at their various intersections, including LGBTQ, poor, rural and undereducated (formal education).

Furthermore, Millennials (1981-1995) and Generation Z (1995 to 2012) have seen how little financial security, formal and informal benefits and upward mobility there is within existing workplace structures. Many have changed industries, drastically reduced hours or outright resigned from their jobs. 21st Century workplaces need to be led by the individuals who make up their ranks – the pandemic exposed the importance of forward-thinking leadership and accountability and shifts and adapts to market changes.

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Image Credits
Kamron Khan Photography
Larisa DaSilva

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