How To Infuse Social Justice Action into Your Workplace

I admit – we’re lucky at Mixte that at the end of the day we can leave our office knowing that we did everything we could today to stand up for human rights.

That’s not accidental because we run our public relations firm on values and a mission.

We work hard to produce creative work that gets results for our long-time clients fighting for environmental justice communities, for clean water and for people who are homeless. Our values guide us in our decision making when considering new clients and motivate us to do better for our social justice clients.

But even for this San Diego public relations team, it might not be enough to settle simply for doing awesome work to stand up for human rights. We dedicate a lot of our time to taking action alongside our clients and on issues that affect all people in our communities. We know that many basic human rights – from a right to clean water and clean air to a right to marry who we want or to make healthcare decisions for our own bodies – are at risk. The situation is so grave that we often find ourselves celebrating a “win” that simply maintains status quo or narrowly prevents backsliding to antiquated public policies.

That infuriates us to take more action for social justice.

But what does that look like in a workplace setting? I want to share some of the protocols and environments that we created so that you, too, can turn your workplace into a social justice call to action.

Set a clear company culture that values inclusion

This must come from the CEO. In today’s world, it’s not enough to believe or care and then decide to not speak up for human rights. At Mixte, I lead by taking action and by publicly voicing my opposition to laws and behavior that harm immigrants or people of color, that shame women, that challenge gender equality and that simply don’t keep up with a 21st Century vision for a world that values people, our differences and the perspectives that make us stronger.

Look in the mirror and ask yourself tough questions

This is scary. It’s really scary to look in the mirror at my white self and ask questions about privilege and my actions. Way too late in the game, I realized that I needed to change my job descriptions, create a new way to recruit talent, and allow myself to choose the most qualified candidate on skills and perspectives that don’t only come with privileged access to expensive schools. As soon as I had the opportunity to change my process, I did, and my company is stronger for that leadership and the faces of our organization are changing.

But it doesn’t stop there. I’m in the process of building a partnership with a local nonprofit that is going to be a game changer for public relations in San Diego and the communities in which we are lucky enough to stand beside in the fight for social justice.

Encourage creativity from your staff

Our company culture encourages ideas and creative thinking to help us maximize our human rights actions without dragging us down in details and complications. One of my junior staff members returned from the Women’s March earlier this year with a set of postcards. She asked if we could take 10 minutes at a staff meeting to fill them out to send to our federal representatives with a note related to current legislation. This inspired our social justice messaging expert asking if he could organize a 10-minute advocacy call to action as a standing agenda item at our staff meeting.

Yes. Yes to both because the key to empowering community voices begins with listening to those around you. This means that for as little as ten minutes of our time, our messaging strategist updates us on a federal policy, explains how we can help and then gives us the numbers to call. We’ve already supported national parks, open and nondiscriminatory immigration laws, the affordable care act and more.

Put your money where your heart is

It doesn’t have to be actual cash – we choose as our pro bono client a local organizer who unites small business in a shared voice for improved community policies. You better believe that I was the first business member who joined the association, and I’m also volunteering on the executive committee.

Our team supports the media relations for this business client by generating creative press conference ideas – like the San Diego County Dozen Donuts to call attention to the County’s bad decision to stockpile money rather than invest it back into San Diego families. It’s great network building for our public relations business, and it’s also the right thing to do to shape a new business narrative in San Diego that supports immigration, fair access to capital, inclusion, healthcare and a San Diego County leadership that thinks of the community first.

Turn to art for inspiration

Creating a social justice call-to-action culture doesn’t always require words. Our company donated to the Amplifier Foundation Kickstarter campaign to get the beautiful posters celebrating the diversity that makes America great. We framed those and placed them in our office as new artwork. Every single staff person came to work with jaw-dropping surprise, pride and inspiration to keep on keeping on.

Take the time to educate your team, especially when it’s not latest trends on social media and tips for press release writing

We borrowed an idea from San Diego Organizing Project and switched every other staff meeting into an inspirational meeting. Instead of covering boring HR laws and housekeeping admin, we turn our attention to learning about social justice issues that are far greater than us and from people far more inspirational than us. We’ve watched documentaries on systematic racism and hosted a dialogue with Mark Bartlett, who runs People Over Profits, to enlighten us to the embedded racism in our criminal justice system and his work to fix it.

Update your values from corporate jargon to something that reflects what you believe

This takes awareness and courage, and I think it’s time for businesses to take a lead on cultural values. I love hearing that Ben & Jerry’s won’t sell a double scoop of the same ice cream flavor until Australia legalizes marriages. That takes courage. It’s directly related to its social mission, which compels it to use its company in innovative ways to make the world a better place: “To operate the company in a way that actively recognizes the central role that business plays in society by initiating innovative ways to improve the quality of life locally, nationally and internationally.”

When is the last time that you visited your company values and questioned what they stood for? Are they still mumbo jumbo from the 80s, or have you truly embraced them as an opportunity to set a tone that matters and creates a culture of social justice action at your office? Take a look at our values, hot off the press:

Life is short. Our choices matter.

At Mixte Communications, Inc., we choose to nurture our community of San Diego and empower the people who do good. We choose to invest in the bold leaders taking action. We choose to adventure. We practice cultural humility, lift diversity and use our privileges to fight for equity. We see the potential of humankind to protect our one and only Earth, and we choose the local actions with global change. Good work takes time. In that time, happiness matters, because life is short, because we always have a choice.

Be flexible because social justice isn’t convenient

Want your staff to take action and fight for a better world? I promise you that won’t easily schedule into Basecamp tasks and after-work meetings. At Mixte, our staff can flex their schedules to volunteer, they can write on our blog about issues that drive them, and we can work their schedules around county, city and transportation public hearings that need us to show up and say what matters to us.

These are just a few leadership tactics that we use at our social justice public relations firm to ensure our culture and lifestyle stays in line with our work. What do you think and what else have you tried that should be the next item on our list?