We chatted with Kim Walker, PSI’s Senior Advisor on Global Inclusion and Belonging, to learn more about her mission to strengthen the PSI network and incorporate PSI’s values into every aspect of our work.
What is your background, and what brings you to PSI?
I started my career working in housing-related nonprofits. Over time, I became more interested in making positive change within organizations over the technical work I was doing in homelessness. I ended up getting a PhD in Leadership and Organizational Change and I joined the board of an organization focused on inclusion and belonging (I&B) in nonprofits. In my last few roles, I have been fortunate to be able to put those two things together and lead I&B work. PSI’s reputation as a technically strong, joyful place to work preceded it, and I was excited about the challenge of developing an I&B function that could take it to the next level and work effectively across multiple countries.
What are the responsibilities of the Senior Advisor role?
As a Senior Advisor, I’ll be working on defining PSI’s vision and strategy around I&B and then, to increase our staff’s capacity for this work, creating a learning curriculum based on our strategy. I will also be helping to clarify organizational expectations about staff behaviors and competencies around inclusion and build out I&B resources to support PSI’s programmatic work.
Of course, I can’t do this work in isolation, and I will be facilitating PSI’s I&B Council and Employee Resource Groups to embed the voice of staff from across our global network. I’ll also closely partner with our Human Resources network and leadership teams to ensure that this work shows up in our policies and practices. Ultimately my goal is to build out and implement an internal and external I&B strategy to ensure that PSI’s values show up in every aspect of our work.
How do you make inclusion and belonging relevant on a global scale? How do you make sure your work is truly cross-cultural?
With a large organization with thousands of employees around the world, it can be hard to find the things that feel like relevant shared concepts, but power is one of them. Even though which groups have power and why may vary across contexts, power dynamics and inequities exist everywhere. Building a greater awareness of power and exploring these concepts through our mission and strategy are things that can really unite us. Also, no matter what language we may use to describe it, I believe there is a shared desire to experience a workplace that gives us all a sense of belonging.
Any one person in this role, no matter where they are located, needs to have a deep self-awareness to do this work in a way that does not center themselves, their country, or their team. That’s especially true when this role is located in the US, a region that has typically enjoyed more power in the development sector. To make sure I’m bringing a more balanced perspective, I’m constantly reading and learning and engaging with other practitioners. Within the PSI space, I’m traveling to meet folks in person when I can, connecting virtually with multiple teams and groups regularly, and ensuring that there is space for the elevation of multiple perspectives through various channels across the organization. I am perhaps most directly accountable to our CEO, the board, and our I&B Council, but I try to make it easier for everyone to hold me accountable by establishing a strategy and sharing our goals with the network. Because I&B often covers sensitive topics, we also have anonymous mechanisms for staff to share ideas and concerns beyond our trainings and webinar discussions.
What are the biggest challenges and opportunities you see at PSI? In the international development sector more broadly?
A lot of work and principles behind this work long predated me, including things like our sign-ons and commitments to the Coalition for Racial & Ethnic Equity in Development (CREED) pledge and the minimum gender standards. We had a staff-initiated I&B Council and were reporting out externally on representation data before I arrived. There were clear signs of enthusiasm and commitment for this work, and this role is an opportunity to build and expand upon that. PSI also has a long history of consumer-powered health care and human-centered design which rely on some of these same principles.
The sector at large is grappling with who is and should be at the center of the decision-making and agency in international development work. The usual work of challenging power, creating spaces for more voices, changing processes, and influencing change is harder when you are trying to achieve it across such a broad context in an increasingly interconnected and polarized world. The international context creates opportunities for greater collaboration and learning because of how many people this work touches, but the complexity means it will take a lot of energy and sustained, longer-term donor commitment to translate good intentions into change.
What can external stakeholders and friends of PSI expect to see as a result of this work?
We will continue to share data about our progress via our website, similar to what we do now on representation. Once we complete our strategy in 2024, we will be able to share that with the world. For those who work in the same technical areas as we do, I am confident you will continue to hear about how we reflect this in our programmatic work at conferences across the globe. We are eager to continue engaging with peer organizations that do this work, so please reach out!
Interested in learning more about inclusion and belonging at PSI? Contact Kim Walker ([email protected]).