Centering Collective Care in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion with Enrico Manalo

Enrico Manalo, Chief of Learner Success at All Aces will join us to talk about how their organization implements collective care and what it means for the work of diversity, equity, inclusion, and transformation


Pieta Blakely  0:00 

In the last few weeks, we have been talking about different kinds of care, structural care, community care, collective care, and my least favorite self-care. Well, today we’re going to talk about the relationship between some of those types of care and equity. And we’re excited to have with us a guest whose organization centers collective care.

CTMM Intro:

Pieta Blakely  0:51 

Good morning and welcome to Coffee Time with Masterminds, a 30-minute conversation with and for leaders of mission-based organizations. I’m Pieta Blakely, and today I’m joined by my colleague, Rebecca Tuttle. Cynthia, good morning. Cynthia is managing a family issue today. We want to welcome our listeners in the United States and Australia and around the world. If you’re with us, please introduce yourself in the chat and let us know where you’re joining from. Today, we have Enrico Manalo with us. Enrico is chief of Learner Success at All Aces Inc, where he helps organizations implement transformative change to disrupt racism and promote diversity, equity and inclusion – both through facilitation and through the work he oversees on All Aces online learning community He is also the lead host and producer of Intentionally Act All Aces educational video channel, where we have been honored to appear as guests. Good morning, Enrico. Thank you for joining us.

Enrico Manalo  1:57 

Oh, good morning, Pieta and Rebecca. It’s so wonderful to be with you again. I always really enjoy our conversations. And it was so fantastic to host both of you and Cynthia on Intentionally Act live. But in fact, it was not myself hosting. It was our CEO and founder, Dr. S. Atyia Martin. Great to see you both again.

Pieta Blakely  2:25 

It was a great show. So, tell us what the term collective care means for you and for All Aces.

Enrico Manalo  2:33 

Yeah, absolutely. And I just want to, before we go into that, go back to something that you mentioned in your intro, which is self-care as being your least favorite. And I’ve come around to that way of thinking as well. And partly, it’s through the All Aces value of collective care. Of course, this is not unique to All Aces, but this is one of our core values. And for us, collective care really means making space for ourselves and others to receive care and to hold one another accountable. So, to give a concrete example, let’s say that the three of us are colleagues, and I’m seeing that Rebecca has got a lot on her plate, she’s super stressed out, she’s doing everything she can to hold up her end of her work. And I’m noticing that she’s in some sense, actually not respecting her own humanity and her need for rest. Then I might be able to say, “Hey, Rebecca, you know, you’re doing a fantastic job. You’re putting in the hours, but I can’t help but notice that you’re kind of burning it at both ends. Like, is there something that we can be doing as a team to help to create some space so that you can catch a breath? Because if you keep going on like this, you are going to burn out.”

Pieta Blakely  3:47 

Let’s go back to something you just said there:  not respecting one’s humanity and need for rest. Like, that’s your job. I mean, that’s a pretty radical way to think about it.

Enrico Manalo  3:58 

Yeah, but I mean, we’re so used to thinking of ourselves as cogs in a machine, and we even internalize this, “I’m totally replaceable.” When the reality is that every convening of a group of humans is a unique thing unto itself. And if we are not respecting our own humanity in that kind of framework, then how can we really be positioned to respect and support the humanity of others?

Rebecca Tuttle  4:28 

That’s beautifully said.

Pieta Blakely  4:31 

I know. We’ve got to be better with that, because this is really turning a lot of conversations on their head. And when I say that self-care is my least favorite, I do not mean to minimize the things that people do to take care of themselves or to say that those things aren’t important. What I mean is, I think we falsely emphasize self-care. And, you know, do not take responsibility, omit discussion of these other forms of care. But in the in the process of centering humans, we’re going to have a completely different conversation about our work. So, at your organization, All Aces has four tenets of how you operate and collective care is number one. Talk about that.

Enrico Manalo  5:35 

Yeah, so collective care is just so foundational. And one of our core equity opportunities is relationships. Another one is communication. So, the three core equity opportunities that we talk about are knowledge, communication, and relationships. And so, collective care really allows us to do a number of things. Operating in this way helps us to gain more knowledge about ourselves. It encourages and supports us to communicate with one another, the things that we need, even if it’s uncomfortable. And relationships – in the US, we have this prevailing myth of the rugged individualist. And that’s really harmed us right. And for so many reasons that I can’t go into right now. But when we are working on relationships, the thing that we are realizing is that no single one of us exists in a vacuum.  We exist within living, breathing networks, that allow us to do the things that we do.

So, for example, the reason that I am on this wonderful show with you this morning is because the two of us and Cynthia and myself have formed a relationship that allows that to happen. So because we’ve built up a certain amount of trust in each other’s abilities and understanding of things, we’re then able to create content together. And that’s a wonderful thing. So collective care really allows us to proceed in ways that are intentional and as much as possible, not oppressive. This leads into our other value of client care. And client care is a lot like collective care. Part of it includes us building relationships with our clients. But another major component of client care is that we create these relationships with the idea that we are not here to have our humanity as a vendor violated, right.

And so, that’s very important because what can happen in the client-provider relationship is that the client can sometimes demand whatever they want, and either we will have to give that to them or compromise on some of our values are something else that ends up being somewhat extractive or else oppressive. So, it’s really important in any relationship to kind of establish what we are comfortable with doing and not doing. The other values that we hold are… let’s see if I can get the order right. Practicing what we preach is one of them. That’s value number four. Oh, yes. And value number three is being a playmaker. So, that’s stepping in to pick up slack and to add our efforts whenever we see the opportunity to do so. So, you can imagine if we are creating space for one another, to receive care and to hold each other accountable with collective care, then being a playmaker follows up with that and allows us to say, okay, so going back to my example, Rebecca is really very burdened right now.

And so, I’m seeing some opportunities for me to step in and perhaps lighten the load. And then the final value that I mentioned, is practicing what we preach. In this space that all three of us operate in, it’s really easy to talk about values and to do things that ultimately, even if unintentionally, are performative. So, practicing what we preach is really an attempt to cut through all of that. So, to be reflective about the things that we’re doing, and to be very considerate and deliberate in how we are acting in the world or being in the world. I guess it’s a way of being intentional about things. So, please let me know if you’d like me to go into further detail there.

Pieta Blakely  9:40 

Say a little bit more about why collective care and why these values are so important, particularly in the space of DEI work.

Enrico Manalo  9:53 

Yeah, absolutely. So, many people are familiar with DEI as it is, but one of the things that we all know as practitioners is that often what happens in organizations is that people undertake DEI work with the primary intention of increasing their bottom line, or else, you know, being able to protect themselves from criticism. This is not everybody. And certainly, we’re seeing more and more people really earnestly undertake the work. But with all that as a backdrop, if we don’t have these core values in place, then it’s a lot harder to find values alignment, and if we can’t find values alignment with our clients, then inevitably, we’re going to end up in conflicts.

And for those who don’t know, my background is actually in conflict resolution. So, as much as possible, these values help us to understand our relationship, not only to our clients, but with ourselves. And having a good sense of ourselves is really vital to this work. Because if we don’t know how we’re doing, and you have a sense of the progress that we’re making, or the things we would like to make progress on, then it’s very hard for us to authentically make such recommendations for other people.  That would be hypocritical. And honestly, part of DEI, like when it’s undertaken in the spirit of true earnestness is about reality – the reality that diversity exists, the reality that it’s not going away, and the reality that it’s going to be hard to work with one another across difference, to do things in a way that aren’t horrible, or extractive or destructive, or any of those other negative things that, frankly, most of the time are unnecessary.

Pieta Blakely  11:50 

One of the things that we have talked about is that sometimes there is inappropriate or false focus on fairness, being in everything they’re saying. And that actually, sometimes appropriate care means people get what they need, because they need it. And people have different needs. And that’s, you know, one of the places wherethinking about diversity in any group is going to affect how you think about care. Bringing or providing care.

Enrico Manalo  12:34 

Yeah, and, you know, there are some initiatives to try to create “care” for people. So, this is the idea that your employer would provide insurance. That’s the intent. As we’ve seen, it’s played out very differently. Instead of being used as, as a carrot to entice people to work for companies, it’s become a stick. “Alright, work for us or else…” “Get a good job, or else…” That’s not fantastic.

Rebecca Tuttle  13:10 

Enrico, I have a question, if you don’t mind. So, we may have some viewers saying, “Okay, this is all well and good, but I have responsibilities. I don’t have these flexibilities.” And that’s where you get a lot of the pushback of, “Well, we don’t have time or the resources to do this kind of work to allow our employees to do this.” But I’m hearing you say that, well, I can see how this is a conflict resolution type role, especially when you get that pushback organizationally. But what do you say to those folks? What do you say to them when they give that pushback? And how do you convince them because we can host conversations and have all of these plans in place, but then the work continues at such a rapid pace. How do you help people keep up with that, so that they actually get to the implementation phase?

Enrico Manalo  14:06 

Yeah, so one of the core questions that I ask, and it doesn’t always come out like this, but what’s at the heart of it is, are you happy with the way that things are going now? And the answer most of the time is no. Okay, well, if you’re not happy with how things are going now, then what are our options? We could continue doing the same thing and expect a different result. And some of you might recognize that as you know, one of those apocryphal definitions of insanity. Or maybe we could try something different. And if we’re trying something different, why not start with something that’s relatively small and easy to do?

So, if you’re working on a work team, presumably these are people that you see fairly often and have relationships with. So, I mean, how hard is it to start small and to say like, to go back to the example, right, if Rebecca is really stressed out, maybe even just doing something on the smaller end can help Rebecca to feel a little bit more supported, you know, know that not every single thing is on her and give her a little bit more confidence to go forward. A lot of people freak out when they hear aboutthings that DEI practitioners are recommending, because they’re imagining like this huge amount of change. And to be fair, it would be, but it doesn’t come all at once. It takes time, it takes time for people’s attitudes to change, for behaviors to change. We know that for habit formation to change, it takes about six months of like, kind of dedicated behavioral modification.

But these are not things that we really think about in our day to day lives. Well, I mean, I do and I guess that the two of you do as well. But we have to start somewhere. And the nice thing about diversity is a lot of the changes that we’re implementing, we can experiment with them a little bit. And in fact, we have to, because Pieta, as you were saying, every single group of people is a different group of people, which sounds obvious, but that means that there is no one size fits all. And, I know that we’re used to buying clothes in that way. But it used to be that every set of clothes was tailored to you. Right? Did that take a little bit more time? Yeah, but a lot of those clothes are still around, whereas the $3 T-shirt I bought two years ago has like, it’s mostly holes at this point. So, what do we want?

Pieta Blakely  16:48 

You know, that’s an interesting analogy. And one of the things that I think about, because of my training as a labor economist is that a lot of how we work was designed to fit a particular straight, white, probably married, man. And that worker may or may not ever actually have been real, but that was the idea of who the workforce was being built for. So, he probably had a spouse at home taking care of his house, he did not really have childcare responsibilities or elder care responsibilities. He could come to work and focus exclusively on work for eight or nine hours. I would say that now that reflects nobody in the workplace. It probably reflected nobody, a few years ago, and particularly in the era of COVID. You know, even more emphatically nobody, right? There is nobody who does not have the rest of their life to take care of and is not somehow affected by the rest of their life while they’re at work. So, there’s a lot about the way we work that is not fitting anybody. Much, much less not being uniquely tailors to our specific group of people.

Enrico Manalo  18:16 

Yeah, so you mentioned your background as an economist. So, my father just recently retired, but he was a resource economics professor for a long time. And I remember learning a little bit about economics and the concept of an econ. So, just like an economic, blank person that generates stuff for the economy. This kind of thinking definitely, you know, resonates with what you were just saying, but you know, this idea that we’ve got different selves – I’ve got my work self and my personal cell. What a ridiculous fiction. You are the same in both places, right. And we see that during the pandemic – people becoming incredibly embarrassed when their child runs in needing something, and that’s real. That’s like, that’s who you are. And that’s fine. And if that’s not fine, then what does that say about the way that things are going?

Pieta Blakely  19:16 

You’re right about your workplace or your ability to continue doing work under these circumstances. Yeah, and no, go ahead, Rebecca.

Rebecca Tuttle  19:25 

I was just going to ask you, Enrico, because I find this fascinating. There are so many resources available now to implement a lot of what you’re saying, and by implementation that sounds very narrative, but I’m a writer. So, that’s my role, right. But no pun intended there. There are so many resources available that there are a couple of things that come to mind as we’re speaking is, one was the pushback which we had just touched upon. The other is a lot of people don’t know how to go about this. work. So, can you talk a little bit more about how you help organizations and individuals get more involved in their work and really start to implement a lot of this work? Because they need help.

Enrico Manalo  20:13 

Yeah. Thank you so much for that question, Rebecca. To be quite honest, a lot of the work of supporting organizations in this work is getting into the room with them, and hearing what they’re hesitant about, what they’re afraid of, what they’re afraid might happen. And it’s not about convincing people, because remember that you can only kind of be convinced or persuaded of things that you’re already somewhat open to. So, sometimes it’s just a matter of literally being in the room with people and kind of figuratively holding my hands out, or, you know, our team’s hands out and kind of saying, “Yep, we’re right here to help you with your first steps, but we will not walk for you.”

Right, we’re here and you are going to stumble, you are going to maybe get a scraped knee, you might even cry a little, but it’s going to be okay. And so just kind of helping people to connect the work and the ideas of what they can do back to their humanity, and what they can act on right now. That often helps them to start to get a sense of what else they can do once they link up with one another. And, you know, getting them excited about that possibility. I think for those of us in the change industry, we take it for granted that change is a scary thing, but that’s a set of risks that people are willing to take.

A lot of times people, they want something to change so badly that they don’t even think about the risks that they’re going to have to take, and how scary that’s going to be. The other thing that they don’t think about is how normal that is. So, a lot of people don’t make the connection. But the looks that I often get from clients in their first encounter with us is very much the look that a lot of kids have on the first day of school. It’s a little weird, you’re kind of self-conscious, you’re not really sure who you fit in with. But then very quickly, it all kind of starts to come together. And the thing that was holding you back was really yourself. So…

Rebecca Tuttle  22:20 

And fear. So interesting.

Pieta Blakely  22:25 

It’s so uncomfortable to think we’re going to give up everything, all of the assumptions that we had about the workplace in order to center the humanity of the workers.

Enrico Manalo  22:40 

A lot of it is just built without our humanity in mind, starting with that education piece. So, I’m sure the two of you remember sitting down and doing your multiplication tables, like, “Oh, you got to do 100 in a minute.” Why? That doesn’t help with anything. Why do I have to know how many apples the frog is going to buy? Like, I don’t understand.

Pieta Blakely  23:03 

Yeah, not ESCO we’ve ever used since

Rebecca Tuttle  23:06 

You know this, there’s also an element of excitement. And, wow, now that we are starting this, if an organization hasn’t really dove into this work yet, there’s also an element of excitement. Look at what we are capable of now. Look at all of the negative energy we’re leaving behind and pressing on together. And I also believe that when teams come together, and everyone can really share in the vision, the work that’s being produced is much more helpful, much more useful for the clients you serve, because this is all about the clients that we serve. And, you know, some of this is about our internal, but it’s also about who we serve once we are familiar and practicing this work.

Enrico Manalo  23:56 

Yeah, absolutely. And the number of clients that I’ve been able to come into contact with who as I get to know them, genuinely want to use their role in their industry for good, it shouldn’t have surprised me, but it still does. You know, I think one of the hardest things for me is we had a client recently, and they’re operating within the banking industry. So, one of the challenges that they were kind of grappling with is, okay, so we really want to do this work, and we really believe in it. However, there are some conventions of our industry that are going to be a real challenge to doing things in the way that they want, that that we want to. And that is a reality right now.

However, what I can say is, the more people that we get in industries, to undertake this work, and in the future, possibly to link their efforts together, the greater chance we have of making change in our lifetimes that we would like to see. So yeah, these challenges are incredibly large and will take a lot of time. And we’re so primed for instant gratification and to see things instantaneously that sometimes it’s just really uncomfortable and hard to sit with that and say, Okay, I’ve got to chip away at this again, you know,

Pieta Blakely  25:25 

Right. Yeah. And, these are not changes that we can make this week. This is the beginning of a process. That’s going to take years.

Enrico Manalo  25:36 

Yeah. And the thing that we’re trying to exit out of took not just years, but centuries to kind of concretize into the form that we see it today. So, if we want to reform how we do work, we can’t do it right now. Right? Because the institutional thinking has a lineage that goes back to the foundation of the country. That’s a lot of history to be pushing back against. So yeah, change is slow. But the message here is like, we got to keep it steady. And that’s why it is so important for us to have relationships with one another because in a prolonged kind of project, there are going to be places where we falter, where we have doubts, where we’re not sure if we can do it. And if we can’t rely on one another to get ourselves through this, then who’s going to emerge at the other end of it, really?

Pieta Blakely  26:33 

I have been saying, you know, for the last two years that we’ve been living through COVID, that this is an opportunity. And that in this crisis, is real opportunity, because we’ve been thrown enough out of our routines that a lot of things we never questioned are up for discussion now. Like going to the office, which, we kind of assumed that we would always go to offices to do work. And now it turns out that everybody can work 100% remote all of the time, which has real promise in terms of including people in the workforce who would not otherwise have been included. Like in terms of people who live in different places, people who have physical disability that make it hard for them to commute, all those kinds of things. So, what are you seeing, Enrico, now? Is there more excitement? Are people more open minded? Are people thinking about care differently? Because I think our needs as people are you know, more urgent, more evident now?

Enrico Manalo  27:47 

Well, it’s kind of a mix. I definitely see some people. and often it’s people who have maybe seen other colleagues that they were close to burnout. So, now they’re kind of thinking more seriously., “Oh, okay. So that happened to somebody that I respected. Somebody I was close to. So, I’ve got to proceed with caution.”

 Hopeful I’m not sure, but I know that there are some people that like the flexibility that working this way offers for sure. I think for me, something that’s come up though, is that, well, Internet is still not seen as a public utility, when at this point in the pandemic, it’s become clearer than ever, that it really needs to be classed that way. And if we were able to class it that way, then we would be able to provide Internet to a lot more people than currently have it. So, while a lot of us are connected, there are still a number of people and pockets throughout the country where this is not the case. And in large part, that’s because, well, Internet is private and not seen as a necessity. So, I think once we kind of shift the infrastructure thing and get more used to working in this way, then yeah, we’ll be able to realize more of the potential.

But yeah, some of the other things that I’m seeing are people dealing with things like Zoom fatigue. More and more, I’m hearing about a lot of teams who are, maybe not going on camera quite so often or are to phone calls and things like that. So, it’s just a very, very interesting time for all of us, especially when it comes to relationships. A lot of what I’m hearing as well is that people miss that kind of unstructured time to interact with one another, but it’s very hard to you know, hang out by the water cooler when water cooler might be a couple 1000 miles away.

Pieta Blakely  30:00 

And we only have this one medium. So, it’s like, I would like to spend time with people, but I do not want to look at the screen anymore. I think there is going to be a more creative future where… maybe there are more creative futures. We go back to using our phones. You know, we’re going to build community through Telegram or something like that. But we’re going to have to be intentional about building community in ways that we used to do around the water cooler. But we’ve also got this opportunity to understand that there were some flaws about our water cooler life for things to go better.

Enrico Manalo  30:47 

Yeah, absolutely better. I mean, more than anything, I would love us to see us all kind of learn from the paradigm that we’re living under before – the pandemic paradigm and really kind of thinking through together. Okay, this is our shot. How do we want to live? Right? Well, what’s clear is, and all of us have have moved during the pandemic, tt doesn’t make sense to live somewhere where you don’t love the weather, the everything if you don’t have to physically go into a location there all the time. So, you know, already just with people moving around, once we come out of the pandemic, it’s going to be a lot different than we thought it was going to be. And I’m excited about it. But I’m also kind of cautious because, you know, for every opportunity out there, there are people who are looking to do something, perhaps not so fantastic with it.

Pieta Blakely  31:47 

Yeah, useful caveat. Enrico, this has been incredibly useful. Thank you for joining us. Viewers and listeners, you can access a whole treasure trove of useful information at and we will also put a link to Enrico’s YouTube and contents in the comments after the show. Thank you so much for joining us today.

Enrico Manalo  32:14 

Thank you as well. It was a pleasure to be here.

Pieta Blakely  32:17 

Have a great weekend, everybody.

Rebecca Tuttle  32.18

Bye bye.

Transcribed by

Pieta Blakely

About Pieta Blakely

I help mission-based organizations measure their impact so that they can do what they do well. I started my nonprofit career as a teacher in workforce development and adult basic education. It was important work and I was worried that we didn’t really know if we were doing it well. In the process of trying to answer that question, I got a Masters in Education and a PhD in Social Policy, and became an evaluator.

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