An honest reflection on the inevitably slow and uncomfortable journey towards equity in a community organisation


Some thoughts from Josephine Reichert, co-founder of Ort Gallery in Birmingham, about the sometimes painful (but ultimately rewarding) process of stepping back and making space

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Thanks for posting this - really interesting and gets at the subtle ways in which power dynamics play out in organisations. Totally agree with your comment think years not days! I wonder if you could say a bit more about the accountability process which led to you stepping down as artistic director? It sounds like you engaged in that process amazingly well. When questions were asked about how myself and other co-founders were making decisions in our group we ended up feeling (and being) quite upset and defensive - and I think missed the opportunity to use our accountability process to properly explore the frustrations that people were trying to express. You mentioned getting therapy personally, but can you say a bit more about the collective processes you all went through? Thank you! @ortgallery :slight_smile:

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Hi Pero thanks for reading and engaging with the blog post!

I think it’s understandable to be defensive at first and I was very defensive myself too. It took me 3 years to get to a point where I realised that defensiveness wasn’t doing me/us any favours. Along the way many people supported me in my defensiveness and justified my own wrongdoings. In the end I trusted my gut that was telling me that there was more to be done that just find an excuse and move on.

Therapy helped in many ways. It allowed me to find empathy with my own actions and to see through structural inequalities. We are all part of a racist, unjust system and it can be very hard to understand how we, ourselves, are upholding injustices. So working through that on a personal level allowed me to see past my own issues and for the first time have enough mental space and capacity to hear what others were saying to me.

As a group we then explored what accountability means for us. Often words like “accountability” are very difficult to apply in practice so it’s important to break them down into digestible parts. On top of that many of us have our ego standing in the way. So we worked together, as a group, and made decisions by consensus about how to proceed. We continue to struggle with this. We remind ourselves every week to be kind to ourselves, not to martyr ourselves. We always start with the individual. Often we stand in our own way. When others remind me to be kind to myself, to take time, to process, then I realise that I am falling into old patterns.

We have set up a kind of collective therapy approach to work. And within this we have 11 rules that we stick to for every issue we come across (more often than not we get stuck on no.1):

  1. Show Warmth to yourself first (no martyrism, take time off, rest)
  2. I cannot fix someone else
  3. Discernment: know when to keep quiet & listen
  4. Lead by example
  5. We don’t educate
  6. Trust your gut feeling
  7. Beware when others get defensive or play victim
  8. Our ethos is our legal framework - we don’t compromise on it, ever
  9. Sign-post people when we cannot help / their issue falls outside our realm of work
  10. What we do is enough
  11. Decenter ourselves - this work is a community effort

Good luck to you and your group!


Thanks so much for this reply Josie and for sharing the detail of how you work through these complex issues together at Ort Gallery. I agree, as you say in the blog, that the radical shifts are often in the tiny day-to-day things. I think the rule of decentring yourself is particularly important - and so hard to do

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