Tamara is a Brussels-based inclusion specialist with a background in global programme management and cross-cultural theory. She works with organisations on projects that empower diverse talent and create inclusive, equitable systems.  This includes the SPARK communities project which, in partnership with the ENAR Foundation, focuses on building communities for racialized professionals, emphasizing networking, support, and knowledge exchange as key pillars of empowerment.

Tamara Makoni
Spark DEI Community Chair, ENAR Foundation

Tamara’s Story: Discovering my passion for associations

I grew up cross-culturally, living on three continents before I was 8, so working in an international setting was an obvious choice for me. After gaining my Masters in psychoanalysis, I began working in technology – and realized that the key to managing global programs was to enable stakeholders from different cultures and backgrounds to collaborate and find solutions that work for everyone. Today I work with an association to build communities based on these same principles: inclusion, equity, accessibility. I find that my non-linear career path is an asset that helps me relate with a wide range of people. I would definitely encourage others to find the right path that suits them, where they can combine their interests and skills.

Tamara’s Approach: #InspiringInclusion through listening, curiosity, upskilling and clear guidelines

I try to inspire inclusion by giving space to others and by listening to them. This way, we make sure the community is fit for purpose and members get what they need from it. For instance, for our in-person meeting last year, we built the agenda collaboratively at our monthly socials. Members were invited to comment on the content, timing, and more – so the event was truly ‘by us, for us’. I also like getting curious – asking why and how so I can understand people’s perspectives and learn from them. I aim to inspire inclusion by upskilling myself. I don’t believe others have a responsibility to teach me – I need to develop my own awareness. Then I can engage with people starting from a foundation of knowledge, with the aim of minimizing the likelihood of committing – for instance – a microaggression. Lastly, we aim to promote inclusion by sharing guidelines and rules – for instance we have a rule to use Zoom for every virtual meeting because of its accessibility features. And at the start of each call, I’ll share pointers to create a safer and inclusive space (e.g. update your pronouns if you wish, please don’t interrupt, …).

Tamara’s Perspective: On the importance of DEI for association relevance

DEI is absolutely vital. The needs of associations’ customers will evolve over time, and associations will require innovative thinking to match these needs. This innovation will only come when there is diversity of thought and an atmosphere that welcomes and values all voices so that everyone feels empowered to contribute and do their best work. Moreover, the teams must represent different sectors across society, or they may unintentionally find their solutions work for some and not all – like automatic soap dispensers in bathrooms that don’t work when people with dark skin try to use them (read more about this story here ).

Tamara’s Initiatives: Actions and Inspirations for fellow association leaders

One thing I don’t often hear spoken about is the power DEI has to restore people’s sense of justice and promote healing. This is especially important for people from underrepresented or marginalized backgrounds for whom things like microaggressions may be a daily occurrence. It has been amazing through the SPARK initiative to hear feedback from community members about how taking part has offered an opportunity to heal and deal with the pressures of i) working in DEI, ii) being a racialized person in Europe. After our two-day in-person meeting, one member wrote: ‘DEI work is a difficult and challenging one, even if fascinating and absolutely necessary, and I am very grateful I met all those incredible people, fighting for antiracism and equality all around Europe and making me feel like I have a safety net in this regard.’ (read more here)