Minerva Strategies’ Equity Journey—Part 1 (Probably of Many)

A laptop is open in front of a person writing in a notebook

By Joy Portella—

I’m smart enough to know what I don’t know. I hope that I’ve imbued Minerva Strategies—as my organizational progeny—with this same quality. A few years ago, we recognized that we didn’t know enough about how to center equity and inclusion in our company’s culture, and how to do the same for our clients’ communications.

It’s terrifying for me to think that Minerva—which is all about contributing to positive change—could perpetuate harm. Just the thought makes me queasy. But as a white woman with layers of privilege, I am a ticking time bomb of unrecognized biases. I need help to become the best, most equitable and inclusive leader I can be.

Minerva started looking for a partner to help launch our diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) journey in 2019. We had a few fits and starts and then COVID hit, waylaying all plans. At the same time, COVID’s brutal exposure of inequities and our country’s reckoning with race added a renewed sense of urgency to DEI efforts. Minerva could not continue without undertaking this work.

Finding the right partner was a challenge. We needed a partner who is excited to work with a young company, can adapt well-established DEI practices to fit the needs of a small team (as it’s challenging to caucus with five people), understands the power and responsibility of communication, and is ready to push and stretch us.

After a brief but thorough selection process, we decided to partner with Co-Create Work led by La’Kita Williams and LTHJ Global led by Lindsey Jackson. Co-Create Work and LTHJ Global possess many of the same qualities that make Minerva appealing to our clients. They’re small, woman-owned businesses who offer the attention and energies of experienced senior-level team members supported by whip-smart young professionals. They also partner incredibly well, offering clients a powerhouse combination of culture building, deep DEI introspection, and executive coaching.

We started collaborating with Co-Create Work and LTHJ Global in April and we’re already thrilled. Much of our journey thus far has focused on each team member engaging with the Riso-Hudson Enneagram Type Indicator (“RHETI” for short), which offers insights into personality types. We’re using these insights to examine our best and most challenging qualities, how we respond to stress, the diversity within our small team, and how our personality types show up in our biases and actions toward people of different races, genders, abilities, and belief sets. It’s fascinating stuff.

It’s also hard work. As someone who thrives on plans and action, slowing down to deeply—I mean DEEPLY—examine how I think, feel, and interact with other people is extremely challenging. Some of my colleagues find these efforts invigorating. I’m a little jealous because I find them uncomfortable and exhausting.

But isn’t that the point? The efforts—whether physical, emotional, or mental—that are most uncomfortable and exhausting can also be the most rewarding. I don’t like triathlon training; I like therapy even less; I begrudgingly did yoga for years before loving it. And I definitely do not relish challenging client relationships. I’ve done all these things, and I continue to do them because they make me better for myself and others.

Minerva is still very much at the beginning of this DEI journey. I look forward to providing periodic updates about our efforts with Co-Create Work, LTHJ Global and beyond. I know there is no endpoint to this work—it’s a practice, not a process. Thanks for allowing me to share.

The CoCreate Work logo is above the LTHJ Global logo

About The Author

Joy Portella

Joy Portella

Founder and President

Joy leads the Minerva Strategies team, providing senior-level direction to every client. Her skills have been honed through more than two decades of experience helping organizations more effectively communicate with media, donors, policymakers and other key audiences.

Prior to establishing Minerva, Joy spent five years as director of communications at the international humanitarian organization Mercy Corps. She guided Mercy Corps’ messaging, media relations, and crisis communications, and traveled extensively to document work in global hotspots including the Horn of Africa, the Gaza Strip, and North Korea. Previously, Joy worked for a decade at leading communication firms – Burson-Marsteller, Ruder Finn and SS+K – in New York and Washington DC.