By Natalia Plascencia

My favorite part of any new project, job or opportunity is the potential to connect. Human connection is at the center of almost everything we do. That is why it is important to recognize its significance and its power. However, authenticity, which enables true connection, is a rarity these days, so how do you make sure that you remain genuine when building new relationships? More so, how do you make sure that you are engaging with people in an equitable way?

Equity is now a buzzword. Its true meaning and purpose have been lost. The term equity is seen as a theory rather than a practice. It is no longer an action item (verb) but a noun. Equity is meant to aim at bridging the gaps that exist, pointing out the gaps themselves is not enough. To connect with people in an equitable and authentic manner, there needs to be effort behind the initial intention. There needs to be a basic understanding that bridging those gaps takes continuous effort, work, time, and commitment. That is how you build authentic relationships with people; you demonstrate how much you care.

Remaining authentic requires you to decenter yourself; look beyond your understanding of the world and your lived experiences. Step outside of yourself. When we step into some else’s shoes, that gives us an opportunity to develop genuine empathy and it can be a validating experience for the person on the receiving end. It is also a repetitive process; continuously practicing decentering, can keep you grounded so that you can remain authentic. It keeps you tethered to that human connection that is the key to building relationships, building trust, and ultimately collaborating for meaningful change.

The power of human connection is not to be overlooked and repetitive steps are what build the foundation. It can move mountains, especially when those mountains are being moved for a person who has been systematically underserved.

About the Author – Natalia’s experience working directly with people from diverse racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds is an asset to Brendle Group. She has a gift and passion for connecting with underserved communities to inform impactful project outcomes for clients.

One of the highlights early in her career was the design and implementation of a community engagement project for the City of Fort Collins, CO ensuring that Spanish-speaking residents of immigrant backgrounds have equal access to information regarding public utility initiatives. The success of the program was in her ability to skillfully establish relationships and quickly build rapport with the underserved community. Data gathering techniques moved beyond a yes/no or multiple-choice response to provide qualitative data from storytelling that could be distilled into meaningful information regarding benefits and barriers for meaningful change.

Natalia has also done research through Colorado State University using multi-site qualitative analysis to examine how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted Spanish-dominant working Latina mothers in the State of Colorado. Her skills include cultural competency, communication, research, and awareness building.