Name: Paulina Fangel
Role: HR Assistant Manager – Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Location: New York, USA
At Random Acts, we are constantly trying to improve in terms of how we foster inclusivity as an organization, which is what makes Paulina’s role such an important one. “I really consider DEI a discipline,” she says. “It’s part of what I studied in grad school, and I take it super seriously, and I think similarly organizations, on a whole, are beginning to realize that it is something that can be formalized and structured. I am the first person they have ever hired to lead an entire DEI-specific team at the organization. Hiring that team was my first priority and that of the org, so we could robustly address what was missing.”
Paulina’s current responsibilities include the education and training of staff when it comes to matters of diversity, equity, and inclusion; liaising with departments about making sure we are being as inclusive as possible both internally and externally; as well as, the creation of resources and the ongoing support for staff of all identities. Under Paulina, the DEI team runs the diversity, equity, and inclusion basics training for all new staff and departments, posts to the Random Acts virtual office space with a weekly educational post, and holds more specific trainings for various teams. They also help departments like Outreach and our Regional Representatives with everything from writing to brainstorming to discussing accessibility issues.
DEI is also creating the first Affinity Groups within the organization. These are optional groups for people belonging to certain identities, with the goal of building community, creating developmental tools, and empowering people to make recommendations for change. There will be three: one for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), one for anyone who identifies as LGBTQIA+, and one for anyone who identifies as living with a disability.
Paulina transitioned into her current role in HR about 5 months ago, but she has been a Random Acts staff member since summer 2018. She was hired as one of the first two members of the newly founded Outreach department. However, Paulina was highly active as a Random Acts supporter before her hiring. She helped create and run the Gaming for Kindness fundraisers alongside Kristin Lindsay (who became Outreach Manager) and co-founding the New York City chapter of Friends of Random Acts. This group has hosted in-person and online events to support or fundraise for various causes and organizations in the spirit of Random Acts.
“Friends of Random Acts NYC is like a second family to me, and I don’t say that lightly. We’ve been around for 3 years, and I’ve made some of my best friends through that group. Nicole Manzetti, who is part of our NYC Group, is also the FoRA Coordinator for Random Acts, and if anyone is interested in starting a group in their local area, you can reach out to her directly. The groups have a loose mission of working in the spirit of Random Acts and supporting the organization informally. It’s a way to build community and do good.”
Forming Lasting Connections
After connecting with Executive Director Rachel Miner – a New York neighbor of Paulina’s – about pitching Gaming for Kindness and hosting an informal Holiday Kindness event that ended up birthing the NYC chapter of Friends of Random Acts, Paulina decided it was time to officially come onboard.
“Rachel told me they were going to be starting a new department, Outreach, and the way she described it sounded interesting. She described what we call “toolkits”, and I thought I would want to work on those. I consider myself an educator, and ultimately, they are education tools for our supporters. I was attracted to the idea of working with Kristin, too. I want to say that I am very grateful to Kristin and Rachel. This role is complex for a lot of reasons, and I consider them both mentors in this work.”
Organizing with Win
One of Paulina’s main priorities when it comes to performing acts of kindness has been her ongoing support for a New York organization called Win. Win works with women and children who do not currently have a home. Sometimes this is due to financial reasons, and sometimes it is due to fleeing domestic violence. Over the years, she helped to organize toy drives, backpack drives, and blanket making parties to make blankets for the toddlers. The Friends of Random Acts New York group was also able to host a Harry Potter themed activity day for the children after applying for an Act as well.
“I have helped [Win] with other things, like arranging and organizing their stock room and donations,” Paulina explains. “It’s not everyone’s approach, but my approach is to take a deep dive into helping an organization. So, whenever I can, I support them. I’ve volunteered with them for 3 years. Outside of that, I consider myself more of an activist than a volunteer. I regularly march and donate. I also am pretty politically involved, and volunteered with the Warren and Biden campaigns this past election cycle.”
Supporting Others Through Volunteerism
Paulina, like many of our staff, has a personal history with volunteering that has led her to make it a way of life. “My parents really instilled volunteerism as part of just what you do when I was growing up. I used to volunteer with them when I was a child. I was a scholarship student at the Catholic school we went to, and as part of paying off the debt we owed, we had to volunteer with the church. So we used to volunteer at the senior center a lot, and I remember doing that from the age of 6 until 18.” And in terms of causes close to her heart, or campaigns she would love to see Random Acts do more for, there is one in particular at the forefront – immigration. Win serves immigrant families in the NYC area, including undocumented families, and it is one of the reasons Paulina was attracted to them as an organization.
“Both my parents were undocumented citizens when they first came here from Mexico, but [supporting these causes] is a fine line with Random Acts because it is political – it’s complicated when you’re a non profit. Still we are about to work on Food Equity. I am passionate about farm field migrant workers rights, and I am hoping we can find a way to support them in a small way or bring attention to their lives. I am also very passionate about the reunification of families who were separated at the border. Again, that is political, but there are ways, I think, to support, that are less so, like supporting the children with school supplies and things of that nature. Through Friends of Random Acts NYC we raised some funds for an organization named RAICES that works on immigrant rights issues.”
#GetKind Celebrating Diversity
January and February’s #GetKind theme is Celebrating Diversity. Paulina has some suggestions about how we can engage with that message specifically while supporting Random Acts or our communities with acts of kindness.
“So, oftentimes in DEI work we say: “Diversity is who we are” and “social justice work is what we do.” It’s a way of understanding the difference between diversity, equity, and inclusion, and social justice so they don’t all get conflated into one giant thing. For this month’s theme, I would focus on those two things.”
“Diversity – people different than you. Think about your community, and see what space there is for you to provide support and work with people different than you in performing an act of kindness. That’s what this #GetKind theme is about for me. It’s about getting out of your space and comfort zone and looking to your neighbors who are different than you, whether that’s race, ethnicity, class, age, religion, sexuality, or gender.”
“And then social justice is what you do. I did a presentation during the Summit on the Active Citizen Continuum, and basically, it challenges us to move from just volunteering (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but to go from that to being an active citizen, which means asking root causes behind the volunteerism that you are doing. So if you are looking to do an act of kindness in your community, look to do it with someone or a group different with you and do it WITH them instead of FOR them. Ask them what they need, how you can do it together, think about how you can learn from them, and then think about how you can address the root causes of what is happening in the community.”
Looking to the Future
Moving into 2021, Paulina has two overarching goals for her role with Random Acts and the growth of her team’s responsibilities. To create a culture of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Random Acts, and to support Random Acts staff in DEI development. All staff should be asking themselves “Do I know all I need to about this? Is my lens enough?” And all staff should feel supported in asking questions about Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion or asking for their inclusion needs to be met.
“We want 100% of staff members to know we exist as a resource for them, and to create resources that help them in their DEI development. Resources they engage with. If someone at Random Acts feels like they are being targeted or excluded because of who they are, in terms of their social identities, we aren’t doing our job. I want people to feel safe, and for us to help create an environment in which everyone can be their whole selves.”