“We stand for people in a place where they cannot stand for themselves.”
-Denene Rodney, CEO, Zebra Strategies
“Overstanding” is an overarching embodiment of all the different ways Zebra Strategies’ research connects to various populations. Cultural currency, cultural humility, racial concordance, and being trauma-informed are all parts of the way we stand for the communities we serve. We go beyond simple connection; we participate with a view of overstanding as empowerment, relationship, and representation.
The term is a concept that is believed to have originated in Rastafari philosophy. It’s a positive implication, one of strength and respect. Overstanding is a holistic consideration for people as individuals, seeing them without bias, mitigating shame and embarrassment, and empowering their voices. At Zebra Strategies, our ethos demands we move beyond merely listening and empathizing to a higher level of engagement. We protect, anticipate, and overstand our communities’ psychological needs before the conversation even begins.
Behind the Numbers
Qualitative and quantitative research isn’t just about the numbers but decoding the up close and personal truth. When we conduct research, we peel back the layers of surface-level conversation and engage in critical thinking and reflection. Considering multiple viewpoints, we challenge our assumptions and gain a broader perspective on complex issues. To overstand is to use these skills to participate in the journey to information, to truth; allowing that truth to be seen and catered to. It is imperative to recognize that, at times what is being said is just as important as what isn’t. We recognize barriers to research often show up as personal challenges. Uncovering the issues may be where we start, but we must go above and beyond to articulate, acknowledge, and give stage to needs, atmospheres, and circumstances. It is not only to hear their voices, but to care, consider root causes, and strive to uncover solutions. Connection becomes relationship, and it is ongoing.
Over the years, market research has typically solicited opinions of targeted populations by simply paying respondents for their time. Although this method will get you some information, what is gathered can often be surface-level and lack the details that would lead to impactful action. Zebra’s approach is rooted in real relationships with communities that are not solely dependent on the research. They are cultivated over time without the hard stops. Challenges and circumstances that may prohibit free movement or free thought are noticed and whenever possible, accommodated. We show up; we engage; we listen; we hear; and we find ways to have a multitude of voices represented in places they are not always heard. In turn we are invited in to share, learn, and converse.
The importance of overstanding lies in its ability to foster holistic and empathetic action of the world and the people we interact with. Intellectual comprehension is heightened as we give license to an emotional connection to others, which we cultivate. In this aspect racial concordance can be helpful to us. We can achieve connection in ways rarely understood outside of shared identities. Our eyes are opened to the depths of experiences, struggles, and perspectives of individuals from diverse backgrounds. Quiet truths are more likely to be spoken aloud, giving room for bravery and, for some, attainable peace. Underrepresented voices are amplified, no longer hard-to engage, but forthcoming, open, and insightful. Overstanding isn’t the typical passive head nod but bolsters dignity and esteem with intention.
A Deep Commitment, A Continuous Process
Overstanding is a continuous process that encourages personal growth and self-awareness. By constantly seeking to overstand ourselves, our motivations, and our actions, we can identify areas for improvement, challenge our biases, and cultivate a deeper sense of authenticity and purpose in our lives. It is that self-reflection that allows us to be sensitive to the challenges of others, hear the voices outside of ourselves and truly grasp what matters to the communities we serve. Researchers utilizing cultural humility overstand by being constantly curious, considering their own reflections yet open to receiving diverse perspectives, which can be useful for sifting through the complexities of intersections. It sets the stage for the final analysis to be more rounded, inclusive, real. This expanded awareness can lead to more nuanced discussions and decision-making processes. By overstanding systemic issues such as racism, discrimination, and inequality, we can bridge gaps, promote inclusivity, and provide a place for one to put down one’s armor.
We don’t take Overstanding lightly. It is key to recognizing and addressing the underlying causes of social problems, rather than simply treating the symptoms. It fuels our compassion, sets the path to creating safe environments for voices not often heard. Overstanding allows us to service issues in a way that is impactful, meaningful, and continue to redesign our landscape into one where no one is seen as less than.
We invite you to overstand with us. Deepen your insights. Strengthen your impact.