We need to accept that the pipeline problem is real
The most important point in Grim's piece about why internal strife is so rampant in the nonprofit world is that the only incentive nonprofits has is to get donations, not to actually accomplish anything.
It’s definitely #1. There are so many white collar office jobs that are no more “skilled” than any fast food place, in the sense of requiring skills that you can’t pick up on the job, that arbitrarily require a college degree.
Just as an example, I worked for a state senator who walked the walk on this issue and made a point to hire people to work in her office who were from her district and were often reentering ex-prisoners. They’d do normal legislative office stuff like answering phones, data entry, constituent casework, scheduling, and so forth, and most of them did fine. They were doing the same work straight out of prison that I, a Stanford graduate, was responsible for when I worked in other offices, and that most other offices were demanding a college degree for. It’s just snobbery, frankly. They don’t want someone with the wrong accent answering their phones.
From the title of this article I was expecting a more general consideration of the issues plaguing progressive activist institutes. While I’m certain poor strategy and tactics towards addressing diversity and representation goals is a source of issues, I get the impression that there are additional sources. E.g., the coalition-brain problem in which every left-leaning organization feels compelled to incorporate all other liberal/progressive causes into its mission, which can give rise to that ACLU tweet in which pro-choice activism needs to incporporate LGBT+ advocacy.
In thinking through a more general understanding of the challenges of these institutions, I immediately recalled FrigidWind’s comment from Friday’s mailbox that also addressed these issues. 
> I think that Matt is either blind or papering over an important part in what makes leftist organizations so vulnerable to the phenomenon described in the Grim article: the types of people who work there. They tend to be low conscientiousness (remember how they said the best way to honor George Floyd was to...loosen deadlines?), high neuroticism and high openness (which is why they follow dumb fads). This is what I call "protest disorder" or the "protestor personality". Building an organization out of these types is like trying to build using jello bricks. This is why I keep saying that the best organizations are the ones that attract normies.
There is some harsh truth in that statement which has captivated my thinking on the issues plaguing progressive activists institutes. And that explanation seems to address some of the common themes of the Ryan Grim article; just numerous cases where the mission of an activist group was derailed by counterproductive and divisive diversions.
In any other organization, I would expect coworkers to pull the focus back to the work at hand. If necessary, I’d expect managers to intervene to explicitly tell someone to get back on task. Yet that may not be possible when a team is disproportionately composed of people with personality traits that make them susceptible to these diversions. Coworkers would not be nudging each other back on task but instead fanning the flames of obstruction. Managers too may even feel compelled to put work aside when such a distraction arises.
TL;DR: The following two statements cannot both be true:
(a) The US educational system is systemically racist and produces deeply unequal outcomes.
(b) The "pipeline problem" is a myth, and management is just using it as an excuse.
Progressive orgs affirm their commitment to both (a) and (b), run into problems, and are at a complete loss for how to respond.
Everything that Matt says about the pipeline problem is accurate, but this isn’t why progressive organizations are paralyzed.
There is a certain sort of personality that thrives on drama and victimhood. They are toxic people that in the past would be fired or not hired. These types of people are disproportionately progressive. Eventually they will turn on the organization that they work for because nothing will ever satisfy them.
Look at that one chick in the Washington Post. The one who got mad at some dude retweeting a joke. She couldn’t let it go, even after she won.
As my dad used to say. You can’t hide crazy forever.
The issue is simply an HR one. They are hiring wackos. And then not firing them as soon as the crazy comes out.
I wonder if we need some more clarity about what low-level hires at progressive activist groups actually do all day. Is it cutting-edge policy research that requires a BA from a selective college?
I have a BA from a selective college and I don't think I'd have been qualified to do that in my early twenties. But I was qualified to fix the copier and the coffee machine and to learn from exposure to older activists, which is what I actually did as an NGO intern when I was twenty-three.
So I lean more towards Matt's option 1. Organizations should try hiring community college graduates from disadvantaged backgrounds: preferably *so* disadvantaged that just getting through community college proves they're smart and hardworking. As a bonus, those people are probably a lot less likely than entitled Ivy Leaguers to try and destroy the organizations that have given them a break.
My dentist is Black, and his father was a dentist also. His kids attend private school; they live in a 4700 sq ft house in a neighborhood of similarly-sized homes. He is a terrific guy and a really good dentist. His kids will likely attend one of the selective colleges referenced in this essay, along with a large number of other kids-of-dentists from similar upbringing. They will add a different skin color and their unique value as individuals - the same as any other person - but "diversity" won't be much changed.
The real problem in my opinion is that the funders aren't doing their job. Under-performance happens. When it does, the funders' job is to ensure the organisation either gets back on track, or loses funding.
There seems a consensus that the funders are pretty much completely failing to perform this role.
Once the accountability mechanism fails, there's nothing to stop an industry going off the rails. For example, many of the problems of 2008 financial crash reflected this.
Here’s a heterodox view “ When I was a kid there were already tons of political columnists who looked like me, and that made it easier for me to take the path I’ve taken.” This is a central creed of American diversity advocacy. While I don’t doubt MY’s honesty, respectfully I call bullshit on this as a real social mechanism. Jews in the early 20th century broke into science in hugely disproportionate numbers, coming from very poor and uneducated backgrounds, and having exactly no one “who looks like them” to inspire to be like (and moreover overcoming overt institutional and personal bigotry and antisemitism way beyond anything acceptable today). Asians in the second half of the 20th century do the same, also with classical music, and again without “someone who looks like them” being a factor. Their parents don’t force them to practice the piano or violin every day because they have a poster of Yo Yo Ma on the wall… By contrast, Britain had its first Jewish PM in the 19th century (sort of), France in the 30s, and neither had any follow up since . Thatcher broke the glass ceiling in uk politics in 1979 yet female PMs remain exceedingly rare despite being 50% of the population. Having the first x in a central role is a landmark for society as a whole , but I doubt it’s a central factor in advancing the average prospects of the average person from x minority. In reality people don’t “choose” career paths based on whether they can or cannot think of an admired figure “who looked like me”.
”By the same token, it is easier to have a diverse cabinet...."
And people accuse *me* of going for the cheap joke.
Most of these organizations exists to perpetuate themselves. The purpose of bringing in people from high end schools is because being from a prestigious university is a nice proxy for access to old money wealth. They are Amway, but instead of selling mediocre products, they sell indulgences for white guilt.
This post seems a bit off to me but maybe Matt has more insight than I am giving credit for. But big picture, these orgs have a lot of folks in them who express ‘left radical’ ideas that justify accelerationism, claim hierarchy serves no practical purpose, and think it’s worthwhile to have a lot of new taboos in public discussion.
Is that the pipeline problem? Like such a high % of candidates have these crappy beliefs and so it’s impossible not to hire them?
It seems to me that what’s missing is stuff like: ‘to make effective decisions people need to feel free to say stuff that may hurt feelings’ or ‘having some more qualified people be in charge and issue orders is good actually’
And these are insights about your professional advocacy org that you can really learn from and apply more broadly to society and even to your own political views!
Thank you for this thoughtful take on something that has been driving me nuts. Is racism is structural and about power and resources, then fixing it is going to require structural change and shifting resources, not navel gazing and magic words. I do think #1 has more wiggle room than you give it credit for, and that many organizations could be smarter in where they look for hires, but at the end of the day it’s about changing the structure not the words.
I think selective-college worship is bullshit, and that you can find tons of worthy applicants who've never set foot on a private campus. That being said, the most obvious evidence that the pipeline problem is real is that Yale's class of 1980 had 2,481 students and the class of 2022 has 2,241. The number of selective school graduates has not risen with the population. That's why I think Matt's Option 1 would work, even if he's skeptical. There's a LOT of smart people that just can't get into the best schools these days.
And a quibble: there are not dozens and dozens of qualified applicants for Supreme Court openings or Cabinet positions; there are thousands. There are 1.3 million lawyers in the US. The top .1% (if that could even be measured, which I doubt) means 1300 attorneys. I'd wager all of them are more than qualified to sit on the Supreme Court (acknowledging that this doesn't address issues of character or vetting).
Wait, am I the only one who thinks abortion shouldn't be in ACLU's purview?
The point about structural issues impacting the availability of diverse job candidates reminds me of a manufacturing truism - that you can’t inspect quality into your product. Unless we fix the structural issues we won’t fix the outcome.