July 28, 2021 4:00 am Published by

Episode 118:

For over 20 years, Anika has worked to improve outcomes for youth and families through partnerships that leverage the power of community voice, vision, and leadership. Most recently the senior director of the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota Center for Prevention, she has spent her career working to advance initiatives in education, cultural art & science, workforce development, community health, and wellbeing.

Her work has impacted community groups, nonprofits, museums, state and local government, and healthcare organizations across the region. Prior to the Center for Prevention, Anika worked at the State of Minnesota to attract, support, and retain leaders of color in executive positions. As the director of the Kitty Andersen Youth Science Center at the Science Museum of Minnesota, she worked to build career pathways to increase engagement for women and people of color.

A daughter of the historic Rondo neighborhood of St. Paul, MN, Anika’s work and approach reflect her value of community leadership and representation. Anika enthusiastically works to engage often untapped community assets and perspectives. She works to engage elders, youth, and cultural leaders in systems redesign. Recognizing the wealth of power and resources that already belongs to the community, she aims to be a conduit, supporting communities and institutions to bring their powers together for good. Anika is the originator of the Sankofa Leadership Network.

A strategic thinker, Anika works to appreciate and understand the systems she works with. She brings both a systems-based and relationship-based approach to her work. She leads initiatives that work to transform systems to eliminate disparities and advance equity.

Anika spends her free time making and enjoying music, arts, and sports activities with her husband, four children, a puppy, and a large extended family. She holds an M.A. degree in Human Services and a B.A. in Human Resource Management from Concordia University-Saint Paul. In 2016, she was named one of “40 under 40” by the Minneapolis/Saint Paul Business Journal.

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • How the Rondo neighborhood in Minnesota was displaced
  • The importance of having an equity lens in everything you do
  • The biggest challenges consultants face when working in an organization
  • How to facilitate change for diversity and inclusion in a company
  • How to create a safe space for people to share their truth in an organization
  • Why it’s important to always tell the truth, even when it may be hurtful
  • How authenticity in the workplace differs for people of color


Facilitating Change

Anika Ward is an expert in equity and inclusion, and the originator of the Sankofa Leadership Network. For over twenty years, she has helped improve outcomes for youth and families in Minnesota. In this episode of the Intentional Greatness® podcast, Anika shares the importance of having an equity lens and how she helps facilitate change in diversity and inclusion in both large and small organizations.

Displacing Communities

Anika is a daughter of the historic Rondo neighborhood of St. Paul, MN. During the early 1900’s several black families moved to this neighborhood, which was home to about 80% of the black people in the area. The neighborhood thrived and offered a safe, close-knit community. Anika explains the impact of the city building a freeway directly through the Rondo neighborhood. She also explains why this act could be considered racist.

Predictable Outcomes

Racist is not who you are, it’s something you do. Anika shares how many business owners are having a revelation that they do not have to have negative intent, in order to produce outcomes that are predictable by race. In this episode, Anika explains why this is unacceptable and why it’s important for organization leaders to interject and push for change until that outcome is different.

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