Raising the visibility of antiracist, pro-humanity initiatives

Laillah Rice, MBA ’09, and fellow senior marketers launched the Humanity Lab to support social justice activists and organizations.

By: Janice Endresen
headshot of Laillah Rice

Laillah Rice, MBA ’09, director of CRM and loyalty at Rodan and Fields and a founding member of the Humanity Lab

Back in March, when Laillah Rice, MBA ’09, was accepted into Adweek’s Executive Mentor Program, she wouldn’t have predicted that connecting with other senior marketers would result in launching a nonprofit to raise the visibility of antiracist, pro-humanity initiatives. But that’s exactly what happened.

“I thought I would apply to this Adweek cohort and really develop my marketing skills and network,” says Rice. “But it’s beyond networking. It’s growing and partnering and getting to know other marketers who share not only professional expertise, but some of the same values, as well.”

Recognizing those shared values, Rice and many of her cohorts also recognized the power they had to promote change. “We had the social capital. We had the resources. We had the network,” says Rice. “What could we actually do with what we had to help the greater good?”

The upshot? Rice, a director of CRM and loyalty at Rodan and Fields, became a founding member of the Humanity Lab, a nonprofit that leverages the talents of a global collective of more than 200 professional marketers, content creators, storytellers, and data miners to promote social justice.

Channeling marketing expertise to amplify antiracism and pro-humanity agendas

“It came off the ground quickly, in response to the George Floyd incident,” says Rice about the launch of the Humanity Lab. She credits her Adweek program colleague and friend Veronica Marshall, global communications lead for Invisalign at MSL Group, as the nonprofit’s visionary and founder. “Veronica saw this as a good chance for us to put our collective minds and expertise together to help grassroots organizations by amplifying their mission and their voices against injustice, antiracism, and pro-humanity agendas,” Rice says.

Believing time was of the essence, Rice and other Humanity Lab charter members agreed to have meetings on the weekends to develop the blueprint and build the foundation for this new organization. They discussed the DNA and purpose of the organization as well as the logistics of how it would operate in terms of workflow, outreach, and partners. And they considered all this from both short-term and long-term perspectives. “Because for us, this isn’t a short-term fix,” says Rice. “This isn’t a trend. For us, it’s long term. We’ll continue to work with organizations to galvanize their agendas.”

The charter members decided to focus the Humanity Lab’s efforts around three pillars: activism, education, and voting. The organizations they select to support as partners “are rallying support to eradicate racism or gender inequities — social injustices that we see every day, whether it’s on TV or in our own communities — and on initiatives like voter registration,” says Rice. The education pillar focuses on generating awareness and understanding of inequitable systems and complex issues such as promoting understanding of the resource gap between students of color and white students and supporting initiatives to address that. Partner organizations must be able to clearly show that are part of a community, that they already have a voice, and that they have followers and have made some impact.

Digging deep to align needs with resources

The Humanity Lab is already partnering with several organizations on projects that align with its three pillars. Humanity Lab members form teams based on these pillars, so the activism team works with organizations focused on activism, and likewise for the education and voting teams.

During a workshop session that is the Humanity Lab’s first step in working together with a partner, team members “really dig deep to understand the needs and goals of their organization from a short-term and also from a long-term perspective,” says Rice, who leads the activism team. “We look at some of their initiatives and their timeline to see how we can help. We offer recommendations and work to align their unique needs with the resources we have.”

That’s when Humanity Lab members’ strong expertise in content management, storytelling, strategy, and digital analytics kicks in. “We continue to engage with them as we build out the initiatives with our partner organizations,” says Rice.

“Let’s say that one of their needs was to rebrand their website,” says Rice. “We would review their website from a branding standpoint to ensure that their story is succinct, clear, readable, and digestible. We would also align their website content to their social media: Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. We have a cohort of marketers within the Humanity Lab we can access to work on those types of issues.”

Inspired to turn the tide toward social justice

Driven by deeply rooted convictions, dedicated to their cause, and energized by the grassroots social justice efforts they are seeing and by each other, Rice and her cohorts are putting in countless evening and weekend hours to ensure the Humanity Lab realizes its goals.

“I’ve always been an advocate of social justice,” says Rice. “Being a black woman, I see racial inequality as a top-of the-line issue in 2020, not only for black people, but for people in general. It’s a hurdle, and it’s an obstacle to progress.”

Rice has long contributed financial support to organizations that have a strong antiracism and pro-humanity agenda. “However, with everything that’s taken place now, I felt it’s time for me to do more than just be a passive supporter and give financially,” she says.