Dr. Kristen Donnelly is not afraid to have difficult conversations and relishes the opportunity to drive healthy discussion about the most challenging topics, especially about Diversity & Inclusion.

A social science researcher with over two decades of experience, Dr. Donnelly is also a trained social worker and the Founder of Abbey Research, an organization that’s driven by a need to ask critical questions and provides relevant answers on the key issues of gender, diversity, generations, and boundary setting. 

Abbey Research helps its clients to solve cultural issues and to build more inclusive communities by providing a range of educational tools and resources both in-person and online.

In this interview, Dr. Donnelly discusses how the focus on tolerance has hindered progress where D&I is concerned and shares her expertise on what we need to do instead.

Topics discussed

  • Diversity, inclusion, and tolerance
  • The problem with tolerance 
  • Why D&I initiatives don’t work
  • How we can move towards real equity 
  • Intersectionality and how to have deeper conversations 
  • How to practice radical inclusive intersectional hospitality and why we should 


I’m Still Here: Black Dignity In A World Made For Whiteness, Austin Channing Brown  

Words of Wisdom 

On being comfortable in your skin 

Stepping into your skin doesn’t mean that you are completely comfortable in it all the time. 

On dealing with critics

The criticism that I need to care about and the criticism that comes from trolls are different things. 

On business success 

There is an element to business success that is being in the right place at the right time and just preparing yourself for opportunities. 

On wellbeing

Find something that gives you joy that you can never make money at. 

Having a hobby I can never make money from, and no one can ever pressure me into doing that has saved my sanity and also given me a creative outlet to channel my anxiety in a way that then opens my brain up to other forms of creativity that I need in order to run my business. 

On inclusivity

Everyone’s humanity is more important than any one person’s comfort level  

On self-acceptance

I am very tired of performative perfection. I do not care if you think you have it all together because you do not!

Be gentle with the person that you were before you learned things, because they were doing a good job too. We often get paralyzed by the shame of “I should have known that” or” I should have been different”, how could you have? You didn’t know that thing then. Hold your past self gently, they were doing the best they could, just like you right now are doing the best that you can. But keep pushing for growth in the areas that you know you can be better at.

I couldn’t be Martha Stewart and Bill Gates, I had to pick one

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Website: abbey-research.com