Creating a Diversity Committee

I was recently asked about setting up a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee at an organization and how to tie in the need for this committee to their strategic plan. I thought this would be a great opportunity to talk a little more about Setting Better Goals and thinking through how you can carry out a social justice mission within your own organization.

In a previous post, The Secret to Setting Better Goals, we talk about Impact Goals and Execution Goals. “Setting up a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee” is a perfect example of an Execution Goal. Having a committee is certainly not the impact you are trying to make, but a means to an end. So let’s break it down.

The Scenario
A member of your organization attends a conference and returns excited about starting a diversity and inclusion committee at your organization. Do you set one up?

This is a great scenario of someone coming in with an idea for an execution goal that isn’t connected to a clear outcome. Beware of these free-floating execution goals! Here’s what to do:

  1. Take note that this is, in fact, an execution goal and think about the issue behind the idea. Are there issues around diversity or inclusion at your organization that are going unaddressed? Is diversity a core value or central to carrying out your mission? Do you have a diversity or inclusion related goal as part of your strategy already? If so, where does the idea for the committee fit in?
  2. Once you’ve identified the issue behind the idea, get really clear on what outcome(s) you want to achieve and when you want to achieve them. For example, there may be a growing number of transgender folks who you’d like to ensure feel included in your community by this time next year.
    1. If you know that diversity and inclusion is important to your organization, but you can’t get clear on exactly how, then you might form a diversity and inclusion committee specifically tasked with answering this question. Such a committee will probably need to examine your mission and core values and make some changes to one or both, so don’t start this work on a whim, embrace it fully and get the full support of the leadership at your organization.
  3. Once you know what the key outcomes are, it’s time to re-examine the question “should we form a diversity and inclusion committee?” and consider the following:
    1. What specific actions will need to be taken in order to achieve your key outcomes?
    2. Are there sub-outcomes that involve changing the way people think in order to change the way they act?
    3. Who will be accountable for the goals? Can one person be accountable with input from a diverse set of people? Or is it critical that you implement a group decision making process via a committee?
    4. What actions will need to be taken by people in other roles of your organization regardless of whether you form the committee? Will the board need to get involved? HR? Program directors?
  4. Finally, answer the question of WHEN! At this point, you either (A) have a much bigger to-do list than just “form a committee” or (B) you know what outcome you want, but you don’t know what the best to-do list is for achieving that outcome.

If you’re in group A, segment your to-do list into a timeline, you can set exact dates or simply set the order that they will get worked on. Don’t try to do everything at once… consider your organization’s strategy and operating capacity and work through your to-do list in focused, manageable blocks of time.

If you’re in group B, form a committee tasked with identifying what actions you should take and when to take them.

Most likely, you are or will be partially in group A and partially in group B. You may have some clear ideas about first steps, but you aren’t sure how well they will work or what your next set of steps will be. This is where you can start working on your goals through an iterative cycle of action.

Take your first steps→ evaluate how effective they were → plan your next steps.

The work of carrying out a social justice mission can be a daunting task, but if we are intentional about what we are trying to achieve, break our goals down into manageable sub-goals, and check ourselves as we progress to ensure we are staying on track, we can make the world a better place!

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