Key questions to ensure your projects are more inclusive
If you’re embarking on a new project at your organization, you’re probably thinking through the timeline, resourcing, and key players. But, are you also thinking about ensuring an inclusive process?
Nonprofits, along with most types of organizations, struggle to see, address, and resolve elements of white supremacy culture that exist in their workplace and processes. This, and the fact that nonprofit leadership is often white, can exclude staff who are Black, of color, or not as senior from important decision-making processes.
Including a multitude of perspectives in a project and truly welcoming and collaborating with them meaningfully will lead to stronger decisions that are ready to put into action. Your staff will feel they have contributed, and your decisions will be more reflective of your staff, not just leadership.
There are many different types of inclusion to factor into your organizational culture and structure. For this article, we’re focusing specifically on how to lead inclusive projects internally. Engaging external stakeholders is equally important, but we’ll save that topic for another article.
When designing a working group or committee, question who you’re involving and how you’re involving them.
Questions to ask yourself about the people in your working group:
- Is the working group all white? All men? All women?
- Is the working group made up entirely of leadership or senior team members?
- Does everyone have the same perspective? Will there be usefully differing opinions, lived experiences, and perspectives?
- Does the working group adequately represent relevant programs and activities? (e.g. are you making a decision about someone else’s program but don’t have any representation from that group?)
Once you’ve assembled a representative working group, think about your current culture and how you can create a process that allows for everyone to engage and participate equitably. The culture at your organization will be a key factor affecting whether folks on your team feel they can meaningfully and candidly contribute.
Questions to ask yourself when designing the process:
- Are meetings (virtual and in-person) being structured so that sharing feedback and participating fully is possible for everyone in the group?
- Are folks able to raise concerns or share opinions in different ways that are comfortable for them? (e.g. live in a meeting, anonymous survey, Google doc, small groups).
- Are there elements of white supremacy culture (such as power hoarding) at play? Do you have a plan to make sure you hear from everyone in the group and are you course-correcting if individuals are dominating the conversation or process?
- Have you set norms or ground rules for meetings that address power dynamics and encourage all voices? Assess how your meetings are going and invite feedback from others.
- Are decision-making roles clearly defined in advance and inclusive so that everyone on the team can move forward with a common understanding of their role in the engagement? If not, consider using a framework like RACI, DARCI, or MOCHA to guide that conversation.
- Are you prioritizing urgency and “efficiency” over inclusion? If so, think about how you can incorporate pauses in your process to keep yourself accountable and inclusive.
People often try to move as quickly as possible which may leave some people out of the process. We encourage you to slow down, assess your culture, and create a process where your staff are able to participate easily and meaningfully. And lastly, don’t forget to celebrate and acknowledge your process equity wins.