Planning for an Inclusive Future
Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) have become integral to most organizations – but what does success look like for DEI-focused strategic plans?
One key thing that organizations can do is plan for the future through a deliberately inclusive strategic plan.
Here are some ways that you can make your next strategic plan more inclusive:
1. Consult Broadly and Thoughtfully
A strategic plan is only as successful as its implementation – if you don’t achieve stakeholder buy-in for your plan, it can be difficult to deliver against objectives. One thing that can help, is to be purposeful and comprehensive in selecting the audiences you consult and engage throughout the process. To have a highly inclusive strategic plan, it is important that all voices are represented in the creation process; be thoughtful in including diverse individuals at different levels of your organization in conjunction with valued external stakeholders.
A truly comprehensive consultation approach will not only help to ensure future buy-in, but will also allow your partners and stakeholders to feel they were part of the decision-making process.
2. Create an Environment Where People Can Authentically Contribute
An inclusive consultation process also involves ensuring that everyone involved is able to speak their truth.
In planning for the future, it is critical to understand where your organization is now so that you can build on successes and address weaknesses. While the former is easier to address with stakeholders, the latter can be awkward and uncomfortable – it takes courage to productively critique your organization. One thing that is important in achieving an open and honest space is ensuring anonymity and confidentiality – organizational leaders should certainly not be the ones gathering feedback! A neutral third party is critical to collecting honest and helpful input.
Physical barriers to contribution must also be considered. For example, if you are conducting a survey, do all of your participants have the necessary technology to complete it online? If consultations are in person, is the room accessible from a visual, auditory, and physical perspective? Accessibility is key to inclusivity.
3. Genuinely Incorporate Feedback into the Strategic Plan
After gathering authentic feedback from stakeholders, it must be put to good use! The consultation process should be anonymous, and so should the analysis of the insights. When considering what feedback is most salient for the strategic plan, it is important to assess the best ideas – not who or where they came from.
Equally weighing opinions as much as possible will ensure that stakeholders can see their contributions in the plan, increasing the chances of downstream buy-in. However, if this is not done, the opposite effect could occur. If a plan is created that seems disproportionately influenced by leaders, stakeholders may feel their time was wasted by yet another strategy that was performative and disingenuous.
4. Use Inclusive Language in Writing Your Strategic Plan
Finally, all this hard work is null if people cannot understand the strategic plan or feel turned off by the language you use.
In writing your final strategic plan, it is important that you think about your audience – especially as most strategic plans are public documents. In most cases, strategic plans will be read not only by staff, but by external partners and community members, so simple and gender-neutral language is key. Avoid language choices that may be rooted in oppressive practices and consider using a sensitivity reader to ensure that everyone feels heard and seen in the final product.
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