Step 1: Assemble a Team of Champions
By: Alyson Weiss
The first step we took to centering Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion at YNPN Boston was to get organizational buy-in, and then to assemble a cross-departmental team of champions (don’t let EDI get siloed in HR!). At YNPN Boston, we formed an EDI committee comprised of board members and ambassadors representing every leadership team in the organization.
While Inclusion is always important, it is especially crucial to make sure participation in an Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion committee is accessible to everyone. Some questions to consider prior to recruitment include:
- Will meetings always be in-person, or are there remote participation opportunities?
- Is there an expectation that the committee will execute its ideas, or it is an advisory committee?
- How will your organization enable committee members to attend meetings and do any necessary independent work? Will other work be offloaded? How much? Will this negatively impact promotion opportunities down the line?
- How will you create a safe space in meetings? Is there an expectation of confidentiality?
Once you have created inclusive structures for participation (or identified which potential barriers to communicate clearly upfront), here are some tips for recruiting a team of champions to shape and implement your organization’s EDI strategy:
- Outline clearly defined roles and expectations for the committee (and make them as inclusive as possible).
- Hold a kickoff event, or add an introduction to EDI to an existing agenda. Define EDI, share the expectations for the committee, and put out an open call for membership.
Analyze committee membership for demographic, department, and seniority representation, and make any tweaks necessary.
1. Outline clearly defined roles and expectations for committee
A clear job description with time commitment expectations will go a long way to recruiting the team with the dedication and perspectives that you need. Our EDI committee criteria are ever-evolving, but currently look like this:
Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion committee commitments
- Meet in-person once a month for one and a half hours each for a one-year term
- Collaborate to create a long-term EDI Vision for YNPN Boston and a one-year plan with objectives and goals for its EDI team
- Commit to and complete defined tasks (1-4 hours per month) between meetings on own time
- Set self-education goals; share relevant articles with committee and share relevant learnings with respective teams; familiarize selves with existing YNPN National resources
- Develop trainings to fill in the gaps in knowledge at YNPN Boston
Share responsibility of holding leadership and staff accountable to their EDI goals
2. Hold kickoff event or add to an existing agenda to make opportunity accessible
Similar to a General Interest Meeting or Open House, a kickoff event will allow folks who are curious but not ready to committ to learn more about what the committee will do. We host quarterly all-staff meetings, and we added an EDI agenda item to the first all-staff meeting of the term. We suggest your kickoff event contain the following components:
An organization-driven definition of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. These terms are esoteric and academic, and you risk losing people who could become your best committee members if they are scared off by them. This will also help to ensure that you are recruiting folk with the same vision for what those terms should mean. For example, does ‘diversity’ just mean having a certain number of people of all types, or are you focusing your diversity initiatives around historically and currently oppressed groups?
The importance of EDI. At our kickoff meeting, we broke the attendees into small groups, and had them brainstorm a time when an organization seemed to do something very well in regards to EDI, and a time when one did not, and to share the impact of each. Then, one member of each small group shared what their groups talked about, and facilitators synthesized to show the importance of this work, and the impact the committee can make.
A roadmap for the committee. Share your Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Vision if one already exists for your organization. If not, share thoughts about the types of project this committee will work on for the year. In our kickoff meeting, we shared the following goals for the committee:
- The committee will help set the organization’s EDI Vision
- The committee will visit each team and help them set team-specific EDI goals in the fall
In the spring, the focus will shift to learning and will identify and lead opportunities to learn about different EDI topics.
3. Analyze committee membership for demographic, department, and seniority diversity
After the kickoff meeting, keep committee membership open to everyone with interest and time. However, do be intentional about membership! When the deadline to volunteer is approaching, check to make sure you have a good representation of different demographics, department affiliation, and seniority in the organization to make sure you hear perspectives from as many of your staff stakeholders as possible.
That being said, do not tokenize! Most staff from an underrepresented population, whether it’s staff of color or staff with disabilities, know all too well what it feels like to be asked to serve on an EDI committee just because they are a person of color or have a disability. Do your outreach intentionally and be up-front about why you asked them. Good reasons to reach out include: they served on EDI committees in other organizations, they majored in a related field in college, they volunteer in a related organization, they bring up related perspectives in meetings, they work in a department that is not yet represented.
We know that talent in an organization makes all of the difference, and that’s true in Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion work as well. Putting in the necessary up-front work to get the right people at the table will allow you to embody your inclusion values, and will ensure that you produce the best work.
Continue to Step 2: Create a Shared Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Vision