DEI Leadership Capabilities in Service Membership Organizations
The Four Priorities
So you want to improve your organization’s diversity, equity, and inclusion, but don’t know where to start? Too many ideas and opportunities to choose from? Not even sure what to look for or ask about? Let us help you approach DEI the right way with these four priorities!
- Foster Identity and Equity in Practice
- Inclusive Organizational and Club Culture and Climate
- Value Access and Inclusion in Service
- Prepare Volunteers for Culturally Responsive Service
What They Mean
- Foster Identity and Equity in Practice: Working towards diversity and equity requires that we know who we are, first. What is the identity of your organization? Do internal stakeholders share the same understanding of what this identity is? Do various external stakeholders perceive your organization’s identity in the same way as it is seen internally? If not, how is the dissonance negotiated? Does the workplace have a culture and climate of equity and inclusion? Is DEI interwoven in the fabric of the organization (values, police, budget, etc) and in the systems (recruitment, operating, etc) and processes (promotion, mentoring, etc) by which it operates?
- Inclusive Organizational and Club Culture and Climate: An inclusive organizational and club culture starts with individual identity and interpersonal relationships, and makes its way all the way from that micro level to the macro level of organizational policies and leaders. How do your groups, clubs and members identify? Do they have a robust understanding of their own cultural, gender, racial identity and the perception of these identities of those being served? How is culture and climate inclusive of stakeholders? What is the identity of your organization? Of leadership within your organization?
- Value Access and Inclusion in Service: Valuing access and inclusion may mean shifting priorities or policies so that there is expanded access to your club, group, or organization. How do you know what benefactors of your services think and feel about your members that serve and the services they provide? How do you assess the quality of their interactions? What might you need to sacrifice in order to demonstrate that you value access and inclusion? The values themselves mean nothing if they are not reflected in a groups’ actions.
- Prepare Volunteers for Culturally Responsive Service: Preparing volunteers for culturally responsive service starts with an understanding of identity, particularly their own racial identity, the manner in which it was formed, and the impact of it on how they fulfill their roles and responsibilities as volunteers. How aware are volunteers of the intersectionality of their own identities, the identities of those they serve, and the ways power, privilege, dominance and subordination play themselves out in these relationships? What bias, prejudice and stereotypes might they hold that impact their interactions with others?
Volunteers need, at the very least, a foundational understanding of cultural intelligence / competence; they need a culturally relevant framework through which they serve as volunteers. Organizations and leaders often overlook the critical importance and value of providing debriefing opportunities for volunteers who serve communities of people who often are very different than they are. Without this, stereotypes and prejudice unintentionally and unknowingly can develop, grow and solidify if people are not given ample opportunity to participate in guided critical reflection of their experience.
Where to Start
Read up on identity and equity
Culture and climate: Building Blocks
Access and inclusion
Who has access to your group, and who may not? What barriers are there — not just to joining in the first place, but to staying committed, attending meetings, maintaining group membership, etc.? Consider surveying populations that you would like to have represented in your group to determine if there is an issue of access that could be easily fixed. And, be open to hearing if your organization’s mission, climate, or culture simply do not appear inclusive from the outside. This perception may or may not be true, but until there is an authentic commitment to and demonstration of inclusion, an outsider’s perspective will not shift much.
Serving in a culturally-responsive way
Have you heard of the term “white savior”? It certainly does not describe all service organizations, but is probably the most common trait of a group that keeps it from serving in a way that is truly beneficial to the community it is trying to serve. When service organizations lack humility, awareness of their privilege and identity, and are disconnected from the individuals they want to serve, the service can become transactionary, performative, and beneficial only to the one serving.
When service organizations recognize their privilege, listen to stakeholders in communities they seek to serve, and allow for constant course-correction and self-interrogation in order to remain humble and selfless, then they can begin to do the work of helping another community.
One way to start may be to look at the organization’s mission. Does it imply a hierarchical relationship between service-giver and service-receiver? Does it aim for the education and betterment of organization members as well as the communities they want to serve? Does it require collaboration, coordination, and listening, or simply prioritize doing?
Or, ask group members why they serve. Do their answers reveal a desire to share about and receive recognition for the good they are doing in the world, or do they imply an authentic and deep-rooted commitment to create diversity and inclusion, bypassing personal pride and recognition?
There is certainly a long way to go towards achieving diversity, equity, and inclusion in most groups and organizations, but we hope these guidelines can help you determine where to start. With these priorities in mind, your group will be on its way to achieving your DEI goals in no time.