Sapna Strategies’ Approach to Creating a Racially Equitable, Diverse, and Inclusive [REDI] Workplace

Thank you for considering my firm, Sapna Strategies, to facilitate your Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice [DEIJ] Journey. I have spent 20 years in the social sector working with organizations to center racial justice in their programs and ensure that the good work they hope to do in the world is not undermined by how they do it.

To do this, we need to think beyond simply the tangible outcome of a strategic or work plan; we need to also develop the intangible intra-and inter-personal skills and dispositions of the team responsible for the plan. Therefore, I facilitate my clients to develop the capacity and culture of their small teams – senior leaders, boards,or DEIJ Teams/Task Forces/ERGs – and apply this development to the planning process…it’s iterative development at its finest!

Below is a general trajectory I use with these teams, but each client is unique and I am a responsive facilitator, so the specifics of each phase for your organization may be different. But, this will give you an idea of the journey we can embark on together.

Note: As a former graduate-level professor in Nonprofit Administration, I also provide educational DEIJ Workshops focused on disrupting the nonprofit industrial complex and white supremacy norms in organizations. Please email me directly to learn more about these services.

General Team Development and Strategic Planning Phases:

Phase I: ~3-4 months – Forming and Norming the Working Group

In order to successfully work together on this justice-journey, we need to understand who we are as a team. In Phase I, we will focus energy and resources into developing an intentionally-designed working group. During this phase, we will spend time clarifying the team’s form and function through a racial justice lens, engaging in reflective activities to build trust and solidarity and learning from challenging resources that center and amplify the voices of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC). We will practice identifying and addressing the many “elephants in the room,” such as positional power and racial identities, whose dynamics are rarely talked about in white dominant culture but dramatically influence trust and communication between team members.

Phase II: ~3-4 months; some overlap with Phase I – Establish the REDI Vision

In Phase II, the team will tackle the hard but critical questions: “What does a racially equitable, diverse, and inclusive [REDI] culture for our team or organization look/sound/feel like?” and “Why is this urgent for our team or organization?” These questions will be addressed alongside the development of the working group in Phase I because the facilitated conversations to answer them are used to form and norm the team. As we examine these questions and triangulate their answers with input that centers BIPOC voices, we will consciously create the practices within our working group to support a REDI culture. Over time, this conscious engagement and clearly articulated REDI vision will allow the team to radiate a REDI culture outwards to the whole organization.

Part of the overlap between Phases I and II is the sustained and equitable resourcing of the working group itself. Often, DEI teams in organizations are additive in nature: i.e. staff members are encouraged to “add” this work to their already overflowing plates without intentional thought to what must be removed from those plates in order to make room for these duties. In addition, there is an emotional tax in this work felt more intensely by BIPOC members than their white counterparts as they navigate the racial bias they are simultaneously working to identify and uproot. All of this requires deliberate and honest communication about what the team will need to engage in this work sustainably and equitably. Once the team articulates these needs, they will work with leaders to determine how the organization can live into its beliefs by meeting them.

Phase III: ~3 months – Work Planning and Project Prioritization

To that end, we will move into Phase III and engage in a planning process to determine the most appropriate and impactful steps to realize the REDI vision, for the team in particular and for the organization as appropriate. When developing any plan, there are many steps we “could” take but the team will engage in prioritizing activities to determine the steps we “should” take. All steps will be prioritized within the context of: 1) the equity impact of the step in question, 2) the lift it will take to manage the step, and 3) the urgency of the step. Equity impact and urgency will be informed by the input of those most impacted by racial injustice. To elicit this feedback and effectively prioritize REDI projects, the team will develop and administer a Key Stakeholder Assessment for both internal and external BIPOC stakeholders. All decisions made will be transparently triangulated with this input.

Phase IV: ~3 months – Communication of Plan

Finally, we will enter Phase IV, wherein the team will communicate the plan and priorities to senior leadership, the staff, and key stakeholders for input and approval. NOTE: This does not mean this will be the first time the team communicates with the organization; regular communication is built into every phase so the entire organization is aware of what the team is doing and why. In Phase IV, however, we will share the culmination of our work with recommendations for intentionally scaffolded steps the organization can take to build a REDI workplace culture over time. This Phase will also identify strategies and meeting structures to transition away from being consultant-led and towards self-direction.

If you would like more information about my facilitation style, please check out my blogs. Also, please see my 5 Commitments to better understand the client role in this relationship. Thank you for your interest and time and I hope we can work together soon!