Time for an Organizational Justice Tune Up?

It’s that time of the year when the gyms are full of the well intentioned, ready to lean into a healthier lifestyle.  Why not take the new year to set new patterns for a healthier organization?  Here are four ideas from Higher Ground Change Strategies for “tuning-up” your organization’s justice game.

1. Conduct a personnel audit.  Too often groups want to start their institutional equity work with political education and discussion and not with examining and addressing the material ways race and gender play out in the work place.  Personnel audits look at job descriptions, policies, compensation, diversity, turnover, staff morale and more to assess how human resources reflect human rights, justice and good stewardship (aka efficiency and effectiveness) in our organizations.  Although few groups – even those with large budgets – conduct personnel audits, they help surface some of the most important challenges organizations face.

You don’t have to spend a lot of money to do a simple review.  Start with looking at salaries, positions and transitions by gender and race and doing individual conversations with staff.  Who tends to leave?  Who tends to lead?  What are the patterns?  It is often better to have someone highly trusted and/or a person from outside of the organizations do the interviews in order to maintain confidentiality and encourage open dialogue.  For-profit companies are increasingly turning to personnel audits to avoid being sued.  Though not a bad reason for examining your personnel practice, we as social justice groups can be motivated by our highest calling – ensuring that our organizations reflect the values for which we are fighting.

2. Review and/or set community agreements for our ongoing treatment of one another and our allies.  We set meeting agreements.  Why not have ongoing community agreements to guide our processes overall?  Here, you can delineate a conflict resolution process and develop a set of values or guiding principles.  Principles could cover issues like language justice, accessibility, listening, intergenerational work, respect for gender identity, how members are treated and more.  The key is to develop them as part of a collaborative process and keep them front and center in your work. 

3. Have a Quality Check in.  This is a good time to get beyond the cute opening question at the staff meeting and do some deeper, one-on-one listening with every member of the team.  Try to schedule time where either everyone gets to engage with their supervisor or they get to be heard by each other as part of a planned set of meetings along a listening circuit.  Give folk an opportunity to talk about how they are feeling, what they are dreaming and their observations of the work last year.  And then open it up for where their own thinking and questions will take you.  There’s always something new to discover about your comrades.  Enjoy the journey.

4. Study together, even if it’s just a little bit.  It usually takes a little warming up to get back full steam after the holiday break.  The cold weather in most places makes it a great time to do some reading.  Focus your group readings on a specific issue or question that has clear application to your work.  Some examples include: short blogs or essays on building trust followed up with discussion on how your network or organization might better incorporate reflection, repair and trust building into its processes; readings or videos on artificial intelligence and racial justice and discussing organizing and policy opportunities; or movement grounded readings on disability justice and discussing what it would look like for your organization to be a truly accessible institution.  Our favorite resource for the latter, by the way, is the Harriet Tubman Collective.Check out their great posts for some important, fresh intersectional analysis.

Of course, we always love to hear your thoughts.  Wishing you a beautiful, prosperous and transformative year.

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