Urban Equity blogs

The Importance of Having an Equity, Inclusion and Belonging Strategic Plan

4 January 2022 by André Darmanin0

The purpose of developing an organizational strategic plan is to set a course of direction and action of over the next three to five years.  Strategic plans possess visions and missions to guide the organization in the right direction over a certain time frame, namely three to five years. 

Of late though, many legacy organizations in all sectors have developed or are in the process of developing equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) strategic plans in cohesion with their own strategic plans. These have been in response to the racial trauma of events stemming from murders of Black and Indigenous peoples, Anti-Asian racism, and pay, gender and health inequities. (My preference is to use equity, inclusion and belonging, or EIB, from here on in.)

And while diversity has been discussed ad nauseum over the last 20-25 years, there has been still little to no action by organizations to recruiting or promoting racialized people in executive leadership positions.

Organizational leaders are initially reticent to develop multiple plans for a number of reasons, namely “the business case”.

I’ve listed my rationale on why I would want to work with leaders on developing an EIB strategic plan.

  1. Why should I do one in the first place? My modus operandi, as I stated in my last blog post, is that EIB should be permeated throughout the organization with the eventually an executive leader is in place at the same levels as other leaders. Understand why you are doing it. Is it a response to racial trauma? Have there been calls for gender equity within your organization? Are there any glaring gaps that you have overlooked? Have you been losing personnel to other organizations because little to no action has been taken within your organization? Have you tracked this information in the first place? These are only some of the questions you must ask yourself as an organizational leader.

    But you must ensure these questions are asked honestly because you may fall into the performative trap. As my colleague, Shonagh Reid says:

If you ignore the reason why you are starting, you may be doing performative surface level work. The people you work with will see through performative behaviour very quickly and you will lose the trust of your stakeholders rapidly. 

5 Things to Consider when Starting and ED&I Strategy https://shonaghreid.com/blog/f/5-things-to-consider-when-starting-an-edi-strategy

Trust is the number one reason why you are a leader in the first place. Don’t lose that trust during this process.

2. Who is the best person to lead the strategy? In my experience, strategic planning exercises were undertaken by the departmental directors with buy-in of the CEOs/CAOs/Executive Directors. Whatever title they hold, it is up to them to understand why the need to go in this direction. Strategic planning teams require internal and external stakeholder groups. This is no different with an EIB team. Having a good network will allow you to provide the necessary qualitative input that is necessary. Your internal stakeholders must be comprised of diverse team leaders and PREFERABLY ones with lived experiences. While it doesn’t preclude you from not including those from the global majority, understanding the lived experiences from an intersection of people throughout the organization will make the process more authentic. They will provide input into the organization’s culture, employees attitudes and existing systems – what is right and what requires fixing. An executive leader who believes nothing is wrong and rests their head on the superficial will be awoken when the truth arises.

The external stakeholders/right holders also must be as diverse. These should be comprised of business leaders, community leaders, those from social services agencies, and many other groups who can create the biggest impact. They are on the ground everyday listening to their respective communities and customers. These stakeholders come to organizations like yours for assistance, guidance and support.

Along with the qualitative data, surveys are important to the EIB strategic planning process.  Listening to common stories within the organization as part of the qualitative exercise, as well as the collection of the quantitative data will help guide the direction of the strategic planning exercise.

3. What will be the challenges to do this work? There will be naysayers to the process from leaders to the front line staff. Many will have doubts that this process will work. Transformation is an arduous process. Transformational and adaptive leaders are cognizant of the complexities with delivering organizational change. How receptive will senior and middle management to the process? How could you as a change leader ensure that these leaders fully comprehend the benefits of equity, inclusion and belonging in their organizations? Will these leaders be ready to accept and take action on the findings from the survey, employee resource and stakeholder groups? When you consider all of these and many more answers in the early stages, you will as a leader will need to understand how to systematically approach them.

4. How do you intend to monitor and review the strategic plan? EIB consultants like myself will be honest with organizational leaders regarding the outcomes of the strategy. Strategic plans require constant reviews through various feedback loops. What is working, what is not working, and what can be improved? Strategic planning is a learning and listening exercise. But first and foremost, your EIB strategy must end up with a clear vision. How will equity, inclusion and belonging align with the corporate goals, strategies, mission and vision? What are the monitoring mechanisms in place? What is your timeline to review the strategy? On top of all this is transparency. What is your communication strategy to roll it out organization wide and publicly? Remember, the EIB strategic planning process is all about trust.

5. Metrics, metrics, metrics. As the old saying goes, what gets measured, gets done. Metrics are an important part of the EIB strategic process. They must be different from your organization’s key performance indicators. I’m going to provide you with two resources that will provide you on the purpose of EIB metrics for your organization. First is the She Geeks Out podcast episode on metrics where they highlight the necessity of measuring equity and inclusion results.


Second is to know what metrics to use. I found this useful one-pager from the Michigan Chamber of Commerce which is an through inventory of what organizations can use as part of their metrics. It highlights not just human resources, which again, is only one part of the organization, to leadership, employee research groups, and company wide.

Targets will provide that clear direction that will be that conversation starter in terms of what the organization must do next in order to improve. There have been decades of inaction from organizations. Developing a strategic plan starts the journey on making your organization a place for people to be proud to work at and doing.

Ask the tough questions. Be honest and forthright. Reflect, listen and learn from your employees and the general public. Are you ready to start your journey with me? Feel free to contact me on how I can help you start you equity, inclusion and belonging journey.

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