Embedding Equity within Operations

Common Good VT is pleased to share this post by Sage Ruth and Dave Dore, co-founders of Structural Integrity:

Operations play an essential role in creating an equitable and inclusive workplace. Without explicitly-and intentionally-designed systems, participation in decision-making and access to resources are prone to dependence on who has power or proximity to it.

How do you know if you’re successfully centering equity in your organization’s operations? It can be hard to know what this looks like in practice, and we’ve found that asking targeted questions is often a good starting point – here are a few examples:

  • What percentage of your non-personnel spending goes to vendors who share a commitment to equity? Do you work with any vendors whose values are explicitly misaligned with yours? What changes can you make in order to move your dollars?
  • Do you have a consistent approach to budgeting for and approving new technology for staff? (NTEN’s technology equity guide has a wealth of specific guidance for assessing your technology practices.)
  • Do title and/or tenure influence what equipment and space a staff member receives, or is it based purely on the needs of their role? If you have office space, when you look at assigned seating based on race, gender, title, and department, are there trends in who is assigned to different types of spaces like private offices, shared offices, and open seating?
  • When staff reach out for operations support, how do you decide whose needs take priority? Do factors like seniority or who asks the most/loudest play a role? Do you collect data on response times and evaluate any trends based on race, gender, title, and department?
  • Do all staff have an opportunity to provide input on operations priorities and decisions, and to give feedback on how well their operations needs are being met? Do you disaggregate and assess this input based on race, gender, title, and department? Do you communicate your findings to staff in order to foster transparency and accountability?
  • Who has information and decision-making power over how money gets budgeted and spent? Do people closest to the work have an opportunity to identify what resources they need to be successful in their work, and do they have a clear line of sight on spending within their areas of work?
  • Are there systems in place to ensure that staff most directly involved in the work have an opportunity to provide input to inform decision-making? Does this exist not only within teams but also for decisions that cut across teams, like committing to new programs and initiatives?
  • Are senior leaders expected to follow the same policies and processes as all other staff?

The relevance of these questions depend on your organization’s size and structure but we hope they spark ideas on how to embed equity in your operational practices. Need help with an assessment and implementing positive change?  Reach out to us to discuss!

If you have additional questions and approaches that you’ve found helpful, we would love to hear them!

About Structural Integrity:

We strengthen the nonprofit sector by helping mission driven organizations build their foundational operations to generate capacity, enhance sustainability, and center impact.

We have nonprofit finance and operations experience dating back to 2005 and have worked together since 2015, connecting over our shared affinity for systems and processes that many people think are dull but we find fascinating and essential. In everything we do, we aim to keep people at the center, building operations foundations so that staff can do their best work.

Whether you’re a new organization getting key systems in place, a scaling organization creating a foundation to enable growth, or a stable organization looking to improve your existing infrastructure – let us help you strengthen your operations, enabling your staff to focus more on those you serve and less on the distractions that operational inefficiencies create.

Learn More:
Sage Ruth, Co-Founder: [email protected]
Dave Dore, Co-Founder: [email protected]