If you are a board member of an organization, you are not alone in the question of what to do next. You know it is not enough, but as a board what is your role in leading your organization through the next steps of making it more than a statement on your website?
The challenge we have seen is that unlike the board’s role in approving the strategic plan, or budget, or the characteristics one is seeking in a new CEO, this is personal. Not only is it personal, but board members are likely wearing three additional hats in a board equity discussion. There is a professional journey of how your own organization has decided to address equity, and the one for the organization of which you are a board member, and the journey of the collective board.
Since a key role of the board is to serve as the north star and compass for the organization, the next step is to determine ways to integrate the anti-racist statement. Having led boards through this process, there are universal next steps that I recommend.
If you have not already, the next few actions are good places to start.
Assessment – As a tool to understand the readiness of the board and staff both personally and professionally, a well-crafted assessment highlights the places where there is commonality and potential gaps in understanding.
Governance Committee - Ensure clear priorities in your prospective board and committee pipelines. Be deliberate about calling out criteria your board needs to ensure a variety of lived experiences and voices. While this can include diversity of thought and geography, be explicit about including (for example) different ages, abilities, races, genders, and ethnicities as critical priorities. This will function as a forcing mechanism for the organization to broaden its pool of potential board and committee members.
Board – Embed an anti-racist lens in board decisions. A good question to ask at the board level: “Is this decision moving us closer or further away to becoming a more inclusive and anti-racist organization?” Followed by the essential question: “How is it moving us closer or further away?”
Senior Leadership – Ensure that the organization posts and markets vacant positions externally, with position descriptions reflecting key responsibilities and resources to be successful in advancing equity and inclusion. While true for all levels, it is especially so for senior positions. This increases the likelihood of a broader candidate pool and allows for conversations that would likely not happen otherwise.
CEO – The board should ensure that the steps needed to activate an anti-racist statement are embedded in the strategic plan. It is a part of the strategic plan, not separate from it. Metrics and accountabilities should be articulated and assigned and progress relative to goals should be included in quarterly reports to the board, or sooner if barriers need to be addressed.
Social Justice Associates welcomes the opportunity to help you and your board develop these next steps. We bring experience working with boards at all levels of readiness in strategic development, across business, education, health, and non-profit settings.