It’s undeniable that since the murder of George Floyd, America has seen an uptick in governmental introspection aimed at improving inequitable outcomes for Black/Indigenous/People of Color (BIPOC) and other historically disadvantaged stakeholders. For the state and local clients we’ve been working with, who are starting their Antiracism, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (ADEI) journey through assessments or strategic planning, the most common problem they face is the challenge of sustaining these efforts over time. In our experience, the difference between the success and failure of equity and ADEI initiatives lies in an organization’s ability to communicate and create feedback loops with stakeholders that drive the continuous improvement of its goals and strategies to improve the outcomes of disadvantaged groups.
As is the case with most public sector clients, communication is king: whether an organization is trying to establish consistent funding streams, create community buy-in, or improve outcomes for all residents. Formalized communication channels, strategies, and objectives enable these entities to ensure the reach, acceptance, and clarity of their strategic message among stakeholders. In our ADEI work, we’ve helped clients improve their communication efforts through the following activities:
- Increasing stakeholders’ understanding and awareness of various equity-oriented initiatives and programs
- Establishing interagency working groups, task forces, and coalitions
- Planning and implementing alternative communication strategies for hard-to-reach stakeholders (e.g., activating communities of faith, non-profits, foundations, and other partners to amplify organizational messages)
- Exploring a variety of communication modalities such as videos, infographics, and interactive web pages
The lesson that many organizations have learned the hard way is that it’s really challenging to affect change and partner with stakeholders on implementing solutions if they are unaware of the change plans and their role in carrying it out.
Effectively collecting, analyzing, and using stakeholder input is another area where we most often help clients grow. While many organizations use feedback to respond to goals and strategies that have already been developed, our consultants bring a wealth of expertise that enables clients to engage stakeholders as co-designers on the front end and accountability partners on the back end of the design process. Organizations benefit from this approach by activating early adopters to help champion the culture change and accelerating buy-in across key stakeholder groups. Both of which are critical to the success of the strategic and sustained implementation of change initiatives.
Without a solid communication and stakeholder engagement plan, it will be nearly impossible to build the culture necessary for organizational change. Those plans empower stakeholders to monitor long-term progress, build upon the lessons learned from past successes or failures, and hold the organization accountable to its commitments (e.g., resources), strategies, and actions towards achieving better equity outcomes.