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Three steps to creating an actionable response to Black Lives Matter

“We want to draft an actionable statement in response to the Black Lives Matter movement, but we can’t seem to agree on what to say or what to do. Do you have any advice?”

This was a question I recently received, and I love it.

With so many organizations issuing statements that have nothing behind them – no actions, no organization support, no intent. Those statements are nothing more than empty words. A question like this shows that issuing a statement is more than words, it is a promise, and that promise must mean something.

What we do as individuals and as organizations in response to such critical topics such as Black Lives Matter can be a defining moment. It can be the difference between empty words and being part of the true and lasting solution.

So how do you turn a statement of words into one of action? Apply the three steps of turning diversity talk into diversity action.

Step 1: Define the intent and goal(s) of the action.

What problem(s) do you want to focus on in your commitment?

You don’t have to do it all. In fact, I recommend you don’t try to tackle everything. Goals that are too lofty becomes unactionable and will often lead to no action at all. Instead, choose goals that are realistic and obtainable. You can always take on more using the momentum of initial successes.

For example, if organizations are looking to make a difference in support of Black Lives matter, here are a few ideas for intent:

  • Increase workplace diversity

  • Drive equity in pay, promotions, and practices

  • Elevate inclusivity of the culture

  • Support local community programs that address inequities

Step 2: Define tasks to support the action

Just like with intent, define tasks that are doable. Don’t throw out lofty goals with huge expensive actions that either can’t be done or will take a long period of time to go through the approval and budgeting process. The longer the process and higher the barriers, the greater the chance the initiative will fizzle and have no impact. It’s okay to start slow.

For example, if the intent is to increase workplace diversity, here are a few ideas for actions:

  • Establish an unbiased hiring program through techniques such as anonymous screening and structured questions.

  • Engage with a wider range of sources to drive diversity in your candidate pool such as more diverse and traditionally black universities and colleges, vocational programs, high schools, community groups, and advocacy organizations.

  • If your organization is located within a more homogeneous area, introduce more remote / relocation jobs to create a wider candidate pool.

  • Launch internship programs that target underprivileged / underrepresented groups to introduce a wider range of talent to career opportunities.

Or, for example, if the intent is to support local community programs that address inequities, here are a few ideas for actions:

  • Support local under-funded schools through donations, event funding, career days, volunteering, etc. (if this is applicable)

  • Launch internship programs targeting underprivileged / underrepresented (same as above)

  • Fund scholarships to local schools and/or vocational programs for those who would otherwise no have access to continuing education programs

Step 3: Show results

For whatever actions you choose, execute those actions then measure and showcase the results. This can be done in a series of press releases, a webpage that shows your continuing commitment to a fair and equitable world, social media updates, etc.

Don’t worry about getting some things wrong. What matters is that you continuously work at it, then improve and hold yourselves accountable to the actions.

For example, if your action for increasing workplace diversity is ‘engage with a wider range of sources to drive diversity in your candidate pool’, then list out who you’ve established relationships with and the results.

Bring it all together

With intention/goals, actions, and a plan for reporting results, you can draft a statement that goes well beyond words of solidarity to a promise and a commitment to change. Communicate the intentions of your program and how you intend to achieve those intentions. Commit to sharing progress along the way so everyone sees that your intentions are genuine, impactful, and real.

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