Reflections on SIF’s DEI Audit Journey

DEI Audit subgroup members reflect on shared leadership and consensus-based decision making
  • By DEI Audit Subgroup
  • Published on June 17, 2021

The Social Innovation Forum (SIF) team has been more intentional about its diversity, equity, and inclusion work over the past four years. After solidifying our FY21 DEI goals, we spun off into three smaller DEI subgroups: (1) Building Pathways to Leadership (2) DEI Audit (3) Learning in Public. We’ve brought together the entire team into our DEI planning to ensure that everyone can have a role in shaping and shifting our culture and work at SIF. We are also proud of our Board of Directors who have stepped up and worked with a consultant this spring to explore their role in SIF’s DEI work. Our DEI work has strengthened in numbers, and we are excited to share some insights from our journey so far. 

DEI Audit Group History 

In November of 2020, the DEI audit team came together to address the big task of hiring an outside consultant to conduct an organization-wide DEI audit. This work wasn’t the decision nor the occupation of one team member, but an aggregate decision of four of SIF’s team members with support from SIF’s Board of Directors and larger team. Members of the DEI Audit team include Kassandra Goncalves, Communications & Events Coordinator; Susan Musinsky, Executive Director; Syed Raza, Development Associate; and Sarah Dingee, Program Manager. As a small group with a vast understanding of the organization’s work, we accomplished much more than we ever imagined. We relied on the power of collaboration and consensus-based decision-making to encourage one another to take lead on different parts of the process. 

After successful deliberation with the Board of Directors and the SIF staff, we hired YW Boston as our consultant for the audit. Our first phase of work with YW Boston involves a 5-week, two-hour-long Dialogue Series, with 17 cohort members consisting of five Board of Directors and 12 SIF staff team. Using the InclusionBoston model, we are deepening conversations around race and the implications and advantages it has on the group’s collective process of moving DEI work in the organization. After the Dialogue sessions, each of us will be responsible for moving forward an action plan with specific individual and organizational goals to ensure our DEI goals are being met across many facets of the organization. Here are a few recollections of our journey that really highlight the value of our shared leadership and entering a process with an open mind. 

Reflections on DEI Audit process 

Each member of the DEI Audit group reflected on one unique aspect of the search process experience, specifically team leadership, flexibility, trust-building, and Continuous Learning, one of SIF’s core values. Our team identified these aspects to be the most important during the duration of the audit search.

Aspect 1: Team Leadership 

“I was aware from the start, that our DEI Audit group would be working as a team of equals, and as the elder, I needed to think through how to both bring my experience to the team, as well as to step back and let others lead. One particular moment I remember was when we were preparing to meet with our first potential consultant. My initial thought was that the group might want me to lead the first session, but rather than bringing the assumption to the group, I asked if anyone was interested in taking the lead. Right away, Kass stepped forward, and we worked as a group to structure the flow of the conversation and create a script. This made it easier for me to take a step back and volunteer as the note-taker and contributed in a much quieter way. In this process, creating space for others to lead was a moment for growth for all of us.”

Susan Musinsky, SIF Executive Director 

Aspect 2: Flexibility 

“One valuable lesson I’ve learned as a result of being on this subcommittee is that setting rigid goals can hold a process back and that it is oftentimes more productive, to begin with more flexible goals and increase the specificity as you continue through the process. We found that we were spending a significant time early in the process trying to create goals for an audit format that we were unfamiliar with, and this became a frustrating bottleneck in our process. It was liberating for us to decide that we didn’t need to begin with very specific goals in place and that they could be molded through our discussions of different audit structures with consultants. This ended up being the right move as we got a lot of value from our conversations with auditors that helped drive our decision-making. These conversations gave us a better idea of how different audits work and the end goals of each potential audit, as certain consultants have different skillsets and processes that they work with. Resolving this bottleneck helped us get to the actual meat and potatoes of our process - actual conversations with consultants.”

Syed Raza, SIF Development Associate 

Aspect 3: Trust Building 

“Looking back, our team really had to build trust to get the work done. Otherwise, it would be very difficult to make decisions and move the work forward. We had regular meetings every week on the calendar which gave us time to be more intentional with one another and carefully plan our meetings with consultants and with the Board. We also had moments where we had to pause and have deep, real conversations with one another. I believe we were ready for these moments because of all the trust-building work we had done. I’m excited for the next phase of work with YW Boston and hope that we can take what we learned to inform some of the action-planning phase.” 

Kassandra Goncalves, SIF Communications & Events Coordinator  

Aspect 4: SIF Core Value - Continuous Learning

“There were many specific instances throughout this process where the team and I embraced the value of continuous learning. Early on, as we started to interview consultants, we gained immense knowledge of what an audit could look like. As we moved into other phases of the project, we held their advice closely and it helped us determine which vendor would best suit the needs of our organization. One of the consultants said, “Don’t boil the ocean...Do not try to assess everything at this stage.” Our reflections on this comment helped us take the work one step at a time. Additionally, at each phase of our search, our subcommittee shared and exchanged roles with each other so that everyone had an opportunity to wear different hats. Through this intentional collaborative approach, I was able to learn from each of their unique facilitation styles. Through it all, there were many opportunities for learning that I will be taking with me long-term.

Sarah Dingee, SIF Program Manager 

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