A range of perspectives are needed to address the questions posed throughout this framework. Different stakeholders in a network or organization will have different experiences and perceptions. Their responses to the inquiry prompts will vary—and those differences will help illuminate the very equity gaps that networks must address. We recommend that networks or organizations engage a group of stakeholders to conduct the equity inquiry together. They should represent a diversity of roles within hierarchies, organization types, and communities.
A range of perspectives is key, but the goal must also be to amplify and center those who are most marginalized—those who are most attuned to a network’s equity gaps from their lived experiences in it. An equity-focused inquiry team should include more of those voices than those in positions of privilege. Ensure equitable inclusion of:
- Those not in formal leadership positions or with less power in an organizational hierarchy
- Community members, students, and parents
- People of color, especially Black, Indigenous, and Latinx people who face marginalization in communities and have often been under-represented in education innovation network efforts
- People who experience the work of the education innovation network or organization—as it is intended to serve them or as engaged collaborators
In many cases throughout the equity inquiry, participants will respond to questions about the extent to which the network and its activities amplify marginalized voices. Those on the team without proximity to or lived experience in marginalized communities may base their responses on flawed or incomplete assumptions. To address this tendency, it is vital to seek the perspectives of marginalized communities in ways that honor and benefit them.
For those from marginalized communities, participation in this equity inquiry should be an opportunity, not an obligation. Base invitations on relationships of trust. Consider compensating people for their time or offer other value. Recognize and honor emotional labor. Enable equitable access and participation (see our Events module). Remember that people from marginalized communities should not be expected to educate people about their experience, neither do they speak for everyone in that community. Center their perspectives, but manage the inquiry process in ways that minimize and mitigate the burden on them.
To support the conditions required for equitable collaboration on this inquiry process, the group should:
- Establish norms – Develop and agree upon a set of community agreements that foster brave spaces and mitigate against harmful power dynamics.
- Check power – Be aware of how leaders with formal power (senior level staff, funders) can silence or influence conversation. Facilitate participation in ways that check that power through norm setting and specific strategies (e.g. facilitated discussions, protocols for managing air time and speaker flow, anonymous surveys, affinity group discussions).
- Address harm – Acknowledge that discussions on equity can be harmful to people from marginalized communities. Create conditions that minimize burden, tokenizing, or isolation. Ensure that there are ways to name and address harm when it happens.
- Use a facilitator – Designated facilitators—a network member, staff member, consultant not on the team—can be critical to ushering an equitable process for sharing and collaboration. Engage them in ways that support their growth, and fairly compensate or credit it.
- Keep reflecting – Ensure regular and ongoing opportunities for team members to reflect on the process, both collaboratively and anonymously. Address concerns promptly and transparently.