Understanding Meyer's DEI Spectrum tool

From increasing personal awareness to transformation to changes in the way we do business, there are myriad ways to work on diversity, equity and inclusion in our organizations. Often, there is a lot of "undoing" that needs to occur to address and change policies and strategies that have not resulted in equitable outcomes. We recognize that facing and digging into this work can be overwhelming — a kind of "where to start?" situation.

Believe it or not, there's a tool that can help.

The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion DEI Spectrum Tool

Meyer created the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Spectrum Tool to help organizations assess where they are on their DEI journey and to identify potential areas for future work. It is also intended to provide shared language to help Meyer staff and nonprofits talk together about what DEI currently looks like in an applicant's organization and opportunities for growth. The tool describes organizational characteristics at different points along a DEI continuum for 12 different dimensions of DEI work:

  1. DEI Vision — The organization can envision a DEI future and uses this vision to guide its DEI work.
  2. Commitment — An organization has institutionalized its commitment to DEI.
  3. Leadership — Organizational leaders recognize the importance of DEI and prioritize, resource and lead the effort.
  4. Policies — The organization has DEI policies and an organizational plan with clear goals, objectives and indicators of progress and success.
  5. Infrastructure — The organization has committed resources and structures (i.e., an equity committee) to support the DEI transformation.
  6. Training — An organization fosters ongoing DEI learning and growth for its staff, management and board.
  7. Diversity — The organization has policies and strategies for strengthening and maintaining diversity; staff and board are representative of the community they serve; effective retention strategies are implemented.
  8. Data — The organization routinely collects and analyzes disaggregated data for all programmatic and operational work and uses the information in planning and decision-making.
  9. Community — Mutually beneficial, accountable and equitable partnerships exist with diverse organizations and leaders from communities experiencing disparities.
  10. Decisions — An organization's decisions are systematically guided by equity considerations.
  11. Accountability — An organization has developed mechanisms to create and maintain accountability to its constituents.
  12. Inclusion — The organization values and reflects the voice, contributions and interests of its diverse staff and constituencies and has created systems, policies and practices to maintain this organizational culture.

What went into creating the tool?

To develop the tool, Meyer convened a small committee of staff members who reviewed numerous assessments, some quite elaborate and others fairly simple.

"Our goal was to create a multi-dimensional tool that reflects the complex ways that diversity, equity and inclusion are expressed in organizations," said Kris Smock, a consultant who worked with us on the tool.

For the points on the spectrum (e.g., "Not Yet Started" or "Well on the Way") we worked to minimize a sense of value judgment, which can be implicit when doing assessments. Our goal is to talk with, not judge, organizations about where they are in the spectrum as a baseline for growth and to recognize where their current strengths and opportunities lie.

Why did Meyer create it?

Meyer's own journey toward diversity, equity and inclusion required us to understand and assess the areas where improvements were and continue to be needed. We ask all our grantees to do the same: to explore equity within the context of their organizations and make progress on integrating equity in their work, partnerships, outreach, policies, staff and boards.

Additionally, because of Meyer's own commitment to DEI, Meyer applicants are more competitive when they can demonstrate a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion in their applications.

How does Meyer use the tool in the grant review process?

Diversity, equity and inclusion is complex, and every organization's DEI journey is unique. During the due diligence process, Meyer staff use the tool to explore with organizations where the organization is on its DEI journey, focusing on five points along the DEI continuum: "Not Yet Started," "Ready to Start," "Launched," "Well on the Way" and "Exemplary/ Leading." Although many organizations' DEI progress won't fit neatly into just one stage, the DEI Spectrum Tool provides guideposts for considering where an organization is in relation to each "stage."

Does Meyer fund organizations across the entire DEI continuum?

The short answer is "yes." However, it is our experience that organizations actively engaged in DEI are often better aligned with Meyer's vision of a flourishing and equitable Oregon. Simply put, organizations that have "Not Yet Started" their DEI journey are unlikely to receive funding.

Across all four Meyer portfolios, the majority of funded organizations would generally fall into the "Ready to Start" or "Launched," offering a clear sense of where organizations sit along the DEI spectrum and where there's opportunity to advance DEI in the future.

How can organizations use the tool?

Although there's no one right approach, we suggest that organizations ask themselves where they think they are on the spectrum in each of the 12 areas listed in the tool. You might ask each individual board and staff member to do this exercise on their own and then host conversations at a follow-up staff and board meeting to share your thoughts. You might also want to gather input from your members or constituents to get their take.

Don't be surprised when you discover that individuals on your team have different perspectives on where you land in certain areas or when your constituents point to something that you had not yet considered. Don't shy away from this complexity. Instead, dig in and use it as an opportunity to deepen your collective understanding of DEI and how it relates to your organization's mission and how you operate.

As part of using the tool to generate organizational conversations about where you think your organization lands along the DEI spectrum in different areas, you may also use it to help prioritize efforts to move forward. Finally, you could revisit the tool regularly, maybe once a year, to help your organization track its DEI progress over time.

Where to start?

As we've learned from Meyer's own equity journey, it's difficult to tackle all of the 12 areas listed in the tool at once and with the same intensity. One suggestion is to consider what areas you are already having some success in and build upon them by going deeper in those areas. Another suggestion is to look at where you see gaps. If you notice a big gap in one area, for example staff diversity, and you have made some attempts to address this, you may need to set some learning goals to figure out how other organizations have been successful and why your approach has not yet worked. Set short- and long-term benchmarks and track them along with your other organizational goals.

How can we expect our progress to play out over time?

Again, there's no one answer to this question, but if your experience is anything like Meyer's, you'll find that progress is slower at first and speeds up over time, with many opportunities for learning along the way. At the same time, as your organization's equity analysis deepens, you will discover entire blind spots that you didn't recognize at the beginning of your journey. When you make these discoveries, you may suddenly realize that you are not as far along as you thought in a particular area, and you may place your organization back a step on the spectrum. Don't despair when this happens, instead realize that the path to equity is not one way.

Big organizational changes — staff or leadership changes or a funding challenge — have the potential to disrupt or slow progress, however, the more mission-critical DEI becomes to your work, the less likely it will be that big organizational changes will derail your progress.

 Jill, Carol and Matt