Alignment: Are We All on the Same Page?

By Amy Jiravisitcul

When engaging with diversity, equity, and inclusion across an organization, many professionals invoke the image of moving the needle, making gradual progress in small increments. However, organizations need to also consider whether all individuals, all departments, all stakeholders are using the same scale. 

Dr. Ebony Bridwell-Mitchell, Harvard Graduate School of Education professor, wrote about the Multi-level Model of School Alignment, as a way to categorize organizational elements, from the individual level, relational level, organizational level, to the extra-organizational level. How do we know whether organizational alignment at a school is happening among individual personnel, among subject or grade-level departments, among school leaders and administrators, and among external constituents, such as communities, teachers unions, and policymakers?

Ultimately, all elements of a school or organization need to be grounded in a common mission to carry out work that is unified and cohesive. It may be daunting to clearly define or draft components of your mission that relate to the “C” of RIDES’s ABCDs, Commitment to Dismantling Racism and Oppression. Taking on this unequivocal commitment may elicit challenging decisions, with the risk of alienating some constituencies that no longer fit your more specific mission. However, having a strong and clear mission is foundational to aligning your organization’s work across all members and partners.

If your organization’s mission espouses a commitment to justice and racial equity, each part of your organization must contribute to that mission. RIDES has shared some tools to reflect and assess your organization’s alignment with equity and inclusion, such as Advancing the Mission: Tools for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion and Systemic Equity Implementation Rubric.

While honing in on initiatives related to racial equity work, it’s key to plan your theory of action. Bridwell-Mitchell suggests asking, “To which organizational element is this initiative most related?” and then reflecting on how activities within this initiative align with the school’s mission. Are there possible unintended consequences that could undermine the school’s mission, and how might you plan for such consequences? Finally, what other organizational elements are involved in making the initiative successful, and what needs to happen within additional elements to support the initiative and school’s overall mission?

With this broad-based view of individuals, teams, and larger organizational actors, strategic initiative planning can promote buy-in and honest critique of connectedness to the mission. With ongoing assessment and reflection using the rubrics and tools mentioned above, your organization may also become attuned to changes over time in your mission and theory of action.

Your organization or school may not be having the same types of conversations, plans, and goals for dismantling racist systems today as it would in a few decades. By using Bridwell-Mitchell’s multi-modal framework as an organizational map, you can ensure that your organization’s mission and objectives evolves while staying aligned and unified.