At Student Achievement Partners, we know that providing opportunities for open and honest feedback is crucial to establishing a healthy organization. Last year, after an equity audit and deep organizational reflection, we realized that to achieve our commitment to becoming an anti-racist, multicultural organization, we needed to change our current structure, processes, and norms. In other words, a redesign was necessary. We made continual efforts to ensure all voices and perspectives were heard in the redesign, and we did this through various forms where staff could provide ongoing feedback in the process. Essentially, authentic feedback is what drove the process. We incorporated feedback through pause and reflection points within the process, weekly org-wide town halls, and through a platform called TINYpulse.
The redesign plan itself followed a prototype structure. Embedded in the process were three pause and reflection points to create spaces for reflection, create channels for feedback from every person in the organization, and take stock to refine and adapt the organizational prototype. We made sure to be transparent with feedback results, communicating our findings to the larger team. Since we began our organization self-reflection by measuring against the anti-racist multicultural (ARMI) Continuum, we asked staff to rate the organization through the ARMI Continuum lens. As the redesign progressed, we embedded touchpoints to measure against this continuum and gauge whether folks felt we were making improvements. If we weren’t, we went to work to hold ourselves accountable for the learning we needed to do to push our work forward.
In addition to providing staff with opportunities to reflect on milestones throughout the prototype, we wanted to ensure all team members had space to get the information and clarity they needed every week. We hosted weekly Town Halls where we kept team members informed of decisions and what areas were still open to changes and feedback. These hour-long Town Halls were designed to empower team members to speak out and get the information they needed to continue their work. These opportunities to engage the whole team were essential to the progress we’ve made as an organization because we could discuss changes in real time, hear input from all team members, and work on action items to move the work forward.
While providing team members opportunities to give feedback is essential, it is just as important to interrogate the impact of the method being used to capture data and to consider whether people feel safe expressing how they truly feel. We’ve used TINYpulse to build trust between team members with the goal of creating a culture of transparency and accountability. Responses are anonymous so that it is a safe space for staff to share their thoughts and ideas. TINYpulse captures employee responses in real time, and we have the option to follow up on the feedback that requires clarity while also honoring the anonymity of the process. It has been our way of gauging the pulse of the organization weekly. We can take the data and inform our internal org design team about feedback related to the redesign steps.
A healthy feedback culture takes persistent effort; it is something you need to nourish. We constantly strive for a culture that acknowledges differences, uniqueness, and intersectionality of an individual’s identity (including race, ethnicity, gender, etc.), where they can comfortably agree to disagree and present their authentic self to work. One of our competencies perfectly describes our organization’s relationship to feedback: we see it as a gift to improve one another in areas that we might not have seen otherwise. If we diverge from creating a healthy culture of feedback, we leave room for a toxic culture to seep in, a culture where white supremacy characteristics show up, feedback is disingenuous, and people aren’t able to show up as their authentic selves.