A barn raising during the day. People standing on the wood framing of the structure, from the roof to the interior.

How Equity Can Build Better Organizations

At Beloved Community, when we create, we do so to fill a need. In 2018, we created the Equity Audit as a tool for organizations to comprehensively assess diversity, equity, and inclusion indicators across every function of their organization’s operations. This organization-wide self-assessment was the first DEI assessment for the workplace with an emphasis on mutual accountability across an entire organization and was designed to serve all sectors. 

We know that the responsibility of advancing DEI doesn’t just lie with individuals who hold positional power—it requires all of us. The Equity Audit asks organizations to consider more than 100 DEI indicators and encourages team dialogue around practices, policies, and the data collected. Together, they are able to identify and prioritize the areas that will result in sustainable and measurable change.

Sustaining change requires engaging entire organizations in their individual and collective equity journey. The Equity Lens Map was developed to support individuals on their equity leadership journey. At the individual level, Equity Lens Map data can indicate common needs such as affinity-based spaces and supports for BIPOC staff to mitigate fatigue or provide differentiated learning experiences across demographics. The Equity Work Plan exists as the three-year roadmap to advancing equity within organizations. The tool supports the collective journey an organization—its individuals and its systems—embarks on.


• Visit Awa by Beloved to learn about our Equity Tool Suite. The Equity Audit is a free tool that you can use to assess the diversity, equity, and inclusion indicators for your scope of work. The tool can be used for entire organizations and even single departments, teams, or programs.

• Identify your individual growth areas. examine the ways White Supremacy Culture influences our perceptions and behaviors. Note: White individuals in America have unique work to do as a result of benefiting from racialized systems of privilege & oppression in America. Additional readings with embedded resources are available on our website, notably works by Dr. Nicole Caridad Ralston and Alisha Keig.

• Start small – change just one thing about how you work. Consider the ways the characteristics and anti-blackness show up in your own work. How do I reinforce either/or thinking in my daily work? When do I operate based on one right way of thinking? When and why do I feel the need to hoard power? Do I ever think something is urgent when it’s really not?  

What We’ve Learned

Our Equity Audit is designed to assess all types of organizations, from non-profits, corporations & companies to K-12 schools, colleges & universities, and even public agencies and municipalities. Since launching the Equity Audit in December 2018, our tools have supported over 3,000 individuals in 551 organizations. Data, both quantitative and qualitative, helps us distinguish what we think, feel, or hope is true about our organization from what we know is true. 

When it comes to advancing DEI, the top five priorities we see most often in our tools are:

      1. Representative diversity, specifically for staff and board members
      2. Belonging
      3. Shared Voice, Shared Power
      4. Individual DEI Education & Growth
      5. Talent practices: hiring, onboarding & inclusive management

While strategies to advance these priorities depend on an organization’s unique circumstances, some levers are being commonly pulled by organizations of all kinds.

  • Representative Staff Diversity: Adjusting job descriptions to mitigate language that filters out diverse candidates.
  • Increased Belonging: Developing and utilizing data practices for assessing Belonging within the workplace.
  • Prioritizing Shared Voice, Shared Power: 
    1. Clearly defining objectives for collecting feedback/input from the organizational community and establishing practices for transparent communications about what those objectives are; 
    2. Designing Shared Voice/Shared Power opportunities for accessibility, including compensation for community members, as giving input often requires labor.
  • Individual DEI Education & Growth: Developing affinity-based spaces for staff development.
  • Talent Practices: Focusing on investments and practices that promote the retention and advancement of staff with marginalized identities.

Across all sectors, organizations with a shared commitment to advancing DEI identified several of the above strategies that are laying the groundwork for their equity journeys. The majority of organizations self-reported their commitments to providing consistent quality and frequency of feedback to all staff, as well as fair and unbiased performance ratings and annual evaluations. Managers and executives are actively taking the step to compare salary data for equity before approving new hires. As such, they’re seeing equitable compensation within their organization (salary, benefits) across demographics. We also saw that the majority of employers report providing access to the technology, digital resources, and training that positions all staff for advancement.

Of course, these organizations also reported that there is room for improvement, particularly where mutual accountability for the work is concerned. Boards are not reviewing diversity, equity, and inclusion performance indicators of organizations annually. Similarly, managers are not requiring that staff identify personally and professionally relevant DEI goals as part of the annual review process or review DEI goals with their staff annually. Anti-bias training for those involved in hiring processes is also not required.

As expected, belonging indicators across all groups within an organization show up as a common need. This doesn’t necessarily mean that belongingness is low across all organizations. Belonging is frequently the area where organizations have the least amount of data practices in place. What it does mean is that organizations cannot say with certainty that individuals across demographics and identity groups feel a strong sense of belonging.

Using Data to Advance Change

Individual and organizational level data helps us interrogate neutrality and develop strategies to advance equity.

2400 1600 Beloved Community

Beloved Community

Carla Melaco (she/her) is a Black, biracial researcher based in New York who works at the non-profit Beloved Community as Research Coordinator and IRB Administrator. // Dr. Makeda Austin is a mixed-methods research psychologist based in Chicago who works at Beloved Community as the Associate Director of Research.

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