Questions to Help Determine How to Respond From a Crisis Lens or a DEI Lens

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Crisis SupportDiversity, Equity, and Inclusion

In part one of this blog series, I argued that DEI work is not the same as crisis management. A successful DEI plan bakes DEI into every aspect of your organization, including how you think about, plan for, and address crises. A crisis response should always have a DEI lens incorporated into the plan. 

There may be times when you’re not sure whether your response to a situation requires using a crisis management or a DEI lens. Here are five questions that will help you determine which approach to take: 

  1. How timely of a response is needed? Crisis work requires immediate responses to an unexpected event or threat. If your situation needs an urgent response, it may benefit from taking a crisis approach. DEI work isn’t necessarily time-sensitive and is generally conducted on a longer-term basis. 
  1. What’s the cause of the situation? If the underlying cause of the situation is rooted in long-standing systemic issues or biases, then a DEI lens is probably more appropriate. If the root cause is urgent and needs immediate attention, then crisis management will likely be your desired approach. 
  1. What’s the impact on my stakeholders? Is the physical safety of your stakeholders in danger? Is your organization’s stability threatened? Make use of your crisis management plan. Consider a DEI lens if your stakeholders are impacted by issues related to fairness, justice, equity, representation, and the like. 
  1. What kind of communication plan is needed? If your primary concern is disseminating information in a timely fashion, you’ll want to leverage your crisis communication strategy. If your goals are to foster open dialogue, promote inclusivity, and acknowledge concerns, you may benefit from a DEI-informed communication approach. 
  1. What preventive measures can you take in the future? If your goal is to avoid a similar situation from happening in the future and you’re focused on mitigating risk, use a crisis management lens. If your goal is to foster a more inclusive and equitable environment and your primary concern is addressing policies, initiatives, and training, keep your DEI lens top of mind. 

Remember that while these five questions are designed to help you consider which approach to take, ultimately, we can’t really look at these two approaches in complete isolation. To help you with deciding on which approach to take in the future, or if you need multiple approaches, here’s a helpful reference guide:

ConsiderationCrisis ResponseDEI Response
Timing/urgencyRequires an immediate responseIsn’t always time-sensitive
Root causeAn unexpected event or threatRooted in long-standing systemic issues or biases
Stakeholder impactImmediate physical danger and safety concerns or organizational stability threatenedIssues related to fairness, justice, equity, and representation
Communication goalsUrgent need to communicate in a timely fashionFoster open dialogue, promote inclusivity, acknowledge concerns
Preventative measuresMitigate risk and avoid future occurrences, with some degree of control over future planning Foster a more inclusive and equitable environment; address policies, initiatives, and training