From SMART to SMARTIE: How to Embed Inclusion and Equity in Your Goals

Last updated: May 3, 2021
Estimated reading time: 2.5 minutes


When you’re moving from equity-neutral goals to goals with equity and inclusion considerations baked in, practice these tips to stay on track:

Mind the “how”

Some goals don’t—at face value—specifically promote equity and inclusion, so you’ll want to specify how you’re mitigating disparate impact or advancing equity and inclusion in your tactics, benchmarks, or metrics. Below are two examples:

  • Your development team may have an outcome goal to “raise $X by Y to cover this year’s budget and 3 months’ operating reserve.” There are many ways to do this, and one of them might include this activity goal: “recruit, retain, and develop a total of 30,000 dues-paying members, at least X% of whom identify as [people of color / women / trans or gender non-conforming / poor / Spanish-speaking].”
  • Your policy team might have a goal to create and disseminate X policy briefs on immigration by the end of the year. In order to be more inclusive and equitable in the process, you might say explicitly: “We will consult with X coalition or Y community leaders to get feedback before finalizing.”

Ask yourself: If the outcome specified in the goal isn’t specifically promoting equity and inclusion, is the process of achieving this goal going to improve equity and inclusion on our team/organization?

Check for unintentional disparate impact

A big part of developing a SMARTIE goal is checking for unintentional disparate impact along lines of identity and power and finding ways to mitigate that impact. But sometimes, you just don’t have enough information (whether that’s precedent or perspective) to anticipate unintended consequences. If that’s the case, make sure you’re explicit about how and when you’ll check for it along the way. Below are two examples:

  • “Lower overhead costs by $X by [date]” can be improved by adding “…with quarterly check-ins with staff to check for negative disparate impact of cost savings.”
  • “Increase representation of staff with marginalized identities in our hiring processes by [date]” can be improved with the addition of “…with checks to ensure staff with marginalized identities aren’t carrying an unequal share of the work.”

Ask yourself: What unintended disparate impact might result from this goal? Who have I consulted to check for unintended negative consequences? Any key stakeholders I’m missing from this list?

Make your metrics matter

There’s a fine line between inclusion and tokenism. What’s the difference? Power. In most cases, it’s not enough to tack on “…and x number of volunteers/new hires/spokespeople should be people of color” unless the people you’re trying to include will be able to influence the work in a meaningful way. Here’s an example:

  • “Build a volunteer team of 100 door-to-door canvassers by May, with at least 10% people of color” is a much different goal than “Build a volunteer team of 100 door-to-door canvassers by May, with at least 10 people of color recruited as volunteer leaders first, so that they can help shape the way we run the canvasses.”

Ask yourself: If I added an outcome or activity goal related to a specific marginalized community, will achieving this goal help build power and/or shrink disparities for this community? If so, how?


Check out some other important resources for setting goals:

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