Do you know the unwritten networks within your organization, your volunteer groups, and your staff? 

Have you ever thought about the impact of those unwritten networks on your ability to create a more diverse, equitable and inclusive environment? Do members of underrepresented or underserved populations truly have access to leadership and growth opportunities that will lead to career advancement? Does your organization have a culture where access to opportunities is equal and available to everyone?

Is there a strong influence of an “in crowd” of like-minded individuals who have the power and influence to make decisions within your organization? Maybe you don’t have an “in-crowd” but the influence of those who have been previously engaged impact the organization’s decisions regarding assignments to committees, selection of speakers, or journal submissions.

Have you recently undergone a reduction in staff or a restructuring of your organization that resulted in new job descriptions, a new organization chart, or a new reporting structure? 

An association’s official organization and workflow represent titles, hierarchies, and volunteer leadership structures, but they don’t always reflect the actual flow of information in an organization. They don’t necessarily represent who is talking to whom or who is seeking advice from whom. Even if the official workflows remain unchanged, the unwritten network is shifting – especially as many interactions are virtual and will continue to be this way as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Why does this matter? Some challenges volunteer structures face may be in part because of the network structure. If the goal is to ensure all volunteers and leaders have equitable opportunities to make meaningful contributions and that the principles of DEIA exist in all aspects of association governance, it’s important to map the influence volunteer leaders have on decision making within the organization and identify opportunities for change.