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Reflections on Our Watch's Organisational Strategy to Strengthen our Intersectional Approach 2017-18

January 28 2018 By Loren Days

As a Senior Policy Advisor for Intersectionality at Our Watch, I am frequently asked about our Organisational Strategy to Strengthen our Intersectional Approach 2017-18.

We are currently reviewing the 2017-18 Strategy by reflecting on our challenges and achievements over the past year, with a view to creating a robust 2018-19 Strategy. It is therefore an opportune time to share our experience.

Our Watch is committed to taking an intersectional approach to the prevention of violence against women; this was identified in Change the story. As a Senior Policy Advisor on Intersectionality,1 a key function of the role is to embed processes within our organisation that enable staff to take an intersectional approach to their work. 

My first step was to conduct an internal audit to assess organisational needs. This is a necessary step, as every organisation will have different requirements and challenges. I then heavily consulted with staff for a four-month period to develop the Strategy, which helped to ensure that all staff felt ownership of it. After a final review by trusted external stakeholders, we launched our 2017-18 Strategy. 

While I drive the Strategy by monitoring and tracking its progress, the responsibility for the Strategy does not sit with my role alone. The Strategy holds staff accountable at every level of the organisation.  We established an intersectional working group with representation from all teams within the organisation. Each representative is responsible for reporting on their team’s progress in quarterly meetings. In addition to cross-organisation accountability, our Director of Policy and Evaluation champions the Strategy within our Senior Executive Team.

Critical reflection is a key component to taking an intersectional approach. This can be a challenging exercise in the workplace. People are not accustomed to being asked to reflect personally on their privilege and analyse how it impacts the way that they approach their work. To facilitate this change, it is important to create a safe workplace environment for critical reflection. 

We were able to achieve this by making capacity building a key focus of our 2017-18 Strategy. We held multiple workshops to explore the complexities of intersectionality more generally, and allowed time for staff to reflect and discuss it together. We also invited guest speakers with specialist knowledge of a diverse range of population groups. 

While we provided many opportunities for staff to further their knowledge, a key component of the Strategy has been to require staff to be proactive to further their own understanding and reflect on it in performance reviews. 

As our collective understanding of an intersectional approach has evolved, we have continued to modify our internal definition of its practical application to primary prevention. A challenging aspect of this has been realising that our understanding is not static, and admitting to what we don’t know or understand. 

We have many things to look forward to as an organisation for our 2018-19 Strategy, including the creation of an internal community of practice group that meets monthly to allow staff to learn and evolve their understanding of an intersectional approach to primary prevention. 

1. It is worth noting that should your organisation decide to go down the path of creating a strategy to strengthen your intersectional approach, it does not necessarily require additional budget allocation. Doing this effectively can simply mean changing the way you approach your work, and some of the structural aspects that my role is responsible for within our organisation to embed this approach can sit with a human resources department/position.