Bringing hazard control, courage and vision to community sector strategic planning

We can achieve a better world with planning, vision, courage and determination

This article will not tell you step by step how to write a strategic plan. But I hope it inspires you to ask the big questions about how we can create a world free of the problems that plague our society.   I hope it encourages you to have the courage and with conviction say, “this problem is complex, change will be slow and will require a community, government and community sector response as yet unseen but I will be part of the solution.”

I have recently embarked on a strategic planning journey at my workplace. I was determined that our organisation’s strategic plan would be part of the solution to the problems our organisation was established to tackle, problems such as family violence and gender discrimination. To achieve this aim I found myself bringing together my campaign activist knowledge and taking a close look at how we in Australia manage hazards.

The belief that we are more powerful than the problems that afflict our society has enabled humans to cure incurable diseases, to bring oppressive regimes to their knees, deliver the right to vote to women and people of colour and has ended slavery and child labour in first world nations.  We have seen multiple examples of positive and lasting change resulting from strategic planning, passion, determination and the harnessing of collective power. Despite these positive examples we often fail to start our strategic planning with the question, “What is our role in eliminating the problem we were set up to tackle and how can we be part of the solution?” Unfortunately strategic planning is often constrained and retarded by starting with the aim of managing the problem and co- existing with the problem as best we can.  Instead we end up with a business plan rather than a vision and plan for a better future.  This mind-set can bring nothing but defeat and accommodation. It starts from the premise that problems like racism and family violence are permanent blights on our society that lie beyond the control of not only the individual but organised groups.

We give the worst elements in our society an undeserved strength and legitimacy by accepting them as always having a place in our society. Instead we need to create and promote a vision of a society free of things such as racism, sexism and homelessness.  It is only by creating the vision that we can we start the process of making that vision a reality.

The hazard hierarchy of a control is a system of dealing with identified hazards so that our exposure to them can be minimise and eliminated. The hazards hierarchy of control starting point is always what we can do to eliminate the hazard. It is premised on the assumption that we have power over our environment and can manipulate our environment to make it safe. Co-existing with a hazard is considered a worst case scenario. In contrast many community services planning processes do not involve a discussion of elimination of the problem but instead how can we assist people to cope with a hazard, such as homelessness and discrimination, once they have been exposed and impacted.

One sector which is embracing a vision that involves the elimination of the problem is the family violence sector.  The family violence sector has moved beyond the belief that men being violent is a natural and unchangeable state of being. The sector, while still having to deal with the increasing influx of women seeking assistance, is also strategically planning for the elimination of the causes of family violence. Family violence is shifting from being an unfortunately unchangeable reality to a hazard to be eliminated and in its stead a gender equal society created.

No one thinks that ending family violence is going to be easy or that it will happen overnight. But it was not that long ago that diseases like polio were considered a hazard we had to live with.  By daring to say I can be part of a lasting solution polio has been eradicated from Australia as has many other diseases.

Below is a hazard control hierarchy diagram used by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. Below that a demonstration of how an organisation can  utilise the hazard hierarchy of control to maximise impact and clearly position gender inequality, misogyny and gender discrimination as hazards with no place in our community.

HierarchyControls

My organisation being a women’s organisation does not want to give misogyny, gender discrimination and inequality any legitimacy. Our organisational strategic planning process, involving staff, our volunteers and the board has embraced the hazard hierarchy of control and has delivered us a powerful platform that will energise us a service and maximise our impact. A platform that acknowledges that while we need to provide protection and services for vulnerable women, any real and lasting solution needs to embraces the entire hierarchy of control.

Our strategic plan brings our collective power, passion, strategic partnerships and extensive knowledge to the tasks of:

  • Eliminating misogyny, gender inequality and discrimination from our society.
  • Replacing gender discrimination with values and behaviours of gender equity, respect for women and equal power relationships between men and women
  • Isolating women from the effects of  misogyny, gender inequality and discrimination that currently occurs in our society
  • Changing work practices to provide best practice service to women and advocate for all level of government and its institutions to instigate work and policy practices that will eliminate and reduce gender inequality, discrimination and misogyny
  • Protecting and empowering women affected by misogyny, gender inequality and discrimination with best practice service provision that enables women to recover and have access to genuine choices.

I know that my small organisation is only a tiny part of the solution. We are a small service operating in one State of one Nation. But by believing in a vision that a gender equal society is possible and planning for such a society our ability to impact and make meaningful change is amplified. Our strategic planning harnesses our hope, our sense of purpose, our partnerships and collaborations and our knowledge and expertise and gives us the fuel we need to be part of the solution and to bring others in the community along for the journey.

I can’t wait till tomorrow!

3/10/2015 Julie Kun

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