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Feb 16, 2023

Poor planning and justice

Some people assume that personal biases, self-interest, and biased policies are the main cause of exclusionary practices. However, I don't believe that's entirely correct. Poor planning and badly designed procedures can also be a major source of actual exclusion. Individuals or groups may be excluded from participating in an event or project due to lack of access or poor organization. That's why good planning is an ethical commitment, not just a good business practice. Whether it's an academic conference, a student event, or any other project, it's important to manage it effectively.

Let us admit it, some faculty members lack project management skills because they haven't had the opportunity to develop them on their career path. It takes courage to admit that you don't know something and learn. And it can be even more difficult once you have those coveted letters after your name. However, these skills are essential for success in any field, so it's important to learn them.

When preparing for an event, it's important to manage it like a project. Here are some commonly known tips on how to manage a project or event with several people involved:

  1. Start planning early: Plan the event well in advance to ensure that there is enough time to organize everything. Otherwise, we end up scrambling to find an accessible room or an available ASL interpreter. Improvisation and spontaneity are cute, but end up hurting someone. 
  2. Develop a timeline: Create a timeline that outlines the key milestones and deadlines for the event. Counting backward is critical here. For example, if we want to announce an event and advertise it, we need at least a month. To advertise it, we need to confirm key speakers and their topics, which takes another month. Rooms are scarce, so we need to book a room at least two months in advance. To book a room, we need to know the general format, which will take a whole meeting to figure out, etc.
  3. Establish roles and responsibilities: Assign clear roles and responsibilities to each person involved in the event. Don't assume that someone will do it; someone does not exist. In academic institutions, seek support from your chairs and deans; they can ask staff to help with specific tasks or match you with other resources on campus. We have the event support request form, but it does not have to be that sophisticated.
  4. Communicate and monitor progress regularly: Establish effective communication channels between team members and stakeholders to ensure that everyone is informed about the progress of the event. A weekly check of progress is the most common routine. Put this checks in your calendar.
  5. Anticipate and manage risks: Identify potential risks and develop a plan to mitigate them. What could go wrong, and what's the plan B? The most common error is to not ask "what if it rains?" or "what if it's 100F outside?
  6. Debrief, identify lessons learned, write them down, pass on to the next person.
Do you want to be a social justice warrior? Get your act together; it's the first step. Remember the rule of the variable barrier: what's a minor annoyance for one person can be an insurmountable obstacle for someone else. We tend to ignore small things because they seem small to us. But from a different perspective, those same things can seem huge. 

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