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When RFP Means...

Updated: Apr 15, 2023

You have a commitment to equity, anti-racism, and/or anti-colonialism. Your organization is contributing to change. You are determined to find a consultant who has worked successfully with organizations to grow their manifestation of those values, someone who also lives that commitment deeply, not just as a performance to get the business.

Then please, please, don’t resort to old models of domination in the process you use to find us!

Equity work is at heart about sharing power, about pushing back on the habits of control and extraction that have been baked into our culture. As an organization, you are holding power, and in every organizational process, you can choose what you’re willing to share, with who, and how. You can see for yourself what difference that makes in your engagement with your community and everyone around you.

All too often I see organizations making superficially equitable choices when it comes to identifying consultants – for example, deciding not to share information, because they want to make sure no one party is advantaged. I also have seen organizations making exciting choices that engage the possibilities each consultant presents. Here’s my organized riff on power choices in these processes:

What influences the choices that organizations make around power, beyond values? Sometimes it’s fear – organizations may be unfamiliar with consulting, are worried they’ll be preyed upon, and set up elaborate defenses. I’m of the mind that you’re more likely to get what you live into:

  • What would your engagement be like if you were oriented towards abundance rather than scarcity?

  • What process might create connection as opposed to separation?

  • What would help the consultants recognize your full humanity, and help you recognize theirs?

I’ve been in processes that I keep hoping will evolve that end up feeling like the Consultant hunger games, ending with one bloodied and sickened winner. It profits no one. RFP can stand for Really Fair Processes. Let's do that work.

*Credit for this process description to New Sun Rising, who used it to find a consultant team for their last strategic planning cycle.

** Credit for this point to Nicole Clark, who has many more excellent things to say on this topic from a BIPOC perspective in her own blog post.

ruined car overgrown by weeds

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