By Joe Hollendoner
When I stepped into the role as CEO of the Los Angeles LGBT Center in July, I knew that we needed a cohesive strategy and unifying set of objectives as an organization. I came to this realization after spending my first year at the Center listening to your feedback, talking with our partners and donors, and volunteering across our various programs and sites. The need for such a strategy became clearer as our landscape dramatically shifted due to public health and political threats our community was experiencing. I believe this strategy will not just help guarantee the success of the Center, but more importantly, that it will improve our workforce and work culture—breaking down the silos between departments and fortifying our model of care in order to center our community’s most vulnerable.
For almost a year now, members of senior management and some of our board members have been meeting with an external consultant to put together this strategy, which I now describe as a Strategic Framework. This framework is a set of shared values and priorities to help us respond to the shifting needs of our community and workforce, and it prepares us to pursue a bold and ambitious strategic plan in the future. It’s my hope that this will help us come together as an organization to determine how we can best work together to achieve our mission of ensuring that all LGBT people thrive.
DEI & Belonging:
DEI & Belonging isn’t listed as one of the strategies of our strategic framework—rather, it’s something that we want to center as the core of our work. I didn’t want to create a silo where DEI & Belonging lived separately from the other elements of this strategy. Instead, I expect inclusion to become a true and sincere competency of the Center. I expect all of us to make the investments necessary to ensure that diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging are infused in everything that we do here.
Our values are at the center of our work, and this section of the Strategic Framework outlines how these values will guide our decision-making and actions. Rather than operating from a set of values determined by senior leadership, it’s my view that this organization should collectively come up with its own set of values. Right now, we have a staff committee working with an outside consultant to create a new set of values that feel urgent, actionable, and inspiring for the Center. As part of the committee’s process, all Center employees will have an opportunity to give input to ensure that our values are reflective of our culture and the organization we aspire to be. Once published, we will all have a responsibility to live these values in all that we do. They will form the basis for how we select, train, and develop our workforce, guide our internal and external relationships, and create consistency for how our clients experience our programs and services. We will use these shared values to guide decision-making and the future growth of our organization.
As CEO of this organization, my top priority is caring for our workforce. Because I know that if our workforce is well cared for, our clients will be, too. Our goal is to make the Center the most compelling place for LGBTQ+ people to work, develop their capacity as movement leaders, and thrive. We have already begun the architecture of some of these projects, focusing on compensation and benefits, establishing a management framework and structure for our organization, recruitment and onboarding of our workforce, building our internal communications, and improving the overall safety and security of our staff and clients. This will take time, but I want to assure you that I am committed to this work as I believe that when staff are well cared for, our clients and community are well cared for.
Our Model of Care:
One of the things that I’ve heard pretty consistently since starting is that departments, and in many cases even programs, do not feel connected to one another, leaving staff feeling siloed and clients with the sense that they are navigating four or five different organizations. Our goal in this area is to integrate our programs and sites to develop a new community-centered model of care with a no-wrong-door approach to accessing comprehensive services. Rather than trying to adapt our existing structures, we will instead begin by piloting a new model of care—starting with coordination of care for trans and nonbinary folks—that is specific to our community’s needs. For me, our community should be at the center of all we do, not department structures and government contracts.
Our Financial Stability:
Assuring our financial sustainability as an organization is critical to ensuring our ability to provide programs and services that meet the needs of our community. Our goal here is to establish a sustainable financial model fortified by diverse revenue streams and broad support from our community. Part of this process will be evaluating the areas in which we are best positioned to serve our community and which areas would be best served by partnering with other organizations so that we can truly focus on and invest in the things we do best. That means that both investment and divestment are going to be a part of our journey in the coming years—and while that work may require some difficult conversations and decision making, a clearer and more robust strategy and value set will help us successfully navigate this process.