In the winter of 2019, Asheville’s Tzedek Social Justice Fund reached out to me for support. With a vision to help create “a thriving Asheville, where everyone’s needs are abundantly met,” Tzedek needed a strategic plan to make their work more focused and effective.

A small family foundation committed to systems change, community healing, and redistribution of money, resources, and power, Tzedek Social Justice Fund isn’t just liberal—they are radical. Their approach to strategic planning reflected their commitment. Tzedek didn’t just want a static plan on paper that they would never look at again. They wanted an actionable strategy that would move their work forward in significant ways.

One notable aspect of Tzedek’s work is that in their work for social justice focuses in three major areas: LGBTQ justice, racial justice, and combatting anti-Semitism. Even before our work together, their impact was significant—what they needed was a way to align the work they were already in a way that would amplify their impact. A solid strategic plan would take all of their projects, which already aligned with their values, and link them in powerful ways to make the overall work of the fund more effective. To put the strategic plan into action, every strategy would have a lead person taking responsibility for implementation and a timeline to get it done.

Tzedek’s approach to social philanthropy is non-traditional, and their expectations about the strategic planning process were non-traditional as well. Where many organizations plan at the top and then expect buy-in from employees, Tzedek wanted a non-hierarchical approach that would give voice to people throughout their organization.

In reflecting on our time working together, leadership at the Tzedek Social Justice Fund noted that as I shared what I saw throughout the organization in clear and direct ways, they were able to use my insights to “help uproot toxic dynamics.” Doing so brought them closer as a team and improved their team interactions.

The goal of our project was about making sure that Tzedek balanced their aspirational work and its outcomes with reasonable timelines and the right sequencing. As our collaboration ended, the Tzedek Social Justice Fund had a plan in place and, as a team, they were developing the processes and tools they needed to implement it.

“Ericka brings a stunning array of skills and expertise. She is a meticulous researcher and her breadth of experience gives her insight that is beyond helpful to helping an organization discern a strategy. Everything Ericka does is rooted in the question about how to build a just and equitable culture and to amplify organizational impact.”

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