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Create a Structure

So you've decided to start an ERG, and you have a cohort of people ready to get started. That's great!

At Coda, we started by thinking big. What could this group mean for its members? For all Codans? For our product? For people outside of Coda? Then we brainstormed various strategies and tactics that could help us get there, without thinking too much about feasibility or how it fit into the bigger picture. With these two lists captured in a table, we voted on a subset of ideas, then looked for common themes across both. For example, one goal was to help one another advance careers, and one strategy was to have a guest speaker teach a workshop on public speaking. The common theme was to encourage career growth by serving as a platform for knowledge sharing and skill building.

Having these themes helped us determine a name for our group, and it also helped us craft our mission statement.

Want to try it yourself? Here's the step-by-step guide:

👈 Find your goals and common themes
🏅 Brainstorm top goals
Begin by brainstorming goals. This can include loosely defined aspirations (e.g. boost careers) or something more concrete. Don't limit yourself to what is achievable in the near-term. Focus instead on building excitement around what the group could become and what you could do.

At Coda, we chose to start with a few top goals such as creating this playbook, working with allies, and setting up mentorship. Goals will vary by group, so take some time to figure out what's important to you as an ERG!

See

📐 Brainstorm strategies/tactics
From your goals, create a separate table of strategies and tactics. This is about identifying tangible activities that the group might support in order to make progress toward a stated goal. You'll notice that some goals might actually fall under a strategy. That's ok, too. What's important is to capture all ideas without editing in real time. After all ideas are captured, as a group, vote on your favorite ideas.

Our group, Gender Equity at Codaーand Coda at largeーloves topic voting.

See for an example of how we introduced ideas and allowed others to vote in an unbiased way by hiding idea authors.

⚽️ Find commonalities between goals and strategies to ID themes
Once you have a shortened list of these strategies/tactics, you'll see some overlap, so begin to identify key themes. This will help you craft a mission statement and will also anchor you as you decide on future activities and initiatives.

At Coda, we started with a long list of goals as well as strategies, and narrowed in on five key themes. They were:
Raise Awareness/Spread
Encourage Personal Growth
Amplify Women's Voices Internally
External Brand Building
Hiring Facilitation

💪 Craft your mission statement
Crafting your mission statement & defining your cohort are important parts of creating an ERG and should likely be done early on. You can craft your mission statement in a variety of ways, such as around your Goal Themes. Here's how we did it for Gender Equity at Coda:

To start, here's how we define 'Mission Statement':

Mission statement definition: Your declaration of how and what you work to do every day: it is your battle cry and communicates intent. It should still be relevant in X years and speaks to the big picture of why [GROUP] exists.

We used then used our Goal Themes as a starting point to craft a mission statement. While there are lots of ways to develop a mission statement, one way is to start by covering:
Who you are
What you do
Why you do it

As a next step, we brainstormed as a group on possible mission statements, being mindful not to include strategies/tactics in the sentence. Everyone took a stab at drafting their own version, then we discussed them as a group, picking out our favorite components.

From there, a few of our writing experts put pen to paper and shot back some options.


🤗 Define your cohort
One important thing to keep in mind is to be crisp on who you are and who you're for. Doing so will help with confusion down the line around questions such as 'Is this group for me?' and 'Do I belong?'

At this juncture, our cohort was at a crossroads. We knew we wanted to be a resource for women generally, but what does that mean and how can you clearly define a cohort that’s inclusive?

It took several discussions to decide that even though we want others to be involved and to encourage all Codans to support our goals, the group's focus would remain on the initial cohort, not necessarily any and all allies (although we may invite allies to attend some meetings).

We also wanted to be deliberate in defining our cohort. We wanted to be inclusive of all women or people who relate to women’s issues. In other words, if a transgender woman wanted to join, would she know that her presence is welcomed and encouraged? Simply stating "woman" would not be enough. Ultimately, we arrived at the name "Gender Equity at Coda” and defined the cohort as an employee resource group for women, trans people, non-binary people, and other marginalized genders.

After much deliberation, we landed on the following mission statement:

Our mission is to advance the growth and equity of women, trans people, non-binary people, and other marginalized genders both at Coda and beyond. Furthermore, we seek to partner with members of other marginalized communities to drive intersectional diversity and inclusion initiatives internally and externally.

It’s worth noting that we didn’t get it right the first time. The group was first called Women+, but as we learned more about the intersectionality of women’s issues with other aspects of identity, we felt compelled to revisit the terms we used and the goals we set, and determined that Gender Equity at Coda was a more inclusive name for our cohort. It’s a good reminder that ERGs, like people, don’t exist in a vacuum of one identity, and it’s important to keep this in mind.


🤔 Decide where to start
Now that you've crafted your mission statement and defined your cohort, it's time to start! Sometimes this can feel like the trickiest part. There are tons of great ideas out there—how do you narrow it down into manageable focus areas?

At this point, we had a full list of possible activities that mapped back to shared goals. We used (yet another) upvote/downvote table to pick four to start.

From there, we divided into a few small groups to get to work. At this stage, we realized there weren't many startup ERG playbooks out there, so writing this guide was one of our first initiatives. Even though we're in the beginning phases of developing this ERG, we felt it was important to share our starting point as well as what we've learned and researched so that others might use this as a starting point.

If you're ready to create a rhythm for your ERG, head to

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