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Transparency in relationships, partnerships and the community as a whole

A culture of transparency fosters trust and connections while inspiring decision-making that supports your social mission. But transparency is about more than sharing financial statements. It's about sharing a vision, developing plans, and helping everyone who comes into contact with your organization understand how their work fits into the big picture.

Organizational transparency

If you're unfamiliar with transparency methods, you might wonder how to support organizational transparency. How do you decide what information to share — and how to share it? To support transparency within your organization, keep these best practices in mind:

Share knowledge

Everyone has different talents and skills. Foster an environment where staff members are encouraged to share their war stories, successes and tips for improving processes. By sharing information, your staff will broaden their scope and make it possible to form teams to tackle particularly challenging issues.

Solicit feedback

One of the most important parts of the transparency process is soliciting feedback. Put out an anonymous suggestion box, ask participants to fill out surveys or connect your staff with social networking apps. Enable file and data sharing. If you make it easy for staff to provide feedback, they're more likely to do so — and you can then act on that information.

Align your goals

Where are you headed? What are your goals for this week? The next six months? Strive to make sure your staff understands how their work is helping inch your organization toward the goal line. If staff can participate in the goal-setting process, even better. Encouraging them to write down and share goals will foster accountability, provide a support network and create opportunities to celebrate community success.

Be open to questions

Encourage your staff to ask any and all questions. Speaking honestly about your programs creates a culture that celebrates victories alongside ongoing struggles. It can be helpful to offer a forum — such as an instant messenger thread — to provide an ongoing space to ask and answer questions.

Practice equality

Rather than expecting management to make decisions alone in a dark room, transparent cultures bring everyone into the decision-making process. This might mean holding "all hands on deck" meetings to make sure everyone is on the same page. Or, it might mean seeking to provide equal access to resources, information and manpower. As the saying goes, "knowledge is power." Equal access to information will help make sure everyone has the resources they need to do their jobs to the best of their ability.

Community transparency

Just as it's important to be transparent within your organization, the same guidelines support the next step of becoming more transparent to the outside world (either physical or virtual). Finances are an area that can be particularly challenging, though it's important to spend just as much time focusing on how your organization can be more transparent within relationships, partnerships and the community as a whole.

Here are some ways to get started:

Go public

Beyond finances, be transparent about guarantees and other promises to the community.

Be honest about your limits

If you don't feel you can help a program participant, say so — and direct the participant to another organization. Although this move can seem counterintuitive, speaking honestly about your limits will help you develop trust with the community.

Get personal

If you want to build a reputation as an honest and transparent organization, you must be honest and transparent in real life. Write your personal journey, blog about your struggles, tweet about your successes. Get out into the world and share your story.

Broadcast your mistakes

Transparency is a sword that cuts both ways. When you make a mistake or your organization falters, own up to it immediately. For example, you might take to the internet to write about a program that didn't go very well, and make a case for how you plan to learn from your mistakes for the future. Being open about failure is just as important as celebrating success.

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Disclaimer

MissionBox editorial content is offered as guidance only, and is not meant, nor should it be construed as, a replacement for certified, professional expertise.

Disclaimer

References

Entrepreneur: 5 ways to build a culture of transparency by Josh Reeves (2016)

Entrepreneur: The 3 steps to building a culture of transparency by Craig Cincotta (2014)

Switch and Shift: 6 ideas for creating a culture of transparency by Avi Singer (2015)

Inc.: 5 tips for building a transparent culture by James Kerr (2015)

Fast Company: Why a transparent culture is good for business by Neil Patel (2014)

Tiny Pulse: Building an organizational culture of transparency by Sabrian Son (2015)

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Author

Writer and firm believer in using business as a tool for positive change