What is the Real Plan for DEI? Part IV | 7 Min Read

Part III of “What’s the Real Plan for DEI?” was primarily about alignment with the various constituencies and interest groups at your school, completing the strategy portion or top half of the four quadrants. Part IV shifts to the third (and lower) quadrant with a focus on the preliminary programmatic issues (implicit). Once you have buy-in from most of the community, the challenge is to create a program team that will internalize the empathy and healing associated with DEI and is preparing to share its wisdom and experience in that process with the rest of the community by creating an effective program.  (Earlier in this series: Overview. Quadrant 1. Quadrant 2.)

After working through Quadrants 1 and 2, we’ll have the start of a plan and we’ll be growing alignment and commitment in the school community. Successful progress on those means the school’s leadership sees that equity is part of, central to, the mission. Changing the way we think about one another, particularly the way we open our hearts across differences, is part of the relational work both in Q2 and Q3. In Q2, our goal is to build team structures and aligned stakeholder groups to support the strategic work. Those teams will have to work extremely well together and be prepared for a variety of responses to the materials we share with others. Next, we move into the individual, personal work of changing our own stories of self and one another. 

Quadrant 3

Systems of oppression such as sexism, ageism, and racism to name a few, shut us off from one another by dehumanizing some group. They also divide us from self because when we’re fully connected with our own humanity, we reject these systems. So, whether we’ve been the target of oppression, perpetuated it, or simply lived in an oppressive system, it’s affecting us. Just think how incredibly challenging it is to have an open, honest conversation about racism… without it escalating. The programmatic aspects of DEI work (Quadrant 4) is often uncomfortable and difficult. To prepare, there is a great deal of “heart, head & hands” work to do. Since we’re now in the lower half of the chart, this quadrant is about the here-and-now. Actively doing the work. The Quadrant 3 work is both individual (“I”) and relational (“We”). 


  • Do I have a voice, a role, in this conversation? What is keeping me from lifting my voice? Or keeping me from hearing others’ voices?
  • How are systems of oppression affecting each of us, personally? What ‘stories’ or ‘patterns’ have I internalized that are supporting and blocking me from change?
  • When it comes to equity conversations: What triggers me? What opens me up? What shuts me down? How am I, personally, reacting rather than responding?
  • What do I need to heal and strengthen within myself so that we can have more open and productive conversations across differences?


  • What do support and allyship look and feel like? How can we, together, become stronger allies for justice?
  • Whose stories and feelings are being centered in our conversations? How can we collaborate to ensure the most marginalized voices are also heard? How can we compassionately challenge, engage, and make space for voices that have traditionally been centered?
  • If we’re growing our individual self-trust, how do we move toward increased trust in our relationships?

This internal work requires courage and deep cultural competency  development necessary to move to action. Equally important is having a support structure that allows for soft landings as individuals move through this awareness—action—growth process. All too often organizations rush past this because it doesn’t appear as “action.” Yet without this internal, personal capacity-building, the curricula of Quadrant 4 will remain on the surface. That said, remember this is an iterative process. If done well, the work of Quadrant 4 will catalyze and support the work of all the other quadrants.

Programming/Implicit: This area represents attention to developing inner resources — the “head, hand, and heart work.” It’s about growing individual and collective readiness to change. Like Q2, this quadrant is emotional — but unlike Q2, it’s about today and the way we relate, which recognizes education is fundamentally a relational, human-to-human process (since dehumanization is a key way systems of inequity are perpetuated, “rehumanization” is at the heart of this work).

Key elements: Personal awareness. Emotional intelligence. Cultural competence. Empathic engagement. Tools for de-escalating, engaging in dialogue, listening. Recognizing our own identities and the ways systems of racism, sexism, and oppression have dehumanized all of us — and learning to reclaim our humanity. Listening circles, dialogue groups, or other modes for sharing stories and learning to take perspective. Building trust between DEI officer/team and school leaders to build allyship and go beyond allyship (note that strategic partnerships toward long-term planning go in Q2). Training, coaching, and support for educators, leaders, allies on these foundations.

What’s helpful: It may be impossible to develop new systems, norms, procedures that are not steeped in the cultural norms and assumptions in which they’re founded — it’s certainly impossible without a lot of inner work. This quadrant deals with the internal resources we ALL need to engage in equity work, and ultimately will determine if the work is just “talking the talk” or also “walking the walk.”

What’s risky: As above, the implicit work is less visible, so unless it’s balanced by the explicit, might come across as inaction (“navel-gazing”). The systems of oppression that have affected us make this work extremely challenging, and sometimes people actively resist confronting their own internalized “isms.” Too much attention to this quadrant will result in a lack of strategic design (policies, funding, measures) and, without new explicit knowledge (e.g. vocabulary), skills (methods of engagement) it’s hard to find words to talk about the issues.

Questions to Discuss

  1. Who feels the effects of marginalization and what are their feelings and experiences?
  2. In our various stakeholder groups, who feels that they have a voice in conversations around equity, and a responsibility to lift their voice? What would help them feel greater agency?
  3. To what degree do people who are lifting their voices feel heard, and what would help more people feel that? When do those that have voice take up space, and when do they make space for those who are silent or silenced?

Conclusion to Part IV (Quadrant 3)

One of the Six Seconds learning principles is that The Process is the Content. In other words, HOW we work together teaches as much as what’s on the slide. HOW we speak can carry more impact than what we say. Harnessing awareness of our intent and impact can help move us forward or create stumbling blocks. So, working on Quadrant 3 requires attention to the ‘inside story,’ the subtle messages of belonging we send ourselves and one another.

The learnable, measurable, scientifically grounded skills of emotional intelligence (EQ) are central to this quadrant. EQ strengthens awareness of what’s happening inside and between us — and offers us tools to address the emotional challenges that inhibit equitable engagement. What do the individuals in your community need in order to cocreate equity? By focusing on implicit programming, your goal is to build internal capacity for transformation.

Video about Quadrant 3

The next part delves into the actual implementation of programs. Note that the success of these programs will be very much dependent on the successful completion of work in the first three quadrants. Quadrant 4 is the most actionable and visible; as such, it is the most public portion of your DEI initiative, and it is the one piece that will have the greatest impact on the largest segment of your community. 

Part 1: Overview of “What’s the Real Plan for DEI?”

Part 2: Quadrant 1: Strategy/Explicit — The school focuses on strategy and metrics.

Part 3: Quadrant 2: Strategy/Implicit — The school focuses on building relationships within the community.

Part 4: Quadrant 3: Programming/Implicit — The school focuses on the “heart work” — developing inner resources.

Part 5: Quadrant 4: Programming/Explicit — The school focuses on teaching concepts, behaviors, and skills.

About the authors

Joshua Freedman CEO, Six Seconds
Josh is one of the pioneers in the field of emotional intelligence; he cofounded Six Seconds in 1997, is the bestselling author of At the Heart of Leadership and five other books and six validated psychometric assessments on EQ, and contributor to many EQ programs including Coaching Equity Essentials. He’s also an instructor at Columbia Teachers College SPA administrative credential program; he is cocreator of the world’s largest social emotional learning program, POP-UP Festival ­— in partnership with UNICEF World Children’s Day, bringing skills for emotional wellbeing to millions of children & adults in 200+ countries.

Michael Eatman PCC, Founder, Culture7 Coaching
Michael is an experienced inclusion strategist, educator and coach. His credentials include Certified Diversity Professional for Organizational Leadership from Diversity Training University International, Preferred Partner and Certified EQ Advanced Practitioner from Six Seconds EQ Network, and Advanced Certified Personal & Executive Coach by the College of Executive Coaching. He’s also an instructor at Columbia Teachers College SPA administrative credential program and a leader in the Coaching Equity movement.

DEI Vital Signs Framework

Six Seconds Educational Vital Signs tools equip your school or district to answer essential questions: What is the current social and emotional climate in your classroom, school or district? How does that impact learning? Are the perceptions of the key stakeholders – teachers, parents and students – consistent or divergent? And how can you leverage EQ to create a thriving school climate?

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