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Using Reflection to Help Choose Goals: Assessing the State of the State

Everybody has opinions. It’s just a fact of life, right? When thinking about SARTs, everybody has opinions on the things (1) going well (2) going poorly (3) that need to change and (4) whose fault it is. Then, they have opinions on fixing these issues. People can be *pretty* sure that they know all of these things without seeking any further information.  However, one of the most important steps that any SART, whether new or experienced, can take is to take a step back and assess the state of the state around them.

And you’re thinking, “Wait, Johnanna. What does that even mean?” You’re right in thinking that. So, let’s spend a little time talking about what this means for your SART.

  • Be open to whatever information comes your way. This means that it is important to prepare your team and yourself for a level of openness and vulnerability. You might hear things you want to hear and things you dislike hearing. If this happens, you are on the right path! It means people are being honest about their reflections. There’s always room for improvement. Be prepared to seek it out!
  • Determine how to get the best information. There are dozens of ways to get information from others about your processes, successes, and missteps. You can also ask anyone anything. Work with your team to figure out how you will get the highest quality and the most information from your process. When I say high quality, I mean that it is information that you can use to make meaningful changes and adjustments. Just because you want to know if all sexual assault victim/survivors eat green apples does not make it useful or quality information. To help get that high quality information…
  • Ask key questions to all stakeholders. Make sure you stick with open-ended questions that are not dressed up value judgments or persuasive statements. Stakeholders means the agencies doing the work that SART has asked of them. Stakeholders means community members. Stakeholders means victim/survivors—those that report and those that choose not to report. Stakeholders means anyone connected to and affected by sexual violence within your community and region. (That’s pretty much everyone, by the way.) However, you have to find the voices that will have the closest connection to this work; so, choose your stakeholder pool wisely to get good information.
  • Reflect on your work and have others reflect on your work. While it is important to check for gaps wherever we can for ourselves, the truth is that it is impossible to accurately grade your own homework without outside information. We don’t know what we don’t know. Having an outside voice is essential to highlighting our blind spots as well as our greatest strengths.
  • If everything comes back perfectly positive, ask again. Seriously. I’m not kidding around with this. No one and no process is perfect. Figure out what is preventing people from telling you the real deal. Is it the questions you asked? Is it the way you asked them? Is it the person doing the asking? Find out what’s going on.
  • Be Patient. It takes some time to do this process. Honestly, it’s kind of a pain to do. However, your patience and persistence will make the process so, so, so worthwhile.

Once you have gone through the process of assessing the state of the state, you and your team will have a much better idea of how to set goals for the upcoming year/s. This will also help with the opinion problem—if it is a problem for your team. Please remember: NOTEAMANYWHERE. can make truly meaningful changes to their sexual assault response if they do not know what’s actually happening for the community and in the current response. You might have some really good ideas based on what you know now, but everyone needs to be able to see the whole picture, together. J

What are your thoughts? Have I missed anything? Add to the discussion using the comments!