Extending Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion best-practice in recruitment for international not-for-profits

In February 2022, I worked with Open Life Science to help them recruit a person to fulfil two roles, a programme coordinator and a community researcher.

Brief from Open Life Science

OLS is a not-for-profit organisation established in 2020 as a limited company in the UK. Initially run on a volunteer basis, the organisation has since received funding to continue offering its services that have led to several local capacity building efforts connected within a broader international open science network.

Their leadership is predominantly women who apply feminist lens to their work with a strong emphasis on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) in their processes.

OLS invites and supports volunteers from marginalised groups and countries in the Global South as mentors, mentees and expert consultants . To strategically support its growing community in Africa, Asia and South America, it was essential to expand and diversify the team, which was based in Europe and operating largely in volunteer capacity.

This position was created to implement the operational side of the programme as well as to conduct qualitative research evidencing the impact of the programme important for securing future funding.

Co-design of the recruitment strategy

Embodying the values of openness in all its operations, I teamed up with the OLS team to extend best-practice in DEI by creating a recruitment process that centred the applicants’ perspectives to make this opportunity attractive to diverse international candidates.

I provided structure, mentoring, and two of my own frameworks (Improving Diversity and Inclusion in Senior Leadership: A workshop to help recruit diverse senior leaders and Future-Proofing your Workforce while Navigating Organizational Change) to reduce the problem space for the OLS team and help them decide on the best way to keep the recruitment process applicant-centred.

There are two key parts of the job description that I recommended that I am proud of because they exceed the generic DEI statements we see in every job description and highlight to marginalised people that we are willing to listen.

This first paragraph identifies to marginalised people that they will be given a chance as we will strive to identify individuals who may not have the experience in their resume due to past discrimination.

OLS is an employer that recognises that experience can be more about opportunity than ability. We aim to identify talented individuals who may not have been given the opportunities of their peers due to the cumulative effects of discrimination on factors such as race, gender, disability, gender identity, and the intersectionality of that discrimination.

The second paragraph highlights to marginalised people that OLS is willing to be kept accountable throughout the process.

We celebrate diversity and are committed to creating a safe and inclusive environment for all employees. If you feel that the description of this role has not matched up to the commitment of these ideals, please let us know via jobs@openlifesci.org, or contact one of the OLS co-founders directly

In the selection criteria, I highlighted the need to de-emphasise experience and emphasise continuous improvement skills, as experience can be highly correlated with opportunity. This is why we asked for :

  • “Highly organised” instead of “3 years of project management experience”,
  • “Familiarity with working on open projects” instead of “3 years experience in an open software organisation”, and
  • “Ability to learn high-level complex concepts quickly” – which is a continuous improvement skill – instead of “3 years experience in a similar role”.

Partial Essential Selection Criteria

  • Highly organised with the ability to document actions and processes, translate objectives into specific tasks, and prioritise and assign/delegate tasks.
  • Familiarity with working on open projects (this could be open source, open research, or other openly shared collaborative work).
  • Ability to learn high-level complex concepts quickly

This was written into 10 key tips to make the recruitment process more inclusive.

Impact and Feedback

The impact of the process was positive, as shown by the consistently positive feedback we received about the recruitment process from applicants and DEI advocates in our research domain. We received over 120 applicants from Europe, Africa, South America, North America, and Asia. We ended up interviewing 6 applicants from Europe, Africa, and South America.

One of the benefits of this applicant-centred approach was that OLS was also able to retain interest from applicants who were not successful. Recently one of the unsuccessful applicants who made it to the interview stage for this role was offered a different part-time role at OLS, which they accepted. They also re-used a number of the suggestions made in their latest call for a Program Manager in December 2022.

This process was copied by a similar Not-for-profit organisation, MetaDocencia, with similar success. They used the position description, the rubrics, and the processes to recruit a similar position more quickly than OLS managed to do so. This was conducted in Spanish as their primary focus is improving Open Science in Latin America.

Dr. Laura Ación, Executive Co-Director at MetaDocencia said “Thanks to these tips, MetaDocencia ran a very successful recruitment process, receiving around 150 applicants in only 2 weeks. Most of the applications received were from people who did not know MetaDocencia before and we had a highly diverse pool of high quality candidates. We were openly praised for the way our job call was written, which helped reach out to more persons across all of Latin America. This social media postings were the ones that received the highest engagement ever in our social media history.”

Original Job Advertisement and Job Description

Here are links to the original job advertisement as well as the original job description.