Anyone who opened the October 2018 IOM Newsletter may have noticed the addition of the newly adopted Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Statement for Institute. As a member of the National Board of Trustees who worked on the ad hoc Diversity Task Force that helped develop the statement, I want to share some of the intentions and drivers behind this important statement from Institute.
Diversity and Inclusion statements and Equity statements are on the rise across the United States. Corporations have long been exploring the opportunities and challenges involved when creating inclusive cultures in order to recruit, retain, and equitably serve highly talented staff and volunteer leaders.
Support of Diversity and Inclusion (D & I) and Equity Initiatives is not new territory for Institute. In fact, it was addressed on this blog in June. As Richard Dayoub wrote in that post, “If the professional and social environment in your organization does not provide a genuine atmosphere that is welcoming to all or is not accepting of diverse viewpoints, recruiting new members and retaining your base becomes a major challenge.”
Thinking about the Institute program as a microcosm of the chamber and association nonprofit professions, the Trustees recognized the importance of embracing, celebrating, and supporting the diversity of the many professionals who go through Institute, past, present, and future. And we also recognized the importance in weaving the core values of inclusion and equity into the very fabric of the program.
Creating a statement is only the first step to creating more visibility and action around diversity, equity, and inclusion. The actions an organization takes are what our members and the general public take note of.
The Trustees saw three areas where Institute can focus on supporting diversity, equity, and inclusion:
- Updating Institute’s internal policies and procedures to include a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Statement and apply it to all programs and initiatives from:
- participant recruitment/retention
- content and content leaders utilized at Institute
- and communications associated (marketing collateral, newsletters, websites, e-mails, etc.) with the overall program.
- Conduct annual D, E, & I trainings for the Board of Trustees and all Boards of Regents so we can educate ourselves personally and professionally to better support these types of initiatives.
- Challenge Institute to create momentum around diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives by adding measures for staff and the volunteer leadership to track benchmarks and progression.
Beginning with the 2019 Institutes, participants will be able to take a new elective, “E150: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” which will focus on how “Inclusive leadership is paramount to successful organizations and thriving communities. Equip yourself with the tools necessary to create a community that is welcoming to all.” This is one of the first most tangible outcomes of the new statement. Other outcomes, such as the trainings, metrics, and other additions will be discussed and explored in the future.
Sometimes an organization or program can get pigeon-holed or stereotyped as being intended for only a specific kind of person or professional. And other times, a lack of incorporating diversity, equity and inclusion into daily operational practices can lead to major public headaches, as Starbucks saw earlier this year.
Please help Institute get the word out about our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Statement and how this enhances the program. In the current polarized political climate, some people worry that our differences are tearing America apart. But for many organizations and programs, like Institute, we seek to optimize the diversity and differences of our participants to bring people together. And we hope other chambers and associations will explore ways to adopt this posture as well.
If your chamber or association does not have a statement or core values related to diversity, equity, and inclusion, I recommend looking at examples of other nonprofit organization statements like ACCE or ASAE: The Center for Association Leadership. Or even look at some of the best samples of corporate statements.
I’ve seen people in my own social circles incorrectly muse out loud if a free-trade focused program like Institute would be supportive of all parts of my identity as a gay African-American association professional raising a son with my husband. Early in my career, I learned to embrace my uniqueness as a strength. And part of the reason I continue to choose to stay involved with Institute is because of how welcoming, inclusive, and supportive the staff, leaders, and Institute attendees have been to me. Institute is a part of my community and identity, just like all the other parts.
And like any community, it is because of our varied perspectives and differences that make us stronger. For this holiday season let’s recommit to diversity, equity & inclusion and share those gifts with our members, our staffs, and each other.