In recent years, most discussions about the elimination of racial discrimination in a professional setting have been framed under the heading of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. All three areas are important, but in order to maintain diversity, inclusion must be practiced and maintained.
Vernā Myers, a leading diversity and inclusion expert says, “Diversity is about who is represented in the organization, whereas inclusion speaks more to who is respected, expected and integrated into an institution.”
A few years ago, a direct-service organization for whom I volunteer wanted to improve their implementation of diversity and inclusion. A representative group explored including members of the community as members of the board of directors and the programmatic committees. Those involved recognized the substantive changes needed: new committee structure, new by-laws and a change in venues and times for meetings.
The easiest adjustments would be finding more accessible venues and new meeting times outside of work hours and convenient for those attending school, but the structural changes were more time-consuming. This is still a work in progress.
The organization knew that if they wanted to improve the delivery of services and actively address the needs of the community, they would need additional points of view for decision making. The inclusion of young people and families who attend programming and receive resources from the organization would augment the diversity of voices needed for decisions.
An organization that amplifies the voices surrounding its work becomes a part of the community it serves, it is not seen as an outside operation.
As we strive to eliminate racial discrimination, we reject exclusion so that we build organizations that consist of community members. In doing so, we reflect what Arthur Chan, a diversity, equity and inclusion strategist, is known for stating, “Diversity is a fact, equity is a choice, inclusion is an action, and belonging is an outcome.”
We work to create diverse organizations that reflect the community, where everyone feels that they belong, as a result of inclusion.