Many organizations have a DEI statement and know that DEI is inherent to their mission. Yet, many struggle with integrating principles and practices of DEI into daily operations. How does belonging show up in a Monday morning staff meeting, or in a recently issued policy? Do your leadership team, board, and team members embody your DEI commitment? How do you know that your DEI efforts are having an impact, or making a meaningful difference in the lives (and livelihood) of your team members and those you serve? Or maybe you’re at the very beginning of your DEI journey; how do you even start?
Like many organizations, these are a few of the questions we grapple with at LeadingAge as we strive to embody our DEI Commitment. We’ve found great value in learning and growing alongside LeadingAge members as we look toward building bridges into our field—bridges that welcome an increasingly diverse workforce that both reflects and supports an increasingly diverse population of older adults.
Last year we had the great privilege of bringing a small cohort of LeadingAge provider members together to learn, in community, over the course of five virtual gatherings. We (Mia and Kirsten) co-facilitated the Shared Learning Series, Committing to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
The space to share learnings was a tremendous resource and source of encouragement as we all navigated the steep learning curve associated with this work. It reminded us that the work we are doing within our organizations has the capacity to bolster the efforts of others—and ultimately our field—when we take the time to reflect and share our insights from our DEI journeys so far.
As a learning cohort, we heard from DEI practitioners and subject matter experts, asked big questions both individually and as a collective, and grappled with how to keep moving DEI work forward in our field. We explored best practices, tested our ideas, and regrouped to share our observations. Together, we worked toward identifying opportunities and determining the next best step within our respective organizations.
DEI is endurance work. As LeadingAge’s Board Chair Mike King said, “This is a class we will never graduate from.” For leaders, DEI is an organizational and personal investment. It can be hard to keep holding ourselves accountable when grappling with urgent day-to-day challenges like workforce shortages and tighter and tighter budgets. Yet, we know that addressing DEI can in fact start solving those day-to-day challenges. There’s a moral and business imperative to keep moving the work forward, even when it’s hard. Coming together with other colleagues who understand the challenges specific to our field, can bring solidarity, inspiration, and practical approaches.
There’s magic that comes from setting aside time to challenge yourself to learn and grow in new ways, among trusted colleagues. As one participant said when asked to share the greatest benefit of the series, “Where do I begin! The excellent speakers and variety of topics in the DEI space. The opportunity to share and learn from others as we share our challenges, successes, questions, and vulnerabilities. Worth the time and financial investment.”