Folks working on equity and justice within organizations have an important job.
They look at the actions, policies and programs of their organization, and help determine what changes can make them more equitable. Examples include everything from changing hiring and compensation practices to considering procurement policies. They also look at decision-making from an equity-focused point of view. This can lead to stretching comfort zones within organizations, as well.
The work is challenging, and its coordinators and leaders are often part of small or one-person teams.
The Equity Community of Practice, facilitated by United Way Halifax, brings together 10 people who do equity work at organizations in HRM, so they can support one another and exchange ideas and advice.
Ayo Aladejebi, the director of race relations, equity and inclusion for The Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission, has been part of the community of practice from the very beginning. He speaks fondly of the immediate sense of belonging he experienced.
“The first thing that struck me was the understanding that I am not alone. Now I have these 10 individuals from different organizations coming together to start talking about the challenges that we face. We can tap into our different expertise to provide support to each other.”
There is a sense among the group that they can do more when working together.
“We’ll be able to build that momentum that we need to be able to move a mountain, as opposed to an individual trying to do it on their own.”
More than just a community
Ayo refers to the Community of Practice by what he calls the “7 C’s”: connection, collaboration, collectivity, caring, coordination, creativity and community. The more they tap into each of the different aspects of the community of practice, the stronger their collective resources are. “We kind of see this work as everybody’s work.” If someone else isn’t successful with an initiative, the other group members step in so that burden isn’t felt by one person alone.
It’s also easy to make a recommendation from the group when someone in the community needs a specific skill or expertise. “It helps those who are looking for certain talent or knowledge to have a place they can come to.” The hope is that one day, the community of practice will be known as a hub of expertise for equity, diversity and inclusion.
One of the biggest surprises has been the group’s creativity. “It blows my mind – the level of innovation, the different ideas that people bring to the table, things that I never on my own thought of before. I always leave our meetings thinking, ‘oh, I’m glad I came here today.’”