Imagine moving to another country where people look at you and treat you differently because you don't speak their language, know their culture or look and act like they do. Or starting work in an organization where your new peers dismiss your knowledge and experience, and show little interest in you. Or going to school each day pretending to be like other people because you desperately want to fit in.
"These are typical experiences for many of our clients and they demonstrate what a lack of appreciation for diversity looks like and a lack of inclusion feels like," said Lutherwood CEO John Colangeli when he first announced Lutherwood's initiative to improve diversity and build on the inclusive culture at the organization. "We are so fortunate to live in a community that is rich in diversity. As an organization, it is up to us to better recognize, appreciate and use these differences to improve our organization, our services and our support for Waterloo Region's diverse population."
In 2016, Lutherwood's Board of Governors established a Diversity and Inclusion Leadership Council. Its role is to guide the organization's efforts to create a workforce that more closely reflects community diversity and create an even more inclusive organizational culture where staff, clients and volunteers feel respected, valued and supported as they work together to enhance programs and support diverse needs.
"As the world changes, we must change with it. We need to embrace our differences so that everyone feels valued, needed and respected." — Sunny Field, Council Chair
As a first step, the Council created a vision of what Lutherwood would look like at its most diverse and inclusive state: At Lutherwood, we embrace diversity and will create an inclusive environment where everyone feels valued, supported and respected. We will achieve this by creating a workplace culture and set of services that meet the needs of our diverse communities.
To deliver on its vision, the Council has begun the process of building a benchmark of Lutherwood's current state. This involves a detailed census of its staff and discussions with community partners. Then it will identify and prioritize gaps and develop a three-year action plan with specific goals, actions and metrics for review and approval by its Board before moving forward.