Since summer 2020—from VIA’s headquarters in Cincinnati, OH, U.S.A. to communities across the globe—critical conversations have taken place about systemic racism and the role we can play as individuals and organizations to advance justice, equity, diversity and inclusion (JEDI).
Now, one year into VIA’s commitment to do better, we wanted to share an update on how we as a team and as individuals have engaged so far, as well as our plans to continue this important work. We view this update as crucial to acting with transparency and accountability as we track our past, present and future progress.
A Look Back at 2020
Developed & Shared Content
We always strive to present a wide range of topics and represent varied life experiences in our content. Since June 2020, we have paid more specific and mindful attention to accomplishing that general goal, particularly when it comes to race. Here are some ways we have focused on this goal:
- Featured regular written content on our website with diverse contributors and themes. We averaged about one Topics article per month on issues and perspectives directly connected to diversity and inclusion.
- Hosted 10 sessions of our weekly virtual event, United in Strengths, with persons of traditionally marginalized groups as guest speakers and/or themes spotlighting diverse communities.
- Elevated perspectives and content from diverse individuals in social media. We increased the breadth of perspectives in our existing weekly social media series, “Monday Motivation,” which displays quotes from influential individuals throughout history. We also curated content from women and people of color.
- Spotlighted the connection between mental health and racial justice. In particular, we invited Donna Mayerson—a psychologist, coach, leader within VIA and someone who supports the incarcerated and their advocates in the Innocence Project—to share insights.
Established Best Practices
- Published our commitment to justice, equity, diversity and inclusion. For internal and external accountability, we began with Our Commitment to Racial Equity in summer 2020. As of May 2021, this statement has expanded and evolved into Our Commitment to Justice, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion.
- Created and applied guidelines for visual representation. We updated and continue to maintain a photo library that intentionally reflects the diversity of human experiences. Visual guidelines span age, race, gender and sexual orientation, physical ability, culture, occupation and more.
- Matched donations. VIA matched donations per team member to social justice organizations in 2020. Team members selected organizations that were personally meaningful to them and their communities.
Invested in Internal Education
- Engaged in facilitated training. Led by an outside facilitator, the VIA team explored what role we could play—immediately in the short-term but also with an eye to longer-term efforts—in advancing the work of JEDI.
- Scheduled ongoing discussions. We planned regular checkins and conversations to determine where and how our nonprofit mission (fueling character strengths journeys and the study of character science) could support this larger work.
- Educated ourselves as individuals. From marches to movies, webinars, podcasts, books and discussions with friends and family, teammates actively participated in learning about diverse communities. We collectively shared resources from our independent learning, and we began to unpack the many areas we can grow in understanding, appreciating and welcoming backgrounds and perspectives different from our own.
Looking Forward: Summer 2021 & Beyond
Operationalizing Content Goals
- Commit to developing ongoing content. Our marketing team will aim to plan and publish ⅓ of marketing content sourced from individuals who identify as POC and/or about themes relevant to JEDI.
- Commit to building future offerings with diversity and equity in mind. We will ensure future programs, such as workshops and webinars, training programs and experiential programs, are created in collaboration with people with diverse backgrounds and lived experiences. Collaborations will include organizations that have established themselves in JEDI work.
- Create shareable, actionable resources with diverse contributors. We have begun discussions with two outside contributors to create shareable resources that connect character strengths with diversity and inclusion. These resources will help educate individuals and professionals to apply their strengths to support equity and inclusion in spaces like schools, homes and workplaces.
Advancing Internal Education
- Form advisory network. We will engage a network of advisors to support us in developing and maintaining an inclusive and just approach to our work. This group of advisors would guide us on how to approach challenging topics, define VIA’s role in those areas, periodically review our content development to ensure it is inclusive to as many people as possible, and suggest ways that VIA can usefully bring character strengths expertise to the field of JEDI.
- Ongoing team and individual training. Our 2021 internal survey on the importance of JEDI showed that there is both an individual and an organizational commitment to pursuing and promoting justice, equity, diversity and inclusion. At VIA, we recognize that there is always opportunity for growth and development as an organization and we respect the personal drive and different styles of learning of our team members. We will be providing invitations to our staff to attend webinars, read books, and explore other sources of information to build awareness and commitment. Initially, this will take the form of a monthly roundup of latest/high quality resources.
To everyone who has engaged with our journey so far and those who will join us in the work to come, we thank you. Incorporating these principles into our daily thinking and processes has taken time and will require continued effort to be truly lasting. We look forward to your engagement with us along the way. If you would like to collaborate with us or share ideas on our path forward, you can contact firstname.lastname@example.org.