Speaking Frankly on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Opportunities

Mar 12, 2021

No one has all the answers. So let’s speak frankly with each other and learn together.

That was, in essence, the outcome of several months of discussion after we asked Economic Alliance members if we should get more involved in diversity, equity and inclusion issues, and particularly in discussions about racial issues that flared last summer. Discussions should be connected to business impacts, and not duplicative of broader community discussions going on. But yes, you told us, let’s definitely explore these issues more deeply as a business community.

Then, in a touch of serendipity, we learned Kirkwood Community College was having similar discussions and was already working on a new program modeled after successful sessions in Dubuque. And thus, a partnership and a new program was born.

Sign-ups are underway for the Business Leadership Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Cohorts. Participation in first Cohort will be capped at no more than 25 participants. If there’s enough interest, we may launch additional cohorts. A series of six 2-hour sessions will be held with executives, and then a parallel cohort of HR professionals from the same companies will start a few months after the executive sessions are underway. A professional facilitator will guide discussions and push the group to really dig in on issues of race and equity, but the direction of the discussions will also very much be determined by the groups themselves. The trust that can be built in a close-knit cohort should allow frank and productive discussions that could hopefully lead to real improvements within companies and even within our community.

We’ve had a good initial response, but there are still open slots in the first Cohort. You can find more information at https://bit.ly/3iOeh0N and the flier there will also direct you to Kirkwood contacts who will help you get signed up.

One of the key measures of success is going to be whether we are able to involve a diverse set of businesses in this program. We certainly want to see minority-owned businesses represented, as well as small businesses. If cost becomes a barrier for any minority-owned or small business, please let me know. We’ll work hard to figure out a way to make this affordable through scholarships or discounts and make sure this doesn’t proceed with only the largest businesses represented. We want this to be an opportunity for all.

I’m excited, too, about the other community discussions taking place. The United Way and the Civil Rights Commission are among community organizations creating new programming meant to explore critical race issues. Inclusive ICR, a coalition of regional employers, is touching upon several important areas, too. We’re supportive of all of these efforts and will be assessing as we go along to make sure our program fits within the broader community framework.

If your company has been having similar conversations and is looking for ways to further the dialogue, I hope you’ll take a look at what we’re offering.


Doug Neumann, Executive Director

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