Update on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Initiative at NNV

By:
DEI Working Group member Gretchen Jennings

You may have been wondering what steps NNV has taken to address diversity, equity, and inclusion at our Village. Here’s a report from DEI Working Group member Gretchen Jennings.

Since the beginning of the year, NNV’s DEI Working Group has been hard at work. The working group initially agreed on common definitions of diversity, equity, and inclusion and recognized who we are – a mostly white, income secure, and privileged group with the free time and commitment to do this work.  We acknowledged that there is much we don’t know and that we need to listen, learn, and collaborate outside our usual frame of reference.

DEI  Working Group's Goal and Vision 

GOAL: To engage, support, and enhance the well-being of increased numbers  of older adults from diverse backgrounds within our catchment area, with a  focus on racial and socioeconomic equity. Ultimately, NNV should  reflect the racial and socio-economic profile of its surrounding community.

VISION:    

  • An inclusive, welcoming, culturally empathetic Village
  • Programs and services accessible to all older adults in the catchment area
  • A community where no one is excluded through conscious or unconscious bias (race/ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, SES, etc.)

Our working group launched an information gathering process that has proven incredibly rich and rewarding:  meeting and learning from other Villages that are already working on DEI; talking with local DC government representatives, academics, and community leaders; contacting other organizations that serve our catchment, and in general educating ourselves on best practices for nonprofit organizations that wish to become more representative of their communities. Demographic research has revealed that the area we serve is about 70-80% White and 20-30% Black, Asian, Latino, mixed race. While we don’t have a firm demographic breakdown of NNV membership, we know anecdotally that it is far from representative of the area.

So far, our investigations have led us to conclude that:

  • Many Villages (both local and national) are engaged in DEI work. We can learn from and, when ready, collaborate with them.
  • Representation of more diverse perspectives among our board, staff, and volunteer corps is essential and urgent; until that can be achieved, it is important to reach out to people of color who agree to be allies in this work.
  • Collaboration with local community organizations will be important to achieving our goals.
  • The changes we seek are systemic, and will transform our organization.
  • We need to draw on the expertise of people skilled in helping organizations become more diverse, equitable, and inclusive. These experts can provide training, resources in various formats, organizational advice, and links to communities we wish to serve more effectively. This requires funding, commitment, and time.

We presented all this information at a recent Board meeting and are pleased to report that the Board approved for the DEI Working Group to engage an individual or team who will work with us to assess the current situation of NNV regarding DEI and to collaborate with us in developing a systemic and actionable plan to achieve our goals and vision. We commend the NNV Board for investing in this important work.  Stay tuned for frequent updates on our efforts to address diversity, equity, and inclusion at Northwest Neighbors Village.

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