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Sustainable Communities are Inclusive Communities

In times of crisis, topics like diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) can get pushed to the sidelines. Sometimes the crisis itself is an outcome of the lack of DEI in our community.  Each of us can do our part to create DEI within our communities. 

Sustainable communities are diverse communities where everyone is included. Diversity helps community members hear different perspectives that can lead to positive change. Decisions that serve one group well might inhibit progress for another group, so to promote a healthy environment within the community, it is important to embrace diversity. Sustainability professionals often balance many different organizational objectives to address the triple bottom line – economy, environment, society. A few years ago, at the 2018 World Community Development Conference in Ireland, Mary Robinson spoke of the “deliberately silenced and preferably unheard”; these are the voices that are often missing from sustainability plans and programs.

Thriving communities should engage community members by allowing individual voices to be heard through community conversations and forums to build diversity and inclusion. Including all members of the community in the development and management of the community promotes engagement, leads to a more vibrant community, and strengthens social connections. Diverse communities are often more resilient—they have the capacity to address complex issues more efficiently and are better equipped to recover from adversity. Communities that build balanced leadership teams across the community will fare better than others.

Consider these suggestions for creating inclusion in your community, and/or share with church groups, clubs or organizations to which you belong.

Organize a cleanup or rebuilding campaign to erase graffiti or eliminate vandalism. Put up “Hate Free Zones” signs in the community.

  • Do something as a community to repair physical damage done by discrimination. This shows that the people in your town will not stand for such displays of hatred. It also can attract media attention to your cause and put a positive spin on a negative situation.

Identify and support new candidates from different racial and ethnic groups to run for city council and other community-wide governing bodies.

  • Conduct candidate forums and voter registration drives. This will increase residents’ knowledge about the candidates and their stances. In addition, it increase the candidates’ accountability to their constituents should they win.

Put together a community forum or town event on racism.

  • Give people a chance to talk about how racism affects your community. This can provide insight into how people feel on the subject.
  • You might identify ideas on what you and others can do to combat racism. This can be a chance for people who share similar concerns to network with each other.
  • Such an event also serves to publicize that your community will not stand for racism.

Support events that celebrate the traditions of different cultural and ethnic groups.

  • This can be as simple as including such events on the community calendar and actively publicizing them. Your organization can also co-sponsor these events to show its support.

Organize a coalition of community leaders made up of representatives from the different cultural and ethnic groups, as well as different community sectors (e.g., police, schools, businesses, local government). Work together to examine each other’s existing policies and determine what needs to change.

  • Do something as a group to demonstrate the individuals’ commitment to reduce prejudice.
  • Create a stakeholder group that represents institutional leaders to reduce racism at the institutional level.
  • Review hiring and contracting policies in all the employment sectors. This will help change institutional norms that could be perpetuating economic disparities.

All of these suggestions have a common thread – they include you performing a simple act. Conducting. Giving. Reviewing. Bringing and Doing. Other things you can do include talking, inviting, reading, and listening.  It is all about bringing people together for sharing and understanding. It all starts with you including yourself in the discussion.

We all want to feel included. If you want to learn about the University of Florida/IFAS Extension perspective on diversity, equity, and inclusion, read Dean Nick Place’s blog on this topic.

#ExtensionSustainableLiving #SustainableSaturday #DEI

Resources and Definitions

https://independentsector.org/resource/why-diversity-equity-and-inclusion-matter/

https://dei.extension.org/

Diversity includes all the ways in which people differ, encompassing the different characteristics that make one individual or group different from another. While diversity is often used in reference to race, ethnicity, and gender, we embrace a broader definition of diversity that also includes mission-relevant experience, age, national origin, religion, disability, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, education, marital status, language(s) spoken, and physical appearance. We also recognize that individuals affiliate with multiple identities.

Equity is fair treatment, access, opportunity, and advancement for all people, while at the same time striving to identify and eliminate barriers that have prevented the full participation of some groups. In order to improve equity, we must increase justice and fairness within the procedures and processes of institutions or systems, as well as in their distribution of resources. Tackling equity issues requires an understanding of the root causes of outcome disparities within our society. This is integral to Code for America’s mission.

Inclusion is the environment in which any individual or group is and feels welcomed, respected, supported, valued, and able to fully participate. An inclusive and welcoming culture embraces differences and offers respect in words and actions for all people, and fosters a diversity of thought, ideas, perspectives, and values.

This blog was originally published with the title Steps to an Inclusive Community with my co-authors Alicia Betancourt, Carol Roberts, and Linda Seals. It was edited with permission for this platform, and original blog is available on Monroe County and St. Lucie County Extension platforms.