I recall the March 10, 2014 Grand Rapids Community Foundation Advisory Council meeting like it was yesterday. Among other responsibilities, the Advisory Council is charged with identifying topics for our Knotty Cocktails event series. The purpose behind Knotty Cocktails is to bring together Community Foundation donors, friends, and other interested parties to discuss and address a “knotty” issue in our community that the Community Foundation has taken a stance on. As the topic was discussed at the meeting, a smile came to my face because their idea was forming into a topic that combined two of my greatest passions: attracting and retaining young talent in our organizations and the role that diversity and inclusion plays in being a welcoming and magnetic community.
I spent over eight years of my professional career in higher education so I understand that an educated workforce is a major driver of economic success for a region. Early in my career, I joined the board of a professional development organization called the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network of Grand Rapids (YNPN.GR). I heard (and continue to hear) horror stories of bright and talented young people that are leaving the nonprofit sector, and ultimately our region, because they don’t feel supported by their organization and the community. To that end, diversity and inclusion also play an important role in keeping talent in our region. Grand Rapids Community Foundation has taken a clear stance on the value it places on having a diverse community where all are welcomed, accepted, and embraced. Our work in this area is decades old and has been reinforced with a Grantee Inclusion Policy recently approved by our Board of Trustees.
So, the Advisory Council lands on the following title, Magnetic or Not: Recruitment, Retention, and Diversity in Grand Rapids. Success! The panelists include a University of Michigan student from Grand Rapids, a human resources consultant for Spectrum Health, and an inclusion and equity professional at GVSU. And, lo and behold, the conversation gets a bit knotty. One panelist states, “We really have a very diverse population of people here in Grand Rapids, but it’s not always reflected or represented in what people see.” Another says, “I was being invited to every single conversation with all of these different (diversity and inclusion) groups, but the conversations were all the same and nobody was talking to each other.”
I encourage you to watch the full length video or highlight video of the discussion, found below.
Progress is being made, conversations are taking place, but as one panelist states we need, “a collaborative approach that builds sustained action.” Agreed!
Stay tuned for the next Knotty Cocktails where multiple organizations will come together to discuss how we make Grand Rapids a magnetic community for all.