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An EDI Journey, Part 1: A Starting Point

Ryan Stephens

Director, Strategic Communications

January 2020 marked a time of significant change for ECVO. With a new Executive Director leading the way, the organization took time to reflect on its past and to chart a path forward.

Over nearly two decades, ECVO has built a reputation as a capacity-builder within Edmonton’s non-profit community, supporting organizations to build effectiveness with organizational necessities. Board governance, human resources, financial management, volunteer engagement and other fundamentals had long been ECVO’s focus. We encouraged organizations and their leaders to network and collaborate in new and creative ways for the benefit of their missions and, ultimately, the communities they serve. Our team grew, our programs expanded and diversified.

In early 2020, the world changed. So too did our organization. As with many non-profits, ECVO needed to adapt to the challenges spurred by COVID-19 and its impacts on how we work, how we connect, and how our communities function. COVID-19 exposed long-standing and deeply-rooted inequities in the non-profit sector. Embedded power dynamics, a significant lack of diversity, and outdated knowledge systems had pulled the sector away from the real challenges facing communities. COVID-19 has caused many to rethink the systems and structures holding the non-profit sector together. A return to ‘normal’ is not only increasingly unlikely, but the actions that reinforce the status quo are being rightfully positioned as socially and economically irresponsible.

If you don’t have a good sense of what it means to understand from where people are coming, then how can you really build and engage in authentic programs and services for the sector?

Gemma Dunn, Executive Director

In late 2020, ECVO embarked on an intentional journey to build a more inclusive and equitable organization — one that more accurately reflects the communities we serve and responds more effectively to their diverse needs.

After a long period of reflection and discussion, including those led by external consultants and facilitators, the ECVO board of directors pass a motion approving two foundational documents to guide our work moving forward.

Our Commitment to Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion: A Strategic Plan outlines our vision and intentions behind this work, as well as three strategic priorities for the organization:

  • Diversify Our Leadership
  • Engage Our Community
  • Grow our Organization

As outlined in the plan, each priority outlines key commitments and strategic actions, many of which we have already implemented throughout 2021 and into 2022.

To complement this Strategic Plan, the board of directors also created Questioning through an Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Lens, a document that lays out a broad framework the foregrounds EDI in all that we do. The document provides reference for our staff to ensure that we are breaking through “best practices” and asking the necessary questions to ensure our organization and programs are more inclusive and equitable.

These documents are just a starting point in this work. With them in hand, we have learned so much about challenging our assumptions and moving forward with tangible actions. We know this is only the beginning for us, but we hope this work will inspire other organizations to consider their part in building a just and equitable sector.

Like any other organization or any other part of our society, I think that in this day and age, if we’re going to be relevant, then we have to recognize that we need to be relatable to a range of human beings.

Evelyn Hamdon, EDI Consultant

Recently, our Executive Director Gemma Dunn, board director Meaghan Patterson, and EDI consultant Evelyn Hamdon sat down to reflect on this initial stage in ECVO’s EDI journey. You can watch this video below.