Efforts Showcased at the Education Pioneers’ Agents of Change Dinner
Jessica Fick is ERS’Senior Talent and HR Lead
This past month, I had the honor of attending Education Pioneers’ Annual Agents of Change Dinner, representing ERS as an agent of change due to our organizational work around diversity, equity, and inclusion. This marks a significant milestone in our journey of improving equity in the districts we serve, increasing the diversity in our organization, and building conscious inclusion into our organizational culture.
As part of our most recent strategic planning process, we were reflecting on our long-term vision for diversity, equity, and inclusion at ERS, and one of the tenets of that vision was that we would move quickly and thoughtfully toward improving our internal practices. Being invited to this Agents of Change dinner was the first indication that our actions are beginning to bear fruit and create ripples of impact in our community.
We recognize the need to move quickly on these issues for two reasons. First, we want to build an even stronger organizational culture. We will all feel an even stronger sense of connection to our colleagues and our organization when we can bring our full selves to our teams and our work. Second, we want to take impact to the next level for our school district partners. Our efforts will help us build stronger relationships with stakeholders and decision-makers in districts. They will also generate new insights and recommendations that come from a richer understanding of racial, ethnic, and income differences.
When we say diversity, equity, and inclusion, what do we mean?
Diversity – We have committed ourselves to increasing the diversity of our workforce with a particular focus on recruiting higher percentages of team members of color and team members who have similar life experiences to the children, teachers, and leaders in the districts we serve.
Inclusion – All team members feel that they can be their full selves with their teams, and our organizational structures and processes create the enabling conditions for this environment.
Equity – ERS’ work has always focused on promoting equity for students in our districts. In a district context, equity means that every school succeeds for every student. And, with our focus on urban schools, we have always focused on ensuring college and career outcomes for children of every race and income group. Now, we are expanding our commitment as an organization to learning about the interplay between socioeconomic and racial equity and if there exists differentiated solutions for each.
What actions have we taken to achieve our long-term vision?
We created a diversity and inclusion committee that chose increasing the diversity of our candidate pipelines as its primary focus. Within one recruitment cycle, we were able to diversify our pipeline so that 50 percent of our consultant candidates were people of color. A number of actions contributed to this outcome:
- Strategically building up partnerships with organizations that would give us access to highly qualified, diverse talent like Management Leadership for Tomorrow, Education Pioneers, and Teach for America.
- Building deeper connections with our current university pipelines to specifically target affinity groups for students of color, first generation college student programs, and other scholarship programs targeted to reach students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
- Recruiting from a wider variety of schools, including more liberal arts institutions, historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), and honors programs at state universities.
Our peer organizations taught us that a focus on recruitment should also be paired with a focus on building a more consciously inclusive organizational culture. We took this advice to heart, and our 2016 organization-wide retreat will focus on facilitative leadership. This will help us learn how to lead and facilitate in ways that tap into the value of each team member, prime team members to approach discussions with a confident vulnerability that enables us to uncover diversity below the surface, and leverage that diversity in our work to transform education.
We are proud of our progress and grateful for the time everyone in the organization is giving, but we know that we are in the midst of a journey.