In August 2020, against the backdrop of nationwide protests and heightened awareness of the need for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), the Center for People With Disabilities (CPWD) initiated a transformational journey by establishing the Inclusion, Diversity & Equity into Action (IDEA) Committee. As we celebrate the committee’s 3-year anniversary, it is an opportune moment to delve deeper into its remarkable evolution, tracing its path from a small group to a significant driving force deeply embedded in CPWD’s organizational culture. Let’s explore the rich history, notable achievements, impactful staff training initiatives, pioneering proposals and policies, and a myriad of other projects and future prospects that define the growth journey of the IDEA Committee at CPWD.
HOW IT STARTED
The IDEA Committee’s beginning can be traced back to a small gathering in August 2020, during the height of protests following the tragic murder of George Floyd a few months prior in May. At this heightened time of national unrest, CPWD staff engaged in open and earnest conversations about their feelings of helplessness while witnessing the events unfolding in the news. This gathering ignited a shared desire to take meaningful action within the organization. The conversations revealed unanimous sentiment that CPWD needed to actively address racial injustice and create a safe space for discussing these critical issues.
The formation was swift and decisive. The IDEA committee was officially established, and it quickly moved to solidify its name and logo. The mission statement was finalized by November:
“To foster a culture that promotes diversity, equity, and inclusion while actively challenging and dismantling systemic racism and oppression.”
The IDEA committee, its mission and vision, were CPWD staff-led and staff-managed initiatives that were later presented to and approved by our board of directors. A significant milestone was the drafting and board approval of a powerful public statement that was released on January 27, 2021, which underscored CPWD’s unwavering commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion and its pledge to stand against racial injustice.
As advocates for disability rights, we believe it is our responsibility to advocate for social justice and actively condemn systemic racism and oppression. Center for People With Disabilities (CPWD) fully acknowledges the long history of marginalized groups suffering from injustice, bigotry, and prejudice. In direct response to the brutal racial injustices in recent history, we have felt compelled as an organization to speak up and take a stand.
One of our core values is to have all groups equally represented with an equal voice and equal access. CPWD stands united with the Black community, People of Color (POC), Latinx, Indigenous peoples, LGBTQ+ and Tribal communities, and we are proud to support the fight to end racial injustice and oppression.
To demonstrate our commitment to our values and address the current climate of racism and oppression, CPWD created the Inclusion, Diversity & Equity into Action (IDEA) Committee on 8/27/20. The IDEA Committee will work to foster an inclusive environment within our community and take action by:
- Creating a safe place within CPWD that cultivates conversations with the intention of understanding the historical significance and impact of systemic racism.
- Listening and learning how we can best support marginalized communities.
- Developing an outreach strategy to identify community events and other opportunities to spread awareness regarding systemic racism and its intersection with the disability community.
- Partnering with local organizations that share a similar mission for racial justice; we are stronger when we join forces as allies.
- Constructing a timeline for our action plan to create accountability.
This is a continuously evolving initiative and we expect to learn and grow along the way. The most important step is starting now. We hope you will join us in the process of committing yourself to helping create a more inclusive and equitable society for all!
Recognizing that education is fundamental to fostering a more inclusive environment, the IDEA Committee set out on the mission to provide CPWD staff with valuable training sessions. These sessions, spanning various topics such as racial equity, LGBTQ+ awareness, bridging differences, redlining, and code-switching, were meticulously designed to enhance understanding, challenge biases, and promote cultural competency. Trainings were built on the basis of intersectionality, which recognizes that each individual’s experiences of discrimination and oppression are shaped by a multitude of factors, including but not limited to gender, race, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, and physical ability. It calls for a holistic consideration of all these factors that can marginalize people. You can read more about intersectionality in a previous article here.
One of the most compelling takeaways from these training sessions was the recognition that true equity would not be achieved by treating everyone equally but by treating each individual justly based on their unique circumstances.
PROPOSALS & POLICIES
The IDEA Committee’s contributions extended beyond education. It actively engaged in the development and refinement of policies and proposals aimed at eradicating systemic inequalities within CPWD itself. The committee proposed adding Juneteenth as a holiday, transitioning to a 4-day work week, and updating the nondiscrimination policy in their unwavering commitment to fostering a more inclusive work environment.
In addition to staff training and policy contributions, the IDEA Committee engaged in multiple projects designed to make a tangible impact on CPWD and the community. Noteworthy initiatives include the diversity, equity, and inclusion DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) Creative Contest. The goal of the DEI Creative Contest was to get more community engagement by encouraging people to creatively express their diversity and how it relates to their experience of having a disability.
The IDEA committee also engaged in community outreach efforts at Boulder Pride, initiated collaborative endeavors with local organizations, and developed a resource-sharing hub, which is used daily by many members of the staff. In their ongoing pursuit of personal growth and learning. IDEA members have been actively participating in webinars such as Courageous Conversations, Brave Spaces, and the Catalyst Series for Social Justice.
As CPWD commemorates 3 years of the IDEA Committee’s existence, the organization looks forward to a future where DEI efforts permeate its culture. As an example of CPWD’s dedication to fostering meaningful dialogues and collaborations, IDEA will continue to host “lunch and learn” sessions with community partners to explore ways to promote and increase DEI. Previous “lunch and learns” have included organizations such as United Nations Association of Boulder County, Center for African & African American Studies, Out Boulder County, and others.
CPWD envisions an organizational evolution where diversity, equity, and inclusion transition from a mission of the IDEA Committee to an inherent part of CPWD’s values and culture. The commitment to DEI will continue to be shared by every staff member and board member, reflecting a collective responsibility to contribute to a more inclusive future.
The IDEA Committee at CPWD has embarked on a transformative journey over the past 3 years, evolving from a small committee formed in response to a crisis into a vital and enduring force deeply integrated into CPWD’s organizational culture. This comprehensive exploration of its history, achievements, staff training initiatives, policy proposals, community projects, and future aspirations highlights the remarkable progress and unwavering commitment of CPWD to nurturing diversity and inclusion. As the organization looks ahead, it does so with renewed determination to make a profound and lasting impact on the lives of individuals with disabilities as well as the broader community.
In particular, we wish to thank Craig Towler, CPWD’s Community Organizer, Marni Tharler, CPWD’s HR Generalist, and Brandy McIntosh, Independent Living Services Manager, for their dedication to the founding, development, and implementation of the IDEA Committee.