This past year saw the convergence of a global public health crisis, ensuing economic despair and tragic violence against Black communities that spurred a sweeping movement for racial justice and urged the country to wake up to the systemic racism that has been present throughout its history. In response to this profound civic moment in our society, Meridian listened, reflected and realized our organization had much work to do in promoting equity, diversity and inclusion in our workplace and programs.
As we head into 2021 and look toward celebrating another Black History Month, Meridian recognizes the gravity of occasions across the new year that will honor marginalized identities – and how much work we still have ahead to make our community, nation and world more just for all. Part of our effort in being change catalysts is being transparent with our community and holding ourselves accountable to create demonstrable change and progress.
In June 2020, we created an internal, cross-departmental and multi-generational Taskforce on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) to ensure EDI values are prioritized across our programs, people and daily work. While we have made strides, we recognize there is more work ahead of us, requiring long-term commitment and sustained thoughtful evaluation. Over the last six months, the taskforce has provided our staff and network with timely discussions on anti-racism and implemented new measures, policies and efforts including:
- Facilitating trainings and conversations for our staff members on unconscious bias, the dynamics of race and racism in the workplace, and the history of displacement of Black communities in our neighborhood.
- Expanding work and partnerships with non-white and Black-owned businesses for our events.
- Diversifying our lineup of speakers and moderators in convening programs that address the most pressing issues of our time and foster the collaborative solutions required to address these issues.
- Hosting programs with relevant leaders on topics such as police brutality, the broader civil rights movement in our country, and the disparities in access to healthcare that have existed for communities of color for centuries and have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Developing a set of core values, including an EDI-centric value to guide our efforts going forward.
The Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Taskforce has recently outlined its commitments for 2021, which include but are not limited to:
- Establishing EDI-related service opportunities at local organizations to strengthen community engagement among Meridian staff.
- Continuing to expand the diversity of our speakers, vendors and audiences.
- Developing more EDI-centric programs and events for our staff and network.
- Conducting more unconscious bias and anti-racism trainings and facilitating more conversations on race to further engage staff in the issues and how to incorporate EDI values into our daily work.
- Building relationships with HBCUs to create a pipeline for Black students interested in careers in international affairs or public diplomacy, which are fields that have traditionally suffered from a lack of diversity
- Strengthening our celebration of annual events we already recognize, such as Black History Month, Women’s History Month, PRIDE Month and more, by developing robust programs that root our promotion of these occasions in substantive, impactful work aligned with our mission.
We pledge to act forward in 2021 by standing by these outlined commitments and many more that will make our work and workplace more inclusive for people of all backgrounds, with the aim of building a more equitable organization and consequently contributing to a more just community and world. The hard work is still ahead of us, but with an emboldened staff dedicated to these efforts, we will be a more inclusive, diverse and stronger Meridian.
— The Meridian Team