Become a JEDI Master: Journey Toward a More Equitable Future

Posted by Erin Lloyd on Tuesday, September 1 2020

2020 has been a year of awakening; exposing the pervasiveness of inequity and codified discrimination in our nation and world. As our nation begins to reckon with its newfound understanding of injustice, its institutions have often placed the burden of diversifying and fostering equitable and inclusive environments solely on marginalized groups and their allies. Since many non-white employees and students are being tasked with championing diversity without adequate resources or compensation, we would like to create a Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) toolkit that members of the Switzer Network can utilize to better their work and or educational spaces.

The goal of this toolkit is to unpack the root causes of inequities in our organizational power and office structures by providing a historical and theoretical framework, and highlight the importance of climate and environmental justice and how those movements are inextricably linked to the Black Lives Matter (BLM) and other global justice movements. We understand that urgent action without analysis causes harm and often perpetuates inequity. Currently, there is a deficit of easily accessible resources that go beyond typical organizational human resources training, like diversity and implicit bias. This lackluster approach often obstructs organizational equity efforts to create lasting change and fails to contextualize the depth and scope of systematic oppression. Hence, we are proposing to thoughtfully create an all-inclusive toolkit that will be a catalyst for shifting culture and policies in our professional and academic institutions. The toolkit will include two seminars — one focused on systems of oppression (e.g. white supremacy, capitalism, and the patriarchy), and the other on environmental and climate justice — with supplemental resource guides to facilitate these workshops in person or via webinar.

We hope our efforts can provide a starting point for interrogating the causes of inequity in our society specifically as it relates to racial, environmental, gender, and economic oppression. Too often organizations propagate diversity for diversity's sake and focus on feel-good narratives and leadership training that are absent of historical and theoretical analyses. We are not proposing a toolkit to address all aspects of equity and justice in the workplace, but rather to fill in a gap in available resources — specifically, educational products that provide a theoretical/historical context for inequity as well as articulate the relationships between the environmental and global justice movements. In other words, we hope these materials will help to generate a shared understanding and provide a rationale for the operational, programmatic, and governance work that could follow.

The JEDI Team consists of 2017 Switzer Fellows Daisy Benitez, Genie Bey, and Jolisa Brooks, who all bring varying degrees of experience in JEDI work. Daisy is a Senior Staff Engineer at Brown and Caldwell where she serves as a Co-Facilitator for the Community of Color Employee Network Group — an internal group seeking to advance JEDI efforts in the workplace. Daisy has experience planning events at the conference level as a member of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) since 2013 and is a Co-Creator for the online community Women of STEM (WoSTEM). Genie currently works as an Environmental Protection Specialist with the DC Department of Energy and Environment where she aims to maximize equity and environmental justice outcomes of flood risk management in the District. Prior to this, she was an active member of the 2019 Sea Grant Knauss Fellowship Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) Committee, and volunteered for The California Endowment’s Long Beach chapter of the Building Healthy Communities initiative from 2016 - 2018. Jolisa is US Foreign Service Officer and founding member of the US Embassy Santo Domingo’s Committee on Equity and Intercultural Affairs. She is also the Former Director of Diversity and Inclusion for the Yale Beijing Center, and Co-Founder of ROOTS at Yale School of Environment, a mentor and professional development for Black environmental leaders.

We find ourselves in a time when many organizations, ranging from academic institutions to governmental groups, are seeking to further their JEDI efforts but cannot afford to hire a professional JEDI consultant for assistance. This Switzer Network Innovation grant will allow us to create accessible, credible, and easily distributed materials for Switzer Fellows to use at their own organizations at no cost. The toolkit would be accessible to all members of the network. It is our hope that by taking the time and effort to create this toolkit it will alleviate the burden on already marginalized personnel and allies who are seeking to do this work right now and in the future.

We are seeking input on this project from Switzer Fellows with expertise and professional experience in furthering goals of JEDI within the workplace. More broadly, please feel free to share any ideas regarding what sort of content you would find most effective for your organization, as well as any potential partnerships that you envision being fruitful. Lastly, if any fellows work for a non-profit organization currently aiming to accomplish these goals and are willing to serve as a host organization on this grant project, please reach out to Jolisa, Daisy, and Genie to express interest. FELLOWS WISHING TO ADD COMMENTS ON THIS POST should please contact Erin Lloyd, Program Director, for instructions on how to log in to comment; or contact Daisy Benitez, Genie Bey, or Jolisa Brooks directly.

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