By the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy DEI Committee
Last month, the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy launched an eight-month partnership with the Washington Consulting Group to support our school’s strategic planning process, focusing on issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), and our school’s commitment to an anti-racist agenda.
In this blog post, we would like to introduce you to our consultants, the work they will be doing with our school, and why the DEI committee felt it was necessary to engage an external consultant. We also share the process the committee went through to select a consultant to help us with this work.
Juneteenth & PRIDE Month
The committee would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge two important events that took place in the month of June. June 19, 2021, was the first time the U.S. Government recognized Juneteenth as a federal holiday to celebrate the end of slavery in the United States. IUPUI Professor, Dr. Leslie Etienne, shared thoughts about the significance of this holiday with local news WISH-TV.
Meanwhile, June was PRIDE month, which was launched for the purpose of remembering the challenges, acknowledging the achievements, and building solidarity among and with the LGBTQ+ community. Indy Pride is a local resource that hosts events and shares resources to unite and serve the LGBTQ+ community.
Introducing Washington Consulting Group
The Washington Consulting Group (WCG) is based in Washington, DC, and will be working with us virtually. WCG’s mission is “to engage and support organizations building capacity for greater success through the lens of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Social Justice.” The WCG team working with our school includes Dr. Chad Kee and Dr. Kevin Hylton.
What will Washington Consulting Group be doing?
WCG will facilitate an equity audit of our school, which will be guided by the school’s written commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion and an anti-racist agenda. The consultant’s work includes qualitative, solutions-oriented research that centers race and seeks to lift up the voices of our community members who are most affected by racism and racial inequities. Specifically, the consultant’s scope of work will include the following four activities:
- Environmental scan (May to August)
The purpose of the environmental scan is to identify existing equity initiatives and inclusive activities and policies. There will be a review of existing data as well as print and web-based materials related to equity and inclusion. Documents to be reviewed will include, but not limited to, academic course catalog; the student handbook; the school’s website; the mission statement; school’s organizational structure; existing reports and data related to diversity, equity, and inclusion; and institutional policies and practices.
- Virtual focus group discussions (late summer-early fall)
The purpose is to inform the development of actionable recommendations to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion and an anti-racist agenda within our school. The consultant proposes to conduct focus group sessions with interested community members, including current and past staff, faculty, students, and advisors who can provide perspectives on the school’s climate and culture.
These discussions will explore organizational challenges, areas of success, and opportunities for growth. Our community members will be invited to participate by completing a recruitment questionnaire. Focus group selection will ensure that all members of the community are provided with a safe space to contribute their ideas and experiences.
- Draft report (late Nov-early Dec)
The draft report will describe both the successful practices as well as areas of improvement related to DEI and anti-racism. The report will detail how findings can be used to promote DEI. Specifically, it will propose equity benchmarks relating to recruitment, retention, hiring, promotion, engagement, and well-being of people of color students, staff, faculty, alumni, and advisors. Based on the completed audit, the report will also identify changes that may be necessary to achieve these benchmarks.
- Virtual presentation (late Nov-early Dec)
WCG will lead a meeting to present the draft report, and discuss the findings and recommendations from the equity audit. This discussion will inform changes to the final report, which will be submitted no later than early December.
Why did we decide to engage an external consultant?
The DEI Committee felt it was necessary to engage an experienced DEI consultant that was external to our school. There were two key reasons why we believe an external consultant is necessary. First, it is our belief that engaging a DEI consultant, as opposed to asking an existing employee, or employees, to undertake this work, indicates that we recognize existing power dynamics within our school and are intentionally working to create safe spaces for people who have been historically and systematically oppressed to take part in this equity audit process.
Secondly, we wanted to ensure that the weight of this critical work does not fall onto the shoulders of an employee, or employees, who may lack the resources necessary to undertake the physical and emotional labor that it is required for this work.
We intentionally sought out a respected DEI consultant with past success consulting other higher education institutions and with no emotional ties or history with our school who can bring an objective viewpoint, help validate our assumptions, and share ideas and strategies we may not know we don’t know.
We also explored the pros and cons of engaging a consultant that is external to the school but works within or outside the IU/IUPUI system (see below). Based on those deliberations, we decided to engage an external consultant that works outside of our university system.
That said, the committee is working closely with the consultant to help lay the foundation for our school to be able to manage more of this work, on our own, in the future.
Internal or external to IU/IUPUI?
How did we recruit the consultant?
In January, members of the committee crowdsourced a list of over 20 prospective DEI consultants from various sources including contacts at IUPUI’s office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, IU’s DEMA, etc.
In the meantime, the committee drafted a proposed scope of work that was sent out for feedback from a half dozen advisors located inside and outside of the school in addition to review by the DEI committee. Email inquiries, accompanied by a revised version of the proposed scope of work, were sent to over a dozen prospective consultants, including individuals and firms based inside and outside of Indianapolis.
Several prospective consultants replied stating that the scope of work was worthwhile but the budget cap was inadequate. This feedback was conveyed to the committee and the school agreed to increase the maximum budget allotment.
Five consulting firms expressed interest and scheduled informational meetings with members of the DEI committee via Zoom. Following these meetings, four firms submitted proposals. A rubric was used by the DEI Committee to evaluate the proposals, including both quantitative and qualitative feedback (see below).
The two firms meeting most of our selection criteria were contacted with follow-up questions and requests for client references. Based on their responses to our questions and feedback from references, the DEI Committee selected Washington Consulting Group as our partner. Meanwhile, letters of appreciation were sent to the other three groups submitting proposals.
DEI Consultant Evaluation Rubric
Why are we centering race? What about other types of diversity?
WCG’s work will be inclusive and intersectional. We expect to explore issues pertaining to different forms of diversity, including but not limited to: race, ethnicity, color, nationality, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, socioeconomic class, religion, disability, age, military status, political ideology, visa status, economic status, geographic location, and language/linguistic ability.
That said, aligned with IU’s antiracist agenda, we believe that an antiracist approach cultivates equity, diversity, and inclusion, and is a key driver to address all forms of discrimination and hate.
Community Connective, a Chicago based consulting firm, known for its work on DEI explains it like this:
We lead with racial equity because race is more complicated than other forms of oppression and, as humans, our tendency is to start with what is easiest. If all forms of oppression are on the table at once, race gets left behind because it’s the one that makes people the most anxious. By leading with racial equity, we signal that people of color, the issues they face, and the perspectives they bring are important. Additionally, because of the ways that structural racism undergirds all oppression in the U.S., starting with race allows us to tackle multiple layers of oppression.”
Suggestions or questions about the partnership?
Should you have any questions or suggestions regarding our partnership with Washington Consulting Group, we would love to hear from you! Please leave a comment below, contact our committee co-chairs (LaKoya Gardner and Dana Doan), or reach out to any of our fellow DEI committee members.
Select resources accessed by the committee: