A very short story of how our diversity, equity, and inclusion journey began

Map with pins
Image 1: Drawing a map. Picture by Aksonsat Uanthoeng

Diversity and inclusion is not a project, it is a long-term commitment…or at least this would be my first reaction if someone told me that they were initiating a project to enhance diversity, equity, and inclusion within their organization. There is no on/off switch. Committing to D&I is more like embarking on a life-long journey than a hundred-meter sprint. Still, this does not mean that we have to move forward like Alice, following a white rabbit down a hole with no clear goals or direction. D&I is not a wandering in the hope of getting back home in time for tea. It requires intentionality, planning, and coordination. The temptation to hit the trail as quickly as possible might be strong, especially when we know that a long journey is ahead of us. Yet, it would be a very bad idea to set out on the road without knowing exactly where we are going, with whom, and which intermediate milestones we might need to reach before arriving at our destination. I found that in several cases, the problem is not to agree on abstract D&I statements, but rather on details such as “how do we get there”, “what needs to be changed”, “how” and “by whom”.

At first, discussing the business and the moral case for diversity and inclusion in our organization gave us the opportunity to understand why advancing D&I should be such a crucial priority for the Center. Once all stakeholders got set into their commitment, however, establishing a formal project aiming at improving FZJ diversity and inclusion capabilities allowed us to create a framework to turn our vision into action while maximizing cooperation across organizational functions, units, and interest groups – at least for this first leg of our D&I journey together.

Before launching the project last January, we spent most of our time defining project goals and benefits, key performance indicators, timelines, product descriptions, and reporting structures. It took us about four months to get everything ready and as much as I love planning, spreadsheets, and flow diagrams, it is difficult to convey in a blog post how exciting it felt to see senior stakeholders and executives come together and agree on a shared plan to enhance diversity, equity, and inclusion within our organization. Not only they agreed on making D&I a priority on paper, but they also took responsibility for leading change. A formal Board chaired by FZJ Chairman and Vice-Chairman was created to facilitate project implementation and maximize impact. Executives and senior leaders signed a contract detailing what was about to happen and by when key milestones were to be reached. Resources within organizational units were made available. Further, the Board approved the creation of a Sounding Group composed by over 25 employees from a variety of functional areas and backgrounds tasked with overseeing product development and counseling senior leaders, project and team managers regarding employees´ needs and perspectives.

Following Prince 2 methodology, during the pre-project stage a Project Board was created to ensure maximum coordination among stakeholders and secure executive support. During Stage I.A of the project, Human Resources, Corporate Development, and the Equal Opportunities Office were represented on the board as main suppliers: providing tools and resources for project implementation. FZJ Chairman and Vice-Chairman acted as project executives. On the left, senior scientific and administrative leaders represented general stakeholders interests as “users”.
Image 2: Following Prince 2 methodology, during the pre-project stage a Project Board was created to ensure maximum coordination among stakeholders and secure executive support. During Stage I.A of the project, Human Resources, Corporate Development, and the Equal Opportunities Office were represented on the board as main suppliers: providing tools and resources for project implementation. FZJ Chairman and Vice-Chairman acted as project executives. On the left, senior scientific and administrative leaders represented general stakeholders interests as “users”.

The project is expected to assess FZJ current D&I capabilities, develop a data-based D&I strategy, and implement the strategy proposed within a 4 year framework. A second assessment stage will follow implementation to evaluate project impact and benefits. Project deliverables include:

  • The development and implementation of a D&I communication strategy to share the Business Case for D&I with internal stakeholders
  • The development of tools to regularly assess and monitor the status of D&I at FZJ
  • The development of a D&I report
  • The development and implementation of a D&I strategy and measures
  • The creation of essential D&I structures and infrastructure
  • The integration of D&I within most relevant processes, policies, and projects
Project Timeline. The initiation stage of the project started in September 2020. An evaluation stage took place between January and July 2021. This stage will be followed by strategy development and implementation. The project is scheduled to be completed by August 2024. A post-project assessment is scheduled to evaluate project impact and benefits.
Image 3: Project Timeline. The initiation stage of the project started in September 2020. An evaluation stage took place between January and July 2021. This stage will be followed by strategy development and implementation. The project is scheduled to be completed by August 2024. A post-project assessment is scheduled to evaluate project impact and benefits.

Through this process, we ensure that we do not sprint ahead in our D&I journey but take one-step at a time for long-term changes

Left to right, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, Dorothy and the Cowardly Lion from “The Wizard of Oz”. Photo by Umanoide on Unsplash.

As a diversity and inclusion practitioner, I like talking about why organizations should commit to diversity, equity, and inclusion. I put my full hearth and energies in what I do and those around me probably know how passionate I am about helping research and educational institutions to build a more inclusive and equitable environment for students, employees and society at large. Nevertheless, once, a friend made me notice that I might come across as rather cynical in professional settings. I would call that pragmatism instead…It is true, however, that when I talk about diversity and inclusion (D&I) I tend to focus more on the business case rather than moral arguments. If I do so, nevertheless, it is just because I think they are more effective when I address a wide and composite audience with a variety of opinions and political leanings.

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