Exploring DEI with GVP’s Board

For the past two years, Global Village Project has been on a journey to incorporate Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) into our organizational DNA. This season, we began an exciting phase of extending the strategic discussions and heart strides we have made as a team thus far to other stakeholder groups within the GVP community, starting with our Board of Directors. Over the last three years of our most recent strategic plan, the GVP Board has made a concerted effort to increase its diversity to better reflect the identities of our students. Today, 40% of our Board members are people of color, but we have more work to do in our commitment to ensuring our Board and organization continue to become more diverse, equitable, and inclusive in the long run. For the first session of what will be a multi-part discussion, our Board took part in an interactive workshop on DEI’s guiding principles on Sunday, February 21st. GVP’s Board of Directors are a dedicated group, and the fact that they were willing to virtually convene on a cold Sunday morning in February was the most recent testament to that fact.

The workshop was led by Transformation Management and DEI Specialist Jai Simpson-Joseph, who facilitated an impactful discussion on what DEI means and how its principles may guide our work at GVP. To begin, the group explored the separate but interrelated concepts of diversity, equity, and inclusion, using the definitions provided in GVP’s Grounding Principles. Then participants used this foundation to safely explore how the concepts resonated with them individually and collectively. Our Board’s discussion was a testament to how DEI plays a role in each and every one of our lives. As was reflected in their stories, we have all been in situations where our identities forced us to grapple with the feeling of not belonging - how we show up in the world and how we are seen by others is seldom the definitive version of who we truly are. GVP Board members explored at length the complexity of identity, discussing how the dynamic, nuanced, and oftentimes paradoxical nature of identity means that each of us contains a set of shifting and sometimes contradicting traits that make up who we are.

Under Jai’s masterful guidance, the session arrived at a vital conclusion: the just response to differences in identity is not to pretend they don’t exist, but to face them boldly and empathetically. As Jai shared, equity is not color-blindness, but rather the acknowledgement of difference and the provision of the right resources needed for people to overcome barriers and succeed. Within the context of GVP, Board members discussed the need to foster spaces where all voices are valued, where unconscious biases are explored and countered, and where one person should never be called upon to represent an entire community. They shared their commitments to ensuring our Board, and all Boards, help create organizations that are more diverse, more equitable, and more inclusive.

As one Board member reflected, “Our school is made up of people who have been wounded in societies where they have not been included. This is one of the core reasons many come here as refugees.” It is part of our mandate to embrace our students and families where they are, welcome them, and provide them a space where they know they belong. To fulfill our mission in its fullest, we must ensure that the principles of DEI are top of mind for everyone in our GVP community. We are all still on a journey of lifelong learning when it comes to understanding how DEI principles should be implemented in our individual and collective actions, but it is all essential learning - for each and every one of us has a role to play in creating a more just and equitable society.