AIGA WM Diversity & Inclusion Strategic Plan Update

We Heard You

If you took part in the survey, filled out a comment card, sent an email, contacted us on social media we heard your feedback and comments. The purpose of the Diversity and Inclusion Director and Committee is to foster a diverse and inclusive design community in West Michigan. Even though we’ve been doing a great job advocating for design, and celebrating diversity, we missed the mark when it came to inclusion. This was apparent in the survey results and comment section.

As the new Director of Diversity and Inclusion for West Michigan, I’m making it my first priority to create a community that focuses on inclusion. My name is Naomi Silas and I’m here to help.

So how can we change? How can we be Inclusive when our chapter has members all over West Michigan? And the Upper Peninsula? How do we include members from Traverse City and Lansing when our events are mostly in Grand Rapids? How do we include our Student Chapters? I think our members are already diverse, but how can we come together? This is the question that the D&I Committee has been trying to answer.

D&I Chapter History

AIGA WM established a Diversity & Inclusion Director position as well as a full committee in 2014 and is 1 of only 18 Chapters to have a D&I Director and/or Committee, out of more than 72 AIGA chapters nationally.

Since 2014, the D&I Committee has developed AIGA WM’s vision, mission, and objectives regarding diversity and inclusion and facilitated several activities/events to support that commitment. These actions, along with the committee’s diligence, has fostered necessary conversations and introspection within the chapter regarding diversity and inclusion.

Between 2014 and 2017 the D&I Director and Committee brought in speakers for our community that extended beyond AIGA events. Speakers visited area elementary, middle and high schools, colleges and community organizations where they facilitated conversations and workshops to advocate for design as a career and inspire youth to pursue it. That is one of our main goals as a chapter. We plan to continue this.

D&I Changes

If we seek to build and sustain intentional and diverse relationships that create a more inclusive design environment. We must structure ourselves to be a model Inclusion for our chapter and the communities we represent. We must foster access by raising awareness of design and supporting career development for students of all levels. We must promote excellence in our business communities through engagement, knowledge sharing, and exchange of resources.

Using the survey results as our guide, the Diversity and Inclusion Committee has been undergoing some changes. Much like a business, we restructured. We needed to become the change that we are seeking in the Design Community. I presented the idea of Liaisons, to the Board and the D&I Committee, so we are running a very iterative experiment.

A Liaison is a member of the D&I Committee that has agreed to serve on two committees: D&I and another of their choosing. Each D&I Committee member has the choice of becoming a Liaison–it is not a requirement–and is able to be a link between D&I and the other AIGA committees. They will act as a resource and help achieve the goals of the committees they serve. Liaisons help us become an Inclusive chapter by having a seat at the table of each committee: to better integrate D&I practices into the whole of AIGA WM.  Our hope is to build trust, create a feedback loop to constantly improve the communication between the committees and to remain agile as a chapter.

D&I Future Intent

The next phase is to grow the D&I committee, include members from outside of Greater Grand Rapids and have Liaisons in cities like Muskegon, Battle Creek, Lansing, Traverse City, and in the UP (to name a few). They would be the direct link from their community, to the D&I Committee and to the AIGA West Michigan Board. This year, the D&I committee plans to travel to these communities where we have members and have open meetings to start the conversation on what they would like to get from their AIGA membership, and how we can better include them.

At the Community Mixer we announced our launch of an AIGAWM Slack, another way for all of us to communicate, collaborate and break down barriers as a community. We also shared some metrics of the Community Survey that we ran this past December and January, we will publish them soon with the community at large. Another exciting announcement that I forgot to mention at the mixer was that sometime in 2018, we’re planning to stream events to members and have them available to watch after events, another way to help you feel connected.

I’m excited to serve on the Board, and help move the chapter forward. I am open to listening to your ideas, thoughts, concerns, or if you’d like to join the D&I Committee, please reach out to me at naomi.silas@westmichigan.aiga.org.

By Naomi Silas
Published April 2, 2018