This is the third in a three-part series examining how racial inequity intersects with Horizons’ mission.  We’ve already looked at resources available for parents and caregivers to share with children, how we incorporate inclusive practices in our classrooms and now we’re sharing how we’re building an organization that is open, inclusive, and working to create a more equitable future for all. 

Systemic racism is a public health issue that is rooted in hundreds of years of discriminatory beliefs and practices, some of which are obvious, others less so. As an organization, we are taking steps to address the complexities of this issue in proactive ways both by fulfilling our mission and reaffirming the commitments to our values, while also looking within and inquiring how we can do better. 

“At Horizons we are dedicated to cultivating an environment that allows all members of our community to feel a sense of belonging and where there is equal access to opportunity for all.” Shared Horizons’ CEO Kate Barrand.

Creating Equity From The Inside Out-Horizons For Homeless Children

Building Groups for Connection

One of the ways Horizons is creating support for and among our diverse staff is by strengthening and adding additional Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). Built upon the model that some of Horizons’ corporate sponsors have implemented successfully, Horizons recognizes the value this model offers to bring employee members together. These groups will foster career and leadership development opportunities while providing a channel to volunteer feedback on how Horizons can better support its’ team. It’s essential to acknowledge that making Horizons a more diverse and inclusive workplace is not the staff’s job, but that leadership values input from all employees to inform policy discussions and decision making.  

“We believe that providing organizational support –such as budgets, skill-building and structural support for co-chairs, invested executive sponsors, input from leaders in the field, and leadership development opportunities for members – sets a foundation for meaningful connection and progress.stated Laura DiMaria, Horizons’ Human Resources Director. A Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) group, and LGBTQ+ group were established more than a year ago while Hispanic/Latinx group and Allies groups are currently in the works.  

Building communities through ERGs provides a safe space to give input and facilitate dialogue and change. Established ERGs already share resources and have hosted enthusiastic employee-led activities – BIPOC’s Black History Month reading of “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?” by Beverly Tatum invited a larger conversation through the organization’s employee communication portal, Workplace. In years past, the LGBTQ+ group has gathered together to attend the Pride parade in Boston as representatives of Horizons with plans to do so again in the future.   

“Horizons’ employees are very diverse, but having diversity alone doesn’t promote individual equity that each person achieves by bringing their lived experiences into the workplace, shared Jayd Rodrigues, Center Director and active member of Horizons’ ERGs.  

New and reaffirmed ERGs will work to build internal community awareness and be a place to share, identify, and rectify bias and behaviors that reinforce inequity. Funding further reflects the priority of this concept for the organization. Co-chairs will be paid for their work and we’re exploring Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion experts to partner with on assessing our organizational processes, practices, and policies to understand where and how we can evolve to become more inclusive. Board Members – especially BIPOC leaders – have expressed interest in involvement and are committed to keeping Horizons’ accountable in this important work. While ERGs developed organically within the organization as a grassroots movement from employees, support from Horizons’ leadership and the Board has helped to expand resources and opportunities among those involved.  

Managing through a lens of Diversity and Inclusion

“The latest metaphor among Diversity and Inclusion discussions describes what we’re trying to achieve, noting that ‘Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance, ” Laura shared. Horizons will be looking internally at processes, practices and policies, from recruiting and hiring to management and career pathing, to ensure they address and counter biases and focus on employees’ skills, competencies and professional growth while creating opportunities to shape outcomes and build leadership from within. 

diversity is being invited-Horizons For Homeless Children

“At Horizons, we have aspirations about what our organizational culture can and should be,” Laura affirmed. “We don’t have all the answers and we will likely make missteps along the way, but we’re working with our Board of Directors and leaders in the Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) field to understand how to move forward and remain accountable to the process.” 

Horizons hosts an annual training in the DEI field for all staff, but there are plans to expand these workshops while providing more extensive and frequent learning opportunities as thinking on this subject continues to evolve.  

“ ‘Inclusive’ is one of Horizons’ values and we strive to create an environment that accepts, rewards and motivates the families we serve and our colleagues, acknowledging the unique lived experience of all,” reflected Kate Barrand, Horizons’ CEO. “When these ERGs come back to us to share their thinking about how we can make Horizons a more equitable place to work, that’ll be a sure sign the process is working.” 

Working towards a more inclusive environment is top priority for the organization – it directly impacts our work serving families, and serving each other as a community of diverse individuals working towards a shared mission and a more equitable world. 

 This piece was written by Andrea Drag, a regular contributor to Horizons’ Blog.