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What Does Equity and Inclusion Really Mean? – An Example from the Field

Equity is one of the core values of our Collective Results team. Our equity values statement is: We are committed to ongoing learning about diversity and inclusion as we strive for equity in our corporate culture, our practices and with the clients and communities we serve”.

Increasingly, workplaces and communities are turning their attention towards equity and inclusion and wondering how they can integrate these principles into the work that they do. But what does equity and inclusion really mean? And what does it look like “on the ground”?

Equity is not the same as equality. Equality is about treating everyone the same; ensuring that everyone is given the same level of resources or opportunities. Equity is about recognizing that some people or certain populations, due to their circumstances, need more, or different things than others. It is about each of us getting what we need to thrive – access to opportunities, networks, resources and support.

Equality is leaving the door open for anyone who has the means to approach it; equity is ensuring there is a pathway to that door for those who need it. – Caroline Belden

Inclusion is a means towards achieving equity. Inclusion is more than just diversity and numerical representation of different groups of people. It involves participation that is meaningful, authentic, and empowering and promotes a true feeling of belonging (AECF, 2014).

Collective Results has recently supported a client, the Elgin Community Drug and Alcohol Strategy (ECDAS), with a community consultation process that informed the development of their local drug and alcohol strategy. Core to the strategy is the inclusion of those with lived experience with alcohol and/or drugs at every phase of strategy development.

Collective Results and ECDAS worked with peers with lived experience to conduct community consultations with other individuals with lived experience. The use of a participatory approach allowed these consultations to go beyond simple engagement to providing meaningful roles and responsibilities to the populations being served. The peers played a key role to:

  • Develop the interview questions

  • Identify optimal interview locations

  • Identify ways to enhance the participants’ experience, such as a thank you card that included a list of local resources

  • Recruit participants

    • The peer interviewers used their existing connections to recruit many of the participants

  • Conduct all the interviews

    • The peer interviewers' credibility in the community made participants feel comfortable answering the interview questions

  • Support the data analysis

    • The peer interviewers’ knowledge of both the local context and participants' experiences helped Collective Results understand and interpret the responses to the interview questions

    • The peer interviewers went on to provide input into the themes that emerged from the analysis

  • Co-present the findings to the ECDAS Steering Committee

ECDAS saw the immense benefits that came from the peer led interviews. The interviews helped to identify the strategies in the areas of prevention, harm reduction, treatment and justice that are most important to the individuals that the drug and alcohol strategy is striving to support. These consultations supported the Elgin community in both the development of their drug and alcohol strategy and the identification of priorities for implementation. ECDAS saw the benefits from this experience and are committed to applying an equity lens to their strategy development, implementation and evaluation going forward. As active members of the ECDAS Steering Committee and Working Groups, individuals with lived experience are now shaping the solutions and strategies to be implemented in their community.

Collective Results recognizes that an equity focused approach is not always a linear process and that it may extend the amount of time required to develop and implement initiatives. That said, the time element is a barrier that is worth overcoming because this approach informs the development of initiatives that meet the needs of those they are intended to serve. Collective Results supports organizations on their journey towards incorporating equity and inclusion into their processes and practices. We can help organizations plan strategies that align with their vision, mission and values and support them in attaining their goals by integrating the voices of those they serve into their planning and evaluations.

Do you have any examples from the field where you or your organization has applied an equity lens to your work? We’d love to hear from you!

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