In July of 2016, the City of Somerville created the position of Manager of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. The position addresses the topics of equity and inclusion in various aspects throughout the City; including accessibility concerns under the Americans with Disabilities Act, reviewing the policies, procedures and trainings, staff configuration, recruitment, retention, and advancement responsibilities of each City department. The goal is to ensure that the departments incorporate an equity lens both internally and externally, with an emphasis on public interaction. The position also oversees the City’s Human Rights Commission as well as the Commission for Persons with Disabilities.
As part of this work, we are also continuing the community and race conversation series. This winter and spring, we will be continuing to host Police/Immigrant Dialogue Conversation, as well as two community conversations centered on ways that we can continue to grow our community equitably.2. What have been the major challenges you/your organization has had to overcome/is working on overcoming to do this work? Please tell us about up to 3 challenges.
The city was mindful of potential barriers that would preclude community attendance. We tried to mitigate those by offering child care services, interpretation services in locations sited throughout the city. Locations were selected that were centrally located and accessible by public transportation. Conversations offered a variety of attendance possibilities including morning, afternoon and evening sessions.3. What are you most proud of?
We are proud of the City’s commitment to tackling the issue of equity. Somerville has never shied away from talking about difficult topics. We utilize numerous methods of outreach and engagement to connect with our community members and resulted in powerful dialogues and partnerships.4. What words of advice do you have for others taking on this type of racial equity work?
This work is always evolving and the best way to handle it is to remain open and flexible. You have to be ready to listen and let others guide you when necessary. It is crucial to create a culture of respect for different viewpoints which allows for a more involved and thoughtful conversation.