In 2020, there was a convergence of events: a global public health crisis that disproportionately affected Black, Latinx/Hispanic and Indigenous people in the United States and laid bare unacceptable health inequities around the world, and the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in the United States, caught on camera, which followed so many other instances of police violence against Black people. These events, along with growing distrust in government institutions and the questioning of truth and science, led to a societal boiling point and reckoning.
Like other communities and organizations around the world, Vital Strategies is undergoing its own self-examination and has been addressing fundamental issues related to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). In July 2020, a DEI Task Force was established with team members from across divisions, programs and regions to champion change and collaborate with leadership and teams to develop strategies to address DEI issues internally and across our programs. Many of our divisions and programs have undergone their own discussions and processes to reflect on DEI and map a way forward. A progress report on our DEI efforts was presented to the Board of Trustees in December 2021; read a summary below.
As a global public health organization, we have a responsibility to address biases, including those that may be implicit or unconscious, in our policies, practices and systems, both internally and in our global public health work. We have taken steps to be more intentional about reducing or eliminating biases and inequities, and we recognize that there is much more to be done.
Achieving Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Vital Strategies: A Progress Report to the Board of Trustees—December 2021
Vital Strategies is undergoing a self-examination and has been addressing fundamental issues related to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). While organizations around the world are undertaking similar processes, as a global public health organization, we have a particular responsibility to address policies, practices and systems and work to reduce or eliminate biases and inequities within our organization and through our programs.
The report describes progress made through 2021 in Vital’s DEI initiatives. Among the highlights:
- An increase in the diversity of Vital’s Board of Trustees and senior leadership team.
- A participatory process to develop a new mission, vision and organizational values that embed DEI principles into our programs and workplace culture.
- In the human resources domain: a pay equity analysis; a toolkit for candidate interviews with diverse panels and standardized candidate assessments; a progressive collective effort increase resulting in a higher percentage salary increase for staff with lower pay; revised anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies and practices; and an expanded leave policy for new parents.
- Staff and management trainings covering topics including giving and receiving feedback, addressing interpersonal and systemic biases, and developing ally skills.
- Newly developed platforms for staff dialogue including a brown bag series, cultural celebrations, and community gatherings to reflect on current events.
- Provision of racial equity resources, embedded into our organization-wide communication, monthly research roundup, and a new DEI resource library.
While important steps have been taken, we recognize and commit to continued efforts to advance DEI at Vital Strategies. The executive management team and the DEI Task Force are working together to set priorities and develop plans for 2022 to address key issues such as: the need for greater racial and gender diversity at the board and executive levels of the organization; more transparent and inclusive decision-making processes; and continuing efforts to foster an organizational culture where all staff feel respected and valued. In addition, Vital’s divisions and programs will continue to integrate DEI values into their team trainings, retreats and regular meetings as well as their programmatic approaches. We look forward to building on our efforts and continuing to apply a DEI lens more systematically to all our programs, processes and offices, to make our organization the best that it can be.