Diversity Planning = Organizational Growth
This past year, SaskCulture challenged its provincially funded groups to ensure their organizations were inclusive of the changing diversity of Saskatchewan’s population. As part of its Diversity Planning Pilot Project, SaskCulture provided support so that five organizations could work individually with a consultant to explore the inclusiveness of their programs, services and structures, and to plan in ways that would invite new audiences, membership and opportunities, and contribute to their relevance, impact and sustainability.
The groups worked with consultant Flo Frank, Common Ground Consulting, throughout the year. Dance Saskatchewan, Saskatchewan Library Association and the Multicultural Council of Saskatchewan, three of the first five eligible cultural organizations that participated in Pilot Project, reflected publically about their experiences.
Dance Saskatchewan focused on making changes to its organizational structure, specifically building diversity in board and committee composition. Linda Coe-Kirkham, executive director, Dance Saskatchewan (DSI), says “For us, the process involved developing trust with the groups we hoped to work with. Meeting directly with people.” She spent over 300 hours in the past year meeting face-to-face with different people. And, as a result of its efforts, DSI’s membership grew by more than 80 individuals, which included a greater diversity of backgrounds.
Judy Nicholson, executive director, Saskatchewan Library Association, added that “the process didn’t always provide answers, as much as it raised the questions, and helped us start the journey.” This past year, the SLA Conference included sessions designed to inspire inclusiveness.
According to Rhonda Rosenberg, executive director, Multicultural Council of Saskatchewan (MCoS), “[Diversity planning] is about questioning our assumptions and looking for ways to invite conversation.” Although diversity is at the heart of the organization, MCoS was quick to take the opportunity offered by SaskCulture to ensure they were being as inclusive as possible.
“By bringing diverse perspectives into the organization, we feed credibility and rejuvenation,” says Rosenberg. While not a fast process, she says there are many benefits from the strength and energy gained from reflecting diversity.
The Saskatchewan Writers Guild (SWG) had started working on diversity planning prior to the Pilot Project thanks to support from SaskCulture’s Multicultural Initiatives Fund. SWG Executive Director, Judith Silverthorne says, “We always had diversity in our mandate, but we needed to broaden the concept. New partnerships with groups such as Saskatchewan Aboriginal Writers Association and Global Gathering place have created a diversity in programming and audiences. We started small, but the rewards are growing.”
All groups learned that what worked with one community was not necessarily the same for another. Each connection had to be developed carefully and respectfully, and cultural competency training was valuable in supporting inclusiveness. All organizations agreed that offering family-centred programming was important.
Committed to nurturing accessibly, SaskCulture continues to support organizations working to be more inclusive in their programming and services in order to remain viable organizations that will meet the changing needs of Saskatchewan’s growing diversity. Since the first five organizations began in March 2014, five more organizations have started working on diversity plans.