In 2019, the Northwest Arkansas Council joined 19 other nonprofit organizations to participate in the TRUE TRAIN Cohort initiative. We recently sat down with Mike Harvey, chief operating officer of the Council, to learn more about the experience.
Northwest Arkansas Council Chief Operating Officer
ENGAGE: It’s been 3 months since this first cohort series wrapped up – what still stands out for you?
HARVEY: There was a lot of valuable education spread out over four full-days of workshops and discussions. But the most eye-opening insight for me was how little I have had to think about many of these issues. As a white male raised in the South, I’ve had the privilege of not being negatively impacted, even unintentionally, by the stereotypes and assumptions others have of me based on my identity. While you know these things at a certain cognitive level, this process created the time and space to step out of my bubble and inside the shoes of others to really think about what diversity means for us individually, but also for our organizations and for our region.
ENGAGE: How will the Council integrate cohort learnings into its organizational strategy?
HARVEY: We’ve felt very strongly for a long time that the Council needs more diversity in our leadership as well as in our membership. While many of our members, particularly the larger companies, have progressed on these issues, the Council’s membership has remained largely homogenous. We need to do a better job of identifying those diverse members that maybe aren’t yet C-level officers but are emerging leaders in the business community and should have a seat at the table informing our regional strategy. This means taking a deliberate look at how our organizational structure and recruitment process and making necessary changes to encourage more diverse and inclusive participation.
“…this process created the time and space to step out of my bubble and inside the shoes of others to really think about what diversity means for us individually, but also for our organizations and for our region.”
ENGAGE: What do you think the big regional headline will be in 2020 for diversity, equity and inclusion?
HARVEY: I think we’re going to see the values and practices of this work expand to smaller and mid-size businesses and that’s really exciting. The engagement of smaller companies is perhaps where we’ll see the biggest impact of diversity and inclusion efforts, but it often comes down to dollars and cents.
Training can be expensive and time-consuming, especially when you’re wearing multiple hats and navigating the larger demands and responsibilities of the business. But the interest, commitment and expertise is there. Between the regional chambers of commerce, EngageNWA as part of the Council and the IDEALS Institute, we hope to offer training and resources for small to midsize companies this year as part of an initial pilot initiative.
APPLY FOR THE 2020 TRUE TRAIN COHORT
As a regional organization, one thing we know is certain: if we are going to move a region forward, everyone needs to be pulling in the same direction.
NWA nonprofits are invited to apply to participate in the 2020 TRUE TRAIN Cohort.