Building a Dialogue on DEI with the Community Relations Forum

Building a Dialogue on DEI with the Community Relations Forum

By Village Manager Phil Kiraly

Over the past months, you have likely seen the many messages shared by Village President Lawrence R. Levin relating to the focus in our nation, state, region and village regarding diversity, equity and inclusion (sometimes known as DEI). These statements are an important part of the work that our community is undertaking to better understand and, more importantly, develop dialogue around DEI. But it is important to know that there is a lot of work going on through the work of the Village’s Community Relations Forum and internally with our staff teams as well.

Undoubtedly, tragic events that took place last year sparked a series of conversations across the country about DEI and how we can collectively strive to do better. Glencoe is no exception. Since June, the Community Relations Forum (a group of residents who volunteer their time) has been meeting at least monthly to listen to the community and dialogue about how together we can better support and advance the tenets of the Village’s Welcoming and Inclusive Community Pledge and Human Relations Ordinance. In support of this, this past October, the Community Relations Forum and the Village Board participated together in a Partnership and Belonging training. This effort helped to underscore the importance of our actions and align the Board and Forum on this important work. The Forum has reached out to and is actively engaging with community organizations, such as the Chicago Botanic Garden, Writers Theatre, the Glencoe Clergy Association, the Glencoe Historical Society and more, to learn about their work to support equity and inclusion, share information about the Forum and learn about potential opportunities for partnership in the future. Inclusion is a shared community goal that takes all of us to achieve.

Community building is at the cornerstone of the Community Relations Forum’s mission and they are planning initiatives to help support conversation, get to know our neighbors and learn more about Glencoe’s opportunities for growth in the areas of diversity, equity and inclusion. Their work is very much in line with feedback we heard in the 2019 Community Survey – that one of the most important issues for us as a community is diversity and inclusion, and how we can grow.

Building a more DEI-aware workforce is also one of our priorities. For the last several years, we have continued to adapt our hiring practices to attract a more diverse workforce and finding ways to better engage our teams on these important subjects. As I mentioned above, in October 2020 the Board and Forum participated in a session focused on Partnership and Belonging. All Village staff is currently participating in this training as well. In fact, the Public Safety Department first began this effort in 2018. The Village values having a diverse and inclusive workforce in which all employees feel welcome and feel a sense of belonging. The training provides a focus on building a shared understanding of the dimensions of diversity that make each individual unique, how we can each strengthen relationships and communicate across lines of difference, and how we can each contribute to building a sense of belonging for all employees. While this certainly aids in our work as an organization, this training transcends into the services we provide to our community. At every level of our organization, through each department, we are working hard to make sure we are fostering a sense of belonging in our community.

Next week, the Community Relations Forum will share updates about their work with the Village Board at the February 18 Committee of the Whole meeting at 5:30 p.m. The agenda for this discussion is available here, and we encourage you to tune in either through our Facebook live broadcast, on Zoom (the Zoom link is included on the agenda cover sheet, linked above), or by watching the meeting on  the Village’s YouTube channel afterward. Comments are encouraged and can be emailed to glencoemeeting@villageofglencoe.org up to an hour before the meeting, and during the meeting as well. Likewise, the Forum meets regularly on the first and third Wednesdays of the month, typically at 5 p.m.; these meetings are also virtual. Please take time to participate and lend your voice to these critical community discussions.

Want to do even more? Consider submitting an application to be a member of the Community Relations Forum. There are open positions available, and there’s never been a better opportunity to actively participate.

As always, we welcome your questions and input. I hope you’ll keep engaged in these efforts and share your insights with us.