Doubling Down on DEI

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This article is part of the “Forged in Fire: New Models” issue of Hand to Hand. Click here to read other articles in the issue.

By Dianne Krizan, Minnesota Children’s Museum

In May 25, 2020, George Floyd was killed under the knee of a police officer eleven miles from Minnesota Children’s Museum (MCM). Despite being under a shelter-in-place order due to the pandemic, thousands of local protestors sparked a worldwide reckoning with the plague of systemic racism.

MCM staff and board were outraged by the inhumane treatment of Floyd, which was the latest (and sadly not last) killing of a Black man by police. As a predominantly white organization, many of us at MCM have the privilege of only seeing the ugly face of racism when a phone video broadcasts a blatant and tragic event. Our Black colleagues and community experience racism every day.

The events following George Floyd’s murder showed how far we need to go to reckon with racism—and the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated inequities in our communities. While MCM has been focused on diversity and inclusion for years, with particular emphasis on racial equity, in 2020 we committed to deepening our DEI efforts in the long run.

Commitment to DEI

MCM’s strategic plan incorporates our DEI (diversity, equity, inclusion) commitments, stating specific goals around diversity of staff, board, and audience, as well as a commitment to equitable access to the museum and to higher-touch programs for families with less access to resources.

Since 2014, the museum has participated in a collaboration among ten of the state’s largest arts and cultural organizations with a shared purpose to grow our individual and collective capacities as inclusive organizations. One of the outcomes has been co-investing our resources to jointly grow the intercultural competence of staff.

MCM staff take the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI), a cross-culturally valid, reliable, and generalizable measure of intercultural competence along the validated Intercultural Development Continuum. The continuum describes a set of orientations toward cultural difference and commonality that are arrayed from the more monocultural mindsets of Denial and Polarization through the transitional orientation of Minimization to the intercultural mindsets of Acceptance and Adaptation. 

Staff then participate in different training opportunities, such as deepSEE Filter Shift. This program effectively supports staff in moving a full stage on the continuum towards a more intercultural mindset. Through a three-step process, we learn how to:

  • See self: conscious awareness of own filters
  • See others: nonjudgmental awareness of others’ filters
  • See approach: shift filters to be more effective

We have also incorporated the understanding of intercultural differences into our customer service training. Discussion and role-play scenarios reveal how race and bias can play out in service situations, including recognizing the cultural differences in communication styles from restrained to expressive and direct to indirect.

Our board of directors has recently taken the IDI to understand where they are developmentally as individuals and as a group, and are now determining next steps for growth. 

More Action Needed for Racial Equity

In 2019, our board adopted a new DEI value statement that included stronger language around our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. In part, it says: 

“Given the reality that a history of exclusion and unfair treatment exists broadly in our community, our values compel us to be intentionally inclusive and welcoming of indigenous people and people of color. We are allies to marginalized groups.”

Photo credit: Bruce Silcox

While we are proud of the attention given to DEI across the organization, the tragedy of Floyd’s killing caused us to ask, what does it mean to be an ally? Do we need to push further to tie activities to equity outcomes? Would alignment on outcomes help ensure our efforts are having an impact?

In learning more about allyship, the key insight was recognizing that ally is a verb, not a noun. Ally means taking action. How should MCM authentically support individuals and communities who have been marginalized? 

Being an ally to marginalized communities includes being an equitable workplace. After evaluating staffing data from the past few years, in our pandemic down time, our newly focused internal equity lens has identified three outcomes:

  1. Improve retention of BIPOC staff
  2. Achieve 30 percent BIPOC representation on senior leadership (directors and up)
  3. Adopt inclusion accountability standards for people leaders as part of performance evaluation

In addition to making internal progress on these three outcomes, we plan to share them publicly including the work we are committed to doing. As we recover from the pandemic, MCM is increasing our efforts to address equity and increase inclusivity. With new publicly-accountable DEI metrics in place, we are changing how we evaluate our success as an organization.

Dianne Krizan has served as the president of the Minnesota Children’s Museum in St. Paul since 2010.