Justice, Access, Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity
Learn about our journey and how we are taking action in our JAIDE work.
Our purpose as a charity is to make our diverse communities healthier and more vibrant. With dignity and respect, our programs and services inspire individuals to reach their full potential.
In 2020, we began the intentional work of dismantling systemic barriers to help deliver on this commitment. To that end, we are currently invested in intentional JAIDE work. An acronym adopted from our consultative work with AgentsC, JAIDE stands for Justice, Access, Inclusion, Diversity and Equity. Through the lens of this work, we will be reviewing our policies, procedures, programs, and services in order to ensure we are fostering safe, welcoming, inclusive, and supportive spaces for all.
Our JAIDE Action Plan
JAIDE is not a project; it’s a way of being and becoming. One that we are practicing in our actions, interactions, and decision making.
This work will be driven by the core values that we believe must underpin each action we take – Equity and Accountability.
This is the plan that will guide our actions and to which we will hold ourselves accountable and expect others to do the same.
Our JAIDE Journey
May – September 2020
George Floyd’s murder, in May of 2020, was a day of reckoning for our Y. We watched and observed yet another example of what continues to happen as Black people and people of colour face oppression. As an organization that prides itself on being inclusive to all people, we realized we had work to do.
In the early summer, we came together as a national and local team and held town halls to hear the lived experiences of our employees. We heard personal stories and experiences of racism within our Y communities. We sat in this discomfort and honoured listening to team members speak up and share their personal stories on injustices, and lived experiences of racism and generational oppression. We recommitted our efforts to intentional work.
Following the town halls, we started to take small steps toward action. We sent an expression of interest out to our employees to formulate an Employee Advisory Group to work in partnership with our CEO and the new Board of Directors of the almost-officially-unified YMCA of Three Rivers. The mandate of the Employee Advisory Group was to look at how we could include the principles and language of equity, diversity, inclusion (EDI) and anti-racism into our unified Mission, Vision, and Values (MVV).
October 2020 – May 2021
On Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2020, our unification became official. We became the YMCA of Three Rivers with a new MVV and a renewed commitment to amplifying the voices of those with lived experience to inform our programs, policies, and partnerships.
Despite a significant operational deficit in 2020 and another projected deficit in 2021, we allocated resources to prioritize what would become our JAIDE work. We recognized that we wanted to do better and we needed help to do it well.
Our work in 2021 was rooted in the intentions of forming partnerships with experts to help guide us. In early spring of 2021, our Employee Advisory Group supported a Request for Proposal (RFP) process to find an external partner to help develop our Racial Equity Action Plan alongside us and we began our search.
In May 2021, we secured the help of AgentsC — an international B Corp-certified non-profit consultancy that specializes in organizational change management, and focuses on JAIDE. With AgentsC’s guidance and leadership, our employees and leaders began our change journey towards the development of a JAIDE Action Plan.
July – December 2021
In July of 2021, we officially commenced our work with AgentsC. The work was to be broken up into three phases: Discovery, Diagnostics, and Delivery.
Before any of the phases could begin, a critical part of the work with AgentsC was the formulation of two new JAIDE Advisory Groups, known as the Project Management Circle (PMC) and Project Advisory Circle (PAC). These groups had representation from employees across our Y, including our entire Senior Leadership Team.
The Discovery phase of our work with AgentsC took place between July and October. This work included a jointly led review of our policies and practices and provided a SWOT analysis report highlighting our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. We also deployed an organization-wide JAIDE survey (led by AgentsC) to anonymously collect employee and board member experiences around perceptions of culture, experiences JAIDE within our Y, and future goals. Finally, AgentsC led focus group discussions with our employees, to dig deeper into themed areas and findings from the JAIDE survey.
In the Diagnostics phase (November – December), AgentsC produced a JAIDE Report that reflected the discoveries and findings that we would take into the next phase to form the basis of our JAIDE Action Plan.
SWOT Analysis Key Findings
Most notable from this work was the absence of documents and policies guiding staff and members about anti-racist and discriminatory behaviours.
Subjectivity around what constitutes good banter versus what may be interpreted as offensive, increasing a the potential to leave staff exposed to harm (intentional and unintentional) without solution.
We’ve taken the important initial steps towards JAIDE by investing financial and staff resources, and creating a priority around the issue across the organization. However, we need to work to create a definitive JAIDE culture and authentic identity. This includes providing training, resources, tools, and system to staff and leaders to promote JAIDE across the organization.
JAIDE Survey Key Findings
One in five staff at our Y has experienced or witnessed racism at work.
80% view YMCA of Three Rivers positively as an employer, the majority of those staff identified as white, heterosexual and cisgender. Staff who are less positive about YMCA of Three Rivers appear to be diverse (women, youth, Black and Indigenous, 2SLGBTQ+, and people identifying as disabled, specifically those with mental health conditions).
The majority of staff dispute the presence of racism within the YMCA of Three Rivers. However, Black and Indigenous staff note that they have experienced racism at YMCA of Three Rivers. It is possible that though staff express general knowledge of issues relating to racism, when/if they witness acts of racism, they do not recognize them as such. This is emphasized by the fact that YMCA of Three Rivers does not have policies in place that comprehensively cover issues relating to racism.
Through the focus group discussions, it was evident that staff who feel most vulnerable are also extremely cautious about expressing their experiences and opinions about oppression at YMCA of Three Rivers.
Focus Groups Key Findings
Focus group participation coincided with an Ontario lockdown. This created logistical challenges in communicating with many YMCA of Three Rivers staff, some of whom were temporarily furloughed. This may be a reason for low participation rates in such discussions, however we connect low participation with the underlying issues of lack of safety expressed by diverse staff. For example, Black and Indigenous staff/board members did not participate in any of the five following focus group discussions: board, racially diverse, disabled, 2SLGBTQ+, or open forum (general).
The group that expressed the greatest degree of concern for their safety within the focus group setting was YMCA of Three Rivers’ disabled staff. All participants expressed deep concern and risk to their jobs in sharing details about their mental health conditions. They noted that when they did venture to raise issues about their mental health to a manager, they felt instantly stigmatized or experienced discriminatory actions.
Managers reportedly lacked training, sensitivity, and adequate solutions to JAIDE issues. Diverse staff seem to have less faith in their manager’s ability to appropriately address JAIDE-related issues.
Diverse staff are concerned that the protection of YMCA of Three Rivers' members is routinely prioritized over their personal welfare as employees and that issues such as anti-Black racism are very seldom discussed. The lack of open discussion about anti-Black racism is reinforced by the Board focus group discussion in which Board members reported that they too had not had conversations with regularity or specificity about anti-Black racism at the YMCA of Three Rivers.
February – June 2022
After another pandemic-related shutdown and disruption, we began the Delivery phase of our work in February. This work involved a three-part workshop series delivered by partners of AgentsC and explored the methods and behaviours necessary for confronting and deconstructing systems of racial oppression. A group of 50+ leaders from across our Y participated in these workshops. These leaders will be responsible for championing our JAIDE journey.
Following these workshops, a smaller group of leaders from the Project Advisory Council (PAC), entered into a 12-week intensive process to develop the first draft of our JAIDE Action Plan. Partners of AgentsC guided this process and the PAC worked consultatively with the Project Management Circle (PMC) at various points along the way.
July – December 2022
Over the summer and early fall of 2022, we undertook a wide consultation process to seek staff feedback on our JAIDE Action Plan draft. We used a combination of an online feedback form, virtual feedback sessions, team meetings, and focus groups to gather this feedback.
Based on the feedback we heard, we updated the language of some of our key objectives, added more specific details of accountability, and we also added a glossary of terms to the Action Plan. We shared the updated Action Plan with our teams following a JAIDE town hall on November 22, 2022.
January – April 2023
We received applications and went through a selection process to nominate our first ever JAIDE Advisory Council. The Advisory Council consists of 16 individuals from across the YMCA of Three Rivers. This group meets on a monthly basis and these meetings kicked off in February.
We have also begun working with our previous partner Agents C again to develop a series of training workshops. When we ask teams from across our Y what they need the most in their JAIDE journey, the answer is inevitably centered around more training. The hope with these workshops is to have a small number of teammates go through them and then create our own internal training for our Y.
Where we’re going next …
Developing and rolling out training for our leaders in the fall.
Preparing for our second JAIDE employee survey, which we're planning to launch in the fall.
Our next Action Plan update is anticipated for January 2024.