CCS is always willing to contribute to dialogue around making our little corner of the world a better place, so it was no surprise we were pleased to participate in an event designed to move the needle on some of the pressing social issues facing society today.

On November 21, 2019, a number of employees took part in the Toronto Neighbourhood Centres’ (TNC) all-staff retreat on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.  CCS is a member agency of TNC, an anchor organization for over fifty GTA not-for-profit multi service agencies with a mandate to strengthen the vitality and diversity of local neighbourhoods and enable them work together to promote justice and a healthy life for all.  CCS’ executive director, Agnes Thomas, along with employees’ Sathya Thillainathan, Tannaz Fadei, Tej Parmar, Angela Henao and Manimolie Kanagasabapathy took part in a day of information-sharing, panel discussions and training sessions.

“At CCS, we are committed to creating a transformative learning culture in which people are given opportunity for Praxis. It is critical for organizations to make learning, action and reflection a regular practice to address issues of exclusion, disparity, and all forms of oppression,” Agnes said.

TNC’s senior leadership team established the day’s overall framework by reporting on the deliberations from their own retreat, held earlier in October, which explored the structural changes needed, and the specific ways that organizations might transform their environments to be more inclusive and diverse. They also shared the guiding principles drafted at the October retreat which focused on access to leadership roles for people who have been marginalized by the impact of racism, discrimination, colonialism, ableism and other repressive systemic and sometimes invisible barriers.

Thus, the all-staff retreat was an opportunity to expand on this initial conversation and guide the work on next steps, both as individual agencies and as a network, and put some more detailed policy “meat” on the broader issues identified at the senior leadership retreat, such as:

  • Sitting with your discomfort – work toward making the space or situation comfortable for others
  • Giving up one’s voice and space to make way for those who may not have them.
  • Building inclusiveness and diversity into policies and practical ways to implement them.
  • Being aware, mindful and intentional about wanting to become an inclusive organization.

There was also conversation around the systemic barriers organizations face and how to drive diversity and inclusive practices in the workplace, including:

  • Capacity? How to promote these values without adding more work to already overburdened teams.
  • Improving the effectiveness of various training offerings to promote inclusive practices.
  • Incorporating inclusivity training for new hires, and instead of simply providing the HR manual to read, make the offering engaging and interactive and include instruction on best practices and provide the necessary resources.
  • Being intentional in creating programs and being mindful of the needs of the community we serve.
  • Creating programs based on need
  • Working collaboratively with change agents
  • Supporting each other to more actively address systemic oppression in their organizations and communities.