For Mack Rogers, Executive Director of ABC Life Literacy Canada, participation in the TRIEC Certificate in Inclusive Leadership was key to advancing his own and his organization’s understanding of diversity and inclusion. The course (which will be offered online for the first time this fall) is delivered through a series of interactive workshops with leaders who are committed to driving change and creating a sense of belonging for staff at all levels.

Rogers of ABC Life Literacy Canada participating in the 2019 cohort of the Certificate in Inclusive Leadership

Rachel Crowe is Manager of Learning and Inclusive Workplaces at TRIEC. She co-facilitates the course alongside Shirley-Marie Garcia, Director of People and Culture at March of Dimes Canada and says the program explores how to go about making systemic change to create more inclusive workplaces. “We primarily do this through the lens of immigrant inclusion and intercultural competence, but our discussions extend to the intersecting identities of individuals and the ways workplaces need to change to grant everyone equal opportunities to share their skills and to advance in their careers.”

For Rogers, the ‘a-ha!” moment came in his first workshop when the group began looking at the geared relationship between diversity and inclusion and the ways it was connected with intercultural competence. He says, “it helped define for me personally that diversity and inclusion is about the who but it’s also about the sense of belonging and sense of safety within the organization.”

Getting to these moments of clarity were possible, Rogers explains, because of the way Crowe and Garcia create a sense of accountability for leaders regarding their own and their organizations’ biases, coupled with a sense of safety that he says is key because the topics for discussion can be hard to talk about. “I think that sense of safety, that sense of ownership and accountability really helps us take the diversity and inclusion conversation back to our organizations.”

The openness with which his fellow leaders approached the content inspired Rogers to share himself, and to appreciate the challenges organizations of all sizes face in relation to making change. He says his was an interesting cohort to be a part of because his peers included leaders from large hospitals to engineering firms, “to us, who was probably the smallest organization in the room.”

Crowe says the course is consciously offered to a small group and that even as her team works to transition to an online offering, they are limiting the number of participants to allow everyone the chance to build relationships and fully take part. “It’s important to the integrity of the conversations and the joint learning,” she says.

Seeing the ways mid and large size businesses and non-profits planned to roll out diversity and inclusion policies and adapt their procedures was useful for ABC Life Literacy Canada, a small non-profit organization focussed on adult literacy, according to Rogers. He says that when he brought the learnings from the course back to his team, they were able to consider how they could take action quickly to improve their hiring practices and operations in their own setting.

After taking the course last year, Rogers says the organization is applying the learnings to improve, and that it has been particularly important when physical distancing required by the COVID-19 pandemic runs the risk of creating barriers between staff and advancing a sense of exclusion. That is why he says now more than ever “ABC Life Literacy Canada believes a key tool to preventing this can be found in the best practices and procedures we are implementing to remain connected and inclusive.”