Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Learning Network Meets In-Person for First Time

Author: Megan MacDavey

Since November 2020, representatives from several grant partner organizations have met monthly to discuss diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives in their work. This group, convened by Program Officers Chuck Colston and Megan MacDavey, has blossomed into a network that supports and learns from one another. 

After many months of meeting by Zoom, this group finally connected in-person in Syracuse, NY this June for a one and a half day convening. Of course, there is no better way to kick off a gathering than with great food. Scientist and writer Louise Fresco said “food, in the end, in our tradition, is something holy. It’s not about nutrients and calories. It’s about sharing. It’s about honesty. It’s about identity”.

The content of the convening drew on the talents of the group. Gary Lyon, a consultant to Centerboard in Lynn, MA, and VP of Innovation and External Affairs/Senior Diversity Officer of Judge Baker Children’s Center, led the group through a cultural learning and sharing exercise. He also added new tools to the members’ facilitation “tool boxes,” introducing the multicultural process of change and leading a discussion of identities. Dina Thompson, Executive Director of Erie County Restorative Justice Coalition, guided the group through a process to help members hold their values during the time together. Each member of the group contributed actively, resulting in a gathering that was both nurturing and meaningful. 

Group members shared the following reflections:

  • How important it was for them to step away from their day-to-day work to recharge; 
  • How this type of convening is an investment in what community can look like; 
  • They shared the need to replicate this type of network in other spaces; 
  • They lifted up the importance of brave spaces for facilitation practice; and
  • They expressed excitement to translate these lessons to their organizations.  

Meredith Shaw, one of the network’s members shared:

The day and a half to connect, explore and take the collective exhale together was deeply appreciated.  What an amazing group of individuals with which to spend time!  The storytelling and sharing, the reflection and processing, the thinking aloud, and exploration of the multi-cultural process of change, with Gary’s guidance and the group think, was especially helpful.  I left with much to consider, digest, and explore with humility and wonder, as I think about how to enhance and deepen our Diversity Equity Inclusion and Belonging work in the region. 

This group continually reminds the Tower Foundation team of the ways in which our grant partners are doing incredible work on the path to more just and equitable communities. They have inspired us to move our own diversity, equity, and inclusion work forward at the Foundation. Chuck Colston reflects on this network, “It’s a privilege to be a part of a group of people who all have such a strong commitment to equity. Even though these network members are from different states and work in very different organizations, we all encourage and support each other through similar challenges in advancing this work.

Network members:

  • Hehershe Busuego, Director of Programs & Racial Equity – Essex County Community Foundation, Danvers, MA
  • Chuck Colston, Program Officer – Peter & Elizabeth Tower Foundation, Buffalo, NY
  • Kelly D. Dumas, Chief Operating Officer – BestSelf Behavioral Health, Inc., Buffalo, NY
  • Lindsay Haldeman – Private Consultant, Rochester, NY
  • Sophie Kouble, Executive Assistant – Cape Abilities, Inc., Hyannis, MA
  • Gary Lyon, consultant – Centerboard in Lynn, MA, and VP of Innovation and External Affairs/Senior Diversity Officer – Judge Baker Children’s Center, Boston, MA
  • Megan MacDavey, Program Officer – Peter & Elizabeth Tower Foundation, Buffalo, NY
  • Samuel Mattle, Executive Director – Center for Self Advocacy, Buffalo, NY
  • Dina Thompson, Executive Director – Erie County Restorative Justice Coalition, Buffalo, NY
  • Meredith Shaw, Executive Director – Tri-Town Council, Topsfield, MA