The implementation and governance of a D&I Task Force has been increasingly important to the leadership and members of Torchbearers Akron. Our Leadership teams often discusses areas of improvement as it pertains to not only the organization as a whole, but the impact and impression that it has in the City of Akron. From training seminars to courses for leadership and members alike, Torchbearers has proven to be organizational drivers of change and growth. Overall, it is our innate desire to ensure that everyone in society feels represented and welcome in the organization. Our D&I as an organization began more intentionally with the first strategic plan, even though it had been a fabric of Torchbearers since it’s inception.
Since 2018, the D&I Task Force was created and helped hold an initial meeting, a facilitated conversation by outside professional, participated in conjunction with Leadership Akron in Shift Akron and their own D&I work.
With this premise in mind, when called upon by our president Vish Bhatt to serve as the D&I Task Force Chair, Andre Campbell knew that it was a no-brainer for him. As the Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion with The United Way, Andre saw this opportunity as a way for him to translate his professional expertise into volunteerism.
When talks of initiating a D&I Task Force began, there were several matters to be considered. Does there need to be more intentionality in the membership and recruitment process? How can we make sure that all young professionals, from non-profit, to education to corporate individuals feel welcome? How can we be certain that there is geographic diversity despite the fact that we originated in Summit County? And finally, how can we increase ethnic and minority participation in the organization? It was these questions that proved to be the foundation on which Andre would begin to cultivate the mission for the task force.
Andre’s technical understanding of diversity and inclusion, his life experiences and his passion for understanding different cultures and differences drives him to want to teach others what it is like to understand and ultimately celebrate our differences. As a leader, he is dedicated to educating, equipping and cultivating future leaders in the area of DE&I. I asked Andre about the significance of the “equity” portion of DE&I and his response was inspiring:
“Terminology can often mean different things to different people. With diversity, equity and inclusion we are not simply bringing people to the table. We are also looking to give opportunities to different people with all different experiences in efforts to leveling the playing field. Without equity, everything else is futile,” he said. “As an organization focused on community service, Torchbearers Akron is an arm extended to the Greater Akron community to bridge gaps between various nonprofit organizations and communities. We make changes not only as an organization, but as individual members as we tear down divisive walls.”
Meghan Meeker, Campbell’s co-lead for the D&I Task Force, is looking forward to seeing positive, real change come about in the community because of this Task Force “I’ve been heartened this year to see so many Torchbearers members getting involved in the D&I Task Force for the first time. My favorite moment so far has been the training we were able to offer our members with Billy Taylor and Andre Lessears, they offered such amazing insights and I know our members felt fulfilled and moved by our time with these leaders. I’m hopeful for the future of the D&I Task Force and for some of the things that are in the works to add to the strength of Torchbearers programming.”
If you are interested in joining the D&I Task Force, feel free to reach out to Andre Campbell or Meghan Meeker. We are looking for any young professionals who are ready to move the needle forward. As a task force we will work to:
- Define what D&I means as an organization
- Create awareness, encourage aptitude and reinforce opportunity
- Identify areas where we can make a quick impact in D&I
We hope to see you at the next meeting.