An Update on Forum One’s DEIA Approach
Forum One’s formal efforts around Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion began about three years ago with the creation of our DEI team. Since then, we have revisited our commitment multiple times, formally adding the “A” to the acronym to call out and center the importance of accessibility in every aspect of our work, and thought a lot about authenticity, but we haven’t talked a lot about our efforts publicly. That internal focus has been intentional and deliberate. We are not experts in DEIA and we felt it was important not to position ourselves as such, but rather to focus on our own needs as an organization so that we could better define our strengths, gaps, processes, and approach for ensuring DEIA work here is supported, sustainable, sincere, and genuine.
Here’s an update on where we are, what we’ve learned, and how we hope to continue to grow.
How we think about DEIA now
Over the course of the last few years, it has become clear that we need to think of our DEIA efforts in two distinct, but interrelated ways:
DEIA is about who we are and how we conduct ourselves as an organization—how we make and enforce policies including our hiring and staffing practices, how we define our core values that we aim to work and live by, how we support and empower staff, and how we choose the clients that we work with.
DEIA is also about what we do. We are designers and researchers, communications professionals, and developers. Our role is to understand our clients and their audiences and build the right solution with them—not for them. We need to take a DEIA lens to every aspect of the work we produce at every stage of a project. DEIA principles need to be baked into how we approach the sites we build, the research we do, and the plans we make in a way that is systemized, documented, and repeatable.
So where are we now?
Our current efforts are still very much a work in progress in a lot of ways, but we’ve tackled this dual-need through both corporate-level and departmental-level DEIA initiatives.
At the organizational level, we’re focused on our team.
A staff-wide survey last year revealed some key priorities, including:
- An equity review of compensation. Through an internal compensation review, as well an external one to benchmark against market rates, we are actively evaluating our current salary structures to ensure that they are equitable across the organization.
- Staff manager training. We are launching formalized guidance and training sessions to increase consistency in the staff experience, and so that our managers are equipped with the right practices and skills to effectively provide guidance, support, and learning opportunities to their direct reports.
- Mentorship and career opportunities. Forum One is committed to providing professional opportunities for future leaders from diverse backgrounds. Through an ongoing partnership with the Posse Foundation, we support the development of rising young leaders from diverse backgrounds through its summer internship and mentorship program.
- Ongoing feedback. Our cross-functional DEIA team is planning for another staff survey to gauge future priorities and staff needs.
At the disciplinary level, we’re focused on the work.
- Discipline working groups. The best way to come up with ideas for improvement and implement changes in the actual execution of our projects is at the discipline level. Over the last year, we’ve created working groups focused on integrating new ideas and practices related to DEIA into our processes and approach to business development, project delivery, design, user experience, development, research, and communications. These efforts have included refining and documenting our approach to inclusive language, inclusive research practices, co-creation principles in design, and more.
- Defined accessibility standards. We believe accessibility is critical to every digital project we undertake, and every opportunity we create for our staff to thrive. Because industry understanding of accessibility best practices is constantly evolving, alongside our own, we created a cross-functional accessibility working group dedicated to defining accessibility standards across disciplines so that we can find new and better ways to work together. This results in accessible products and equitable opportunities for all staff and job applicants.
In user experience, we design, test, learn and repeat, and that’s a good way to think about DEIA efforts too. Our next staff survey will refine our priorities based on what we hear so that all staff have a voice in the approach to this work. We’ll evaluate practices and processes to see what’s working and what needs to be improved or done differently. We’ll listen to our staff and our clients and address the needs and concerns that arise. This work is iterative in nature, and also never complete. DEIA is not something you can accomplish; it’s an ongoing practice and one we’re committed to continuing.