Early in 2020, before any pandemic shenanigans, we reached out to an awesome local diversity and inclusion organization to discuss hiring them to audit the diversity, equity and inclusion values and actions Peak Resilience stands for. But why did we want an external company to audit our practice?
We believe the personal is political, and that mental health is socially determined by many factors in our society (factors that many of the team at Peak benefit from). As the founder of Peak, there are some things about myself that I cannot change such as - being a white, cisgendered, heterosexual woman - and I wanted to ensure some accountability outside of my good intentions to social justice in mental health care. I wanted Cicely and their team to engage our community to discover how we can create more belonging and safety at Peak Resilience for everyone.
The results of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion audit data showed what we had been told directly by clients and counsellors and I knew in my bones. The results showed that despite thinking of myself as holding intersectional feminist values, there were parts of Peak Resilience (and me) that weren’t reflecting those values. The only way for us to grow is to embrace these uncomfortable truths so we can do better.
Here’s another fact about our survey - we only had 33 people out of our community of over a thousand who completed the survey. We analyzed why and believe it’s because we didn’t promote it enough or maybe incentivize it enough.
We hope for more respondents next year, but here are the data based on 33 respondents:
Diversity (‘Who’s in the room’)
The feedback from our audit highlighted the homogeneity of Peak’s counsellors. We are a largely white, cisgender, heterosexual, visibly able-bodied, and atheist team of women who are of similar ages. This demographic information shows the need for diversification of our team to match the needs of our community.
Inclusion and Belonging (How do people feel at Peak)
Overall the sense of inclusion and belonging in both our physical space (office) and virtual space (social media, website, and online sessions) was high.
The pandemic has put limitations on clients coming into the office, and we recognize that virtual counselling brings up unique challenges (particularly if roommates or partners are also working from home). With the ongoing uncertainty of the pandemic, the accessibility landscape is continually evolving.
Values (what is important to Peak)
While respondents indicated there was obvious commitment to allyship, mental health and wellbeing, inclusion, and intersectionality, they also noted that Peak Resilience has room for improvement in their commitment to restorative justice, reconciliation, decolonization, diversity, and physical accessibility.
Through written feedback we received positive responses about our team’s ability to create safety with clients. Specifically, feelings of reciprocity and trust came from anti-oppression and decolonization work in the counselling room.
Respondents identified that they would like to see increased accessibility for queer or gender non-conforming communities, as well as for sex workers..
Receiving feedback from our community is of the utmost importance. We know that we won’t always get it right, and it is integral to the safety of our staff, clients, and community that our missteps are shared with us. While most felt like there were clear opportunities to report an incident or offer feedback, some did not.
If you’d like to share feedback, please email our Community Engagement Coordinator firstname.lastname@example.org (this is an invitation to give feedback!)
We know that anti-oppression work, anti-racism work, decolonization, and reconciliation do not happen overnight. There is no checkbox to fill out our answers and be done.
This is a lifelong commitment to being diverse, equitable, accessible, and inclusive.
As part of our audit, Cicely Blain and Bakau Consulting have provided us with recommendations to help diversify our team, foster a deeper sense of inclusion and belonging, and create safer spaces for our staff and our clients.
The actions that we are taking going forward are reflected in areas like our hiring processes, our staff training, our conflict resolution, and our social media content.
We have created an internal action plan that includes (but is not limited to):
- The implementation of an updated Diversity and Inclusion Policy Workplace policy (linked below)
- Compensating our team to meet once a month for anti-oppression meetings to ensure our actions align with our values
- Building safety within our team and community and remembering trust and relations are built over time and investment
We are incredibly grateful to Cicely and their team, and our community members who took the time to offer their feedback. We know this process helps create a safer and more equitable Peak Resilience for all. We are looking forward to our next audit and hope to have more and more participation each year.