Company: Region of Waterloo
Innovation: Dialogues on Diversity
Award Recognition: Honorable Mention

Dialogues on Diversity facilitate conversation between Region of Waterloo employees, partner organizations, and the community to deepen understanding of the different dimensions of diversity and learn how to increase inclusive access to services. This is one activity in the Region of Waterloo’s Diversity and Inclusion strategy.

Five Dialogues on Diversity have been hosted between February 2012 and March 2013 with over 850 attendees. Topics addressed to date include people living with disabilities, people of color, creating age friendly communities, LGBTQ, and immigrant civic participation. The collaboration with almost sixty community members and partner organizations, as well as the internal departments, to develop and host these dialogues increases the value for employees and community members that attend. Additional dialogues are being planned until the end of 2014.

While there is a modest budget available for the development and implementation of the dialogues, the resources that have been instrumental include management support and the in-kind contributions from our internal and external partners. The support of the executive sponsor, the chief administrative officer, and management across the organization has made a significant impact in providing leadership for this activity. Internal staff time to plan and implement the event, with one regional department taking the lead with support from internal and external partners. There are often in-kind contributions (e.g. rooms) from community partners that help as well. Each participant receives a participant package with valuable information such as resource lists for that dimension of diversity.

Through the creation of an open and safe environment, these dialogues have provided employees and community members opportunities to discuss how to address the potential barriers faced by diverse communities to accessing programs and services. Several of these suggestions have been acted on such as the creation of a gender neutral washroom, a quiet room for meditation, and a number of employee resources. Through the planning and implementation of these dialogues, the Region of Waterloo has further strengthened its relationship with the community and built a consultation network.