Our 2018 webinar series began by exploring ‘The Value of Diversity and Inclusion in our Holistic Centers’ hosted by the Omega Institute in upstate New York. This is a theme Omega have been actively diving into for nearly four years and although they don’t claim to be experts they offered practical tools that we can all learn from.
Carol Donahoe, Program Director of Omega, began by sharing how life changing the conversations have been and highlighting the necessary first step to embrace the learning journey, “It’s vital to have everyone on board. The leadership team must be in agreement that this topic is a priority.”
This was eased by the CEO already holding this belief and from informal lunch time conversations around colour, culture, age, gender and economics among staff, relevant meetings soon became an official part of the organisation.
A powerful vision statement was created, recognising the systems of inequality and injustice embedded in society, the importance of cultivating awareness around how this plays out, and the enrichment that’s possible when attitudes and beliefs shift, for the benefit of all.
It was clear throughout the webinar that Carol and her colleague Veronica are deeply engaged and passionate about their personal commitment, as they gave an overview of the Omega approach to the participants on the call, representing the Findhorn Foundation, Esalen, Hollyhock, The Haven and Retreat Guru.
- The organization made a commitment to addressing diversity and inclusion;
- Omega created a vision statement that addresses this and articulates the “why” of the commitment;
- Training programs for staff – Opening Doors – a three day workshop retreat creating a climate for constructive change on diversity for individuals and organizations;
- A group of core staff were brought together to create a Platforms of Equity team focused on this topic;
- Two groups have been formed and facilitated among the seasonal staff:
a) one addressing racial sensitivity
b) one addressing LGTBQ sensitivity
- To expand the invitation to participants who might not be able to afford Omega programs, the scholarship program has been expanded over the last 4 years, from 30 scholarships offered to over 300+.
- Along that same thinking, tiered pricing on programs is offered in each of the learning paths.
“Participants can choose between three prices, and pay whatever they feel they can afford.”
- Hosting a Non-retreat week. Non-profits who are doing work that aligns with Omega’s mission can apply to bring their team, board or staff for a week at no cost.
“It also gives them an opportunity to network with other nonprofits.”
- Hiring an expert from an organization whose purpose is ‘Changing organizational systems and societal institutions to be inclusive and respecting individuals for their humanity.’
Carol explained, “She facilitated several conversations with Omega full staff, to give a deeper understanding of our own hidden biases, and how to move beyond them.”
In Q&A time the question was raised about the success of this approach. It’s clear it’s not possible to quantify, that it’s intuitive rather than logical. The goal was not to attract more participants, it was more about cultivating the belief, “I am enriched” and how this plays out slowly over time. “It’s like choosing to step into a relationship, a marriage, and not knowing the end result,” explained Carol.
One noticeable difference is a more diverse faculty and an energy shift that attracts more diverse participants. The conversation expands, changing the feeling within the whole system, and this is one of the many reasons why the role of holistic centers is so important in the world today.
“Thanks so much, I really love participating in these calls and appreciate your blog a lot!”
Michelle Heinz, Retreat Guru.
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