Ideas to action: Building a plan for a more inclusive UBC

Louise Griep, Engagement Strategist with the Equity & Inclusion Office, shares her experience of facilitating the development of UBC’s Inclusion Action Plan (IAP), and how she hopes the plan will create a more inclusive and equitable environment at UBC.

University-wide engagements around the plan will continue over July, August, and September 2019. The refined draft plan will be presented to the UBC executive in October, and the Board of Governors for approval in early December.

What does the IAP mean for staff, faculty, and students?  How will this change their experience at UBC?

The IAP provides a common understanding of the directions and actions that we agreed would most likely help us create a more welcoming and inclusive university.

There are a lot of existing and inspiring efforts already under way all across campus, and the IAP provides an opportunity to leverage these efforts towards greater collective impact. Everyone on campus is and will be able to contribute towards that.

We want to build more equitable and inclusive opportunities for students, staff, faculty, as well as senior leadership. This means addressing people’s experiences, and particularly the experiences of those community members that have been systemically, persistently, and historically marginalized.

The core of the plan focuses on building our capacity as community members to be more inclusive. It also aims to identify how we can transform our systems so that the university itself – as an institution – has the capacity, systems, and policies that ensure that community members have equitable opportunities to flourish – whether in learning, teaching, researching, or working.

For example, I – well “we” – hope everyone can reflect on their own positions, explore what they can do to help reverse marginalization, and consider how they can engage with their peers and colleagues. It also considers how and what data is being gathered, and how that informs our decisions; how research might be done with and across diverse groups to influence innovation and drive change in the system; and how we can attract and retain an excellent and diverse workforce and academic community.

Overall, the plan is intended to build a more inclusive UBC – as an institution and as a community.

How would you define inclusion?

It’s beyond just fairness and equity around how people are recruited, treated, recognized, welcomed, and included.

As we’ve suggested in the plan, it’s a commitment to creating a welcoming community where those historically, persistently, and systemically marginalized are treated equitably, feel respected, and belong. Inclusion is built by individual and institutional responsibility through continuous engagement with diversity to inspire people, ideas, and actions for a better world.

What did you hear from the initial community engagement efforts?

This plan is really important to the UBC community! People want to be able to thrive, in all their diversity – and they care about that deeply. This plan and process will hopefully provide resources and opportunities to enable that to happen at UBC.

We heard from over 1,750 students, staff, and faculty and collected over 5,400 action ideas. Details of that will be published shortly in a “What We Heard” report so that everyone can learn about the ideas that were submitted and considered.

What surprised you the most?

One of the things that stood out was how engaged, interested, and supportive the community is around this work. It was also a great opportunity to learn about all the diverse efforts already under way.

The other thing that appeared to come up frequently is accountability – this notion that folks are really eager to ensure that if we’re talking about this work, we have to actually do it, live it, and be transparent about progress.

Can you tell us a little bit about next steps and how the IAP might impact change?

We will shortly be sharing information and invitations to in-depth consultations with those who will be most directly affected by the plan – those who have been historically, persistently, and systemically marginalized, as well as with various leadership groups that will be supporting the implementation of the plan.

The refined draft plan will be presented to the UBC executives in October, and the Board of Governors for approval in early December. After the plan is approved, we will develop implementation approaches and resources to guide units in their own efforts around inclusion.

I hope that people across the university feel like change can happen – will happen – and that they can see it happening. And if it doesn’t, that they have opportunities and ways to share their perspectives, and that appropriate mechanisms are in place to keep us on track.

How can the campus community stay involved?

Participate in our engagement sessions in August and September, and if you can’t, read the draft IAP on our website and leave a comment. You can also sign-up for our newsletter and learn about upcoming announcements, events and involvement opportunities, education, and resources.

To learn more about the IAP, visit equity.ubc.ca/iap.