By Bill Warners
Since spring of 2015 WMEAC has been working to achieve level one credentials from Partners for a Racism Free Community (PRFC) in order to honor WMEAC’s commitment to inclusion and diversity. In February, WMEAC was awarded level one credentials by PRFC, which is a big step forward in gaining valuable inclusive strategies and opportunities like: establishing a defined definition of racial equity, reaching out to minority networks, and tracking recruitment practices.
PRFC is a collaborative group that partners with Grand Rapids organizations and businesses to create communities in their respective spaces that try to eliminate institutional racism. Through an intensive credentialing process, PRFC assesses organizations’ current systems to provide mentoring on how to improve diversity and inclusion practices.
“The WMEAC Board of Directors chose to pursue PRFC credentials because it provides an established best practice and formal process to evaluate and improve WMEAC’s policies, procedures, programs, and culture regarding race equity.” said Anne Marie Hertl, WMEAC’s Community Activism Manager.
PRFC focuses on challenging and changing six targeted areas including: Leadership Engagement; Internal Policies, Practices and Processes; External Collaborations and Relationships; Contractor, Supplier or Vendor Practices; Client, Congregation, Customer, and/or Marketplace Practices; Measurements, and Results.
Through the first segment of the credentialing process, organizations receive guidance in inclusive practices and policies, and then receive what is known as a level one PRFC accreditation upon successful completion. Once level one is successfully completed, organizations are eligible and encouraged to pursue a level two PRFC accreditation which focuses on measuring the goals and results of the systems already put into place.
In keeping with adjusting their own targeted areas, WMEAC is currently working on maintaining their level one credentials from PRFC through implementing measurable inclusion practices that will affect programs, staff, and training. Over time, WMEAC will expand representation of racial minorities on WMEAC’s board, committees, membership, and programming. WMEAC will also continue to partner with Grand Rapids Public Schools, West Ottawa Schools, City of Grand Rapids, Kent County, Local First, and neighborhood associations.
Other Grand Rapids organizations that have completed this accreditation process include: Brann’s Steakhouse & Sports Grille, Bethany Christian Services, Grand Rapids Initiative for Leaders, The Source, Tall Turf Ministries, Family Futures, YWCA West Central Michigan, Grand Valley State University, and Calvin College.
Key to WMEAC’s PRFC accreditation was the oversight of WMEAC’s IDEAL Advisory board (Inclusion and Development of Environment Allies and Leaders), a group of local citizens and leaders tasked with raising awareness and establishing community relationships around environmental issues.The IDEAL Advisory Board provided feedback on how the proposed policies to PRFC could better integrate the IDEAL initiative into the strategic vision of WMEAC with practices such as: drafting an updated equal opportunity policy, job postings, and hiring procedures; defining language of inclusion and diversity; formulating website equity statements, and hiring IDEAL scholars.
Dr. Michelle Loyd-Paige, who is the Executive Associate to the President for Diversity and Inclusion at Calvin College as well as a member of WMEAC’s IDEAL Advisory Board, guided Calvin to also achieve accreditation from PRFC. She sees WMEAC’s achievement as a bold and encouraging step towards inclusion and diversity work.
“Calvin College’s participation in the Partners for a Racism Free-Community institutional assessment culminated in its receiving the organization’s highest award, Level 2 Credentialed Partner, in 2015,” She wrote. “Participating the in the process was a helpful catalyst to Calvin in strengthening our diversity and inclusion efforts.”
Dr. Loyd-Paige congratulated WMEAC on its accomplishment: “I see WMEAC’s achieving Level 1 accreditation from PRFC as a good step in the right direction and one that builds on its own diversity and inclusion efforts,” she wrote. “I am very pleased to see that an outside agency like PRFC has recognized WMEAC’s efforts to date and can only imagine how far WMEAC’s partnership with PRFC will take them.”
On April 21st PRFC hosted its annual FORUM conference which helps address institutional and individual bias by educating multi-sector professionals. During the conference WMEAC and other partners were recognized for their commitment by achieving their credentials. WMEAC is proud of having been able to achieve its credentials this year and looks forward to returning to the conference in the future, hopefully for a level two.