When Dr. Kevin McDonald was brought to MU in the spring of 2016 and named the UM System’s first ever chief equity officer, many community leaders had high hopes for what his appointment would mean for the university and Columbia as a whole.

For months during late 2015 and early 2016, Columbia made media headlines in part because of bias, discrimination, and lack of inclusion. McDonald’s appointment provided a glimmer of hope that change was coming. This hope, and the fact that we had a community ready to begin the difficult work of facing our challenges and striving for an inclusive community where every citizen could live and thrive, created the perfect foundation for clear and intentional initiatives.

When McDonald introduced an inclusive excellence framework and began a system-wide initiative to implement the framework into each department, school, and division, we could see the potential solution for our business community as well.

Through a collaboration with CBT, we shared the framework with business leaders, and we began conversations about translating the higher education language of the framework into business language. McDonald worked closely with leaders from the Diversity Awareness Partnership (now the Inclusive Impact Institute) and corporate partners like Veterans United Home Loans and Shelter Insurance to lead the charge.

An organization that accepts the integration of the framework makes the statement that they have a respect for and understanding of diversity, inclusion, and equity and stand on the principles that it represents. They have made the practice of inclusive excellence a part of who they are and what they do.

Several businesses and organizations in Columbia have been working with the Inclusive Impact Institute and the MU Division of Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity since January to understand each of the five dimensions of the framework: access and success; training and education; community engagement; organizational climate and intergroup relations; and organizational infrastructure.

Businesses participating in the Journey Toward Inclusive Excellence diversity initiative will sign a document entitled “Principles of Community.” The principles of community are aspirational statements that embody an organization’s level of commitment to diversity and equality and reflect the ideals they aspire to uphold.

Businesses and organizations adopt and practice the following principles as fundamental parts of their ongoing efforts to increase access and inclusion and to create a community that nurtures learning and growth for all of its members. We view the signing of the principles of community as the final step in the integration of the inclusive excellence framework. Businesses have made their dedication and intent clear when the principles are put into place.

The principles state:

We affirm the inherent dignity and value of every person and strive to maintain a climate for work and learning based on mutual respect and understanding.

We affirm the right of each person to express thoughts and opinions freely. We encourage open expression within a climate of civility, sensitivity, and mutual respect.

We affirm the value of human diversity because it enriches our lives and our organizations. We acknowledge and respect our differences while affirming our common humanity.

We reject all forms of prejudice and discrimination, including those based on age, color, diverse ability, gender, gender identity, gender expression, national origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation, and veteran status. We take individual and collective responsibility for helping to eliminate bias and discrimination and for increasing our own understanding of these issues through education, training, and interaction with others.

We pledge our collective commitment to incorporate these principles into our mission.

We will continue the work necessary to create the community that we wish to see — a beloved community. The concept of a beloved community is adopted from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s global vision in which poverty, hunger, and homelessness will not be tolerated because international standards of human decency will not allow it. Racism and all forms of discrimination, bigotry, and prejudice will be replaced by an all-inclusive spirit of sisterhood and brotherhood.

Our community should be proud of the work we are doing. One business at a time; one citizen at a time. The journey continues.

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