Red Project efforts to strengthen Diversity, Racial Equity and Inclusion (DREI) in agency operations:
In 1998, Grand Rapids Red Project was founded as the local non-profit agency most willing to take risks to improve health, reduce risk and prevent the spread of HIV in populations most at risk. Red Project has continually committed itself to providing at risk persons access to the tools, information, resources and support needed to stay healthy. Our guiding principle has always been a harm reduction model. Populations most at risk are, by definition, marginalized and stigmatized: Black, Indigenous and People of Color, persons who use drugs, LGBTQI people, people involved in the sex trade, people impacted by the criminal legal system, and persons living with HIV/AIDS.
In 2020, Red Project received funding that allowed us to contract with Brigham Consulting to guide our efforts and strengthen our impact in communities of color. Brigham Consulting worked with our entire staff to help us self-reflect, learn how to better relate to one another on a daily and ongoing basis, and better understand how systems and structures dehumanize the other. Specific, on-going steps include:
- Shift our framework from “community engagement” to “coalition building”;
- Strengthen staff recruitment and retention by being open about Diversity, Racial Equity, and Inclusion efforts, providing pathways for staff to provide meaningful input and center talent development and training efforts on people of color;
- Recognize that these efforts include internal and external work linked to coalition building which will require utilizing resources that teach us to effectively develop a culture that fosters belonging and inclusion;
- Incorporate Diversity, Racial Equity, and Inclusion into the agency Strategic Plan for continual monitoring and development;
- Strengthen efforts to build staff and board that more accurately reflect the diversity of the populations we serve.
We recognize that the success of both the harm reduction and racial justice movements are intertwined, and we commit to employ, build leadership in, and transition power to communities disproportionately impacted by the health and social issues we address.