The What & Why of JEDI
The Arvana Group provides its approach to doing justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI) work at outdoor companies.
Aparna Rajagopal (she/her) and Ava Holliday (she/her), co-founders of The Avarna Group, lead us through “The What & Why of JEDI.” The Arvana Group is a consulting firm that supports outdoor and environmental organizations in their justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI) work. In the first half of the presentation, Rajagopal defines key terms. In the second half, Holliday focuses on why engaging in JEDI work can support companies in the active-outdoor industries.
The aim of this webinar is to cultivate a collective consciousness around justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion issues, igniting individual and organizational action. Many of us passively benefit from systemic injustices that are already in place, such as classism, racism, or sexism. However, if we aren’t actively being anti-classist, anti-racist, or anti-sexist, then these systems remain. Although JEDI work requires the support of leadership, we all have an individual part to play when it comes to dismantling inequities day-to-day.
We’ve created this recap as a reference guide you can return to and send along to others. Still, we highly encourage everyone to watch the full, hour-long webinar (linked at the bottom). All participants will walk away with the ability to engage in JEDI work thoughtfully and with intention.
What is JEDI?
JEDI stands for “justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion.” The Arvana Group’s definition of the latter three terms are similar to our own, available in our foundational blog post, “Defining Inclusion, Equity, and Diversity in the Workplace.” “Justice” is about dismantling barriers to resources and opportunities in society. These barriers are essentially the “isms” in society: racism, classism, sexism, etc. With “justice,” all individuals and communities can live a full and dignified life.
Incorporating “justice” into DEI work changes things slightly, as it demands a focus on working to remove systematic barriers:
Before you begin with JEDI work, consider why it’s important to your company and the outdoor industry as a whole. If someone asks you why you’re engaged in JEDI work, how would you answer?
Some great reasons:
- Staff Experience – All staff deserve to thrive in the workplace and feel a sense of belonging.
- Innovation – Organizations with a diversity of staff—who feel a sense of belonging—are able to more quickly problem solve and innovate. This helps in improving your bottom line.
- Stronger Community Partnerships – Engaging in JEDI work strengthens community and grassroots partnerships; it ensures that partnerships are mutualistic.
- Access to Inclusive Outdoor Experiences – How do companies contribute to these types of experiences? How can our gear create more people? How can our marketing reflect people of all backgrounds?
- Righting Past Wrongs – We must add a JEDI lens to conservation advocacy and granting, otherwise, we risk fueling past injustices.
There are many authentic reasons for engaging in JEDI work. What you want to avoid though, are reactionary reasons for engaging in it. Reactionary reasons are things that are less values-based and instead, represent reactions to fear, such as liability, relevancy, or public call-outs. These reactions aren’t authentic and will come off as disingenuous to your employees, customers, and the public at large.
For example: “Now that minorities are going to be in the majority, including them is important.”
Questions and Answers from the Webinar:
If a JEDI or DEI committee is just beginning at an organization, what are the next steps to actively incorporate JEDI in the organization’s culture?
First and foremost, figure out what the purpose of your committee is. If you’re not clear on what you’re doing, your committee won’t be productive. For example, maybe your purpose is to provide education to the rest of the company, or maybe your committee more about driving a strategic process. Or perhaps it’s about coming up with a vision statement.
Regarding how to start this work internally, reach out to your People and Culture or your Human Resources lead about incorporating this work into some people’s job descriptions. Make sure you have people across the hierarchy and across identities on your committee—if it’s just middle-level folks and people from marginalized communities, that can feel tokenizing.
Lastly, make sure you’re meeting with every department to see how JEDI shows up day-to-day. Build out your strategies accordingly with the support of leadership. Everyone at your company will need something they can do, however small, to feel committed to this work.
What can you do if leadership at your company isn’t committed to JEDI work?
Buy-in from leadership is one of the biggest challenges in doing this work. If your company has a mission, try and connect JEDI values to it. Harnessing the research regarding innovation and the business case behind JEDI work can also light a fire under leadership. Additionally, finding someone within leadership who can be a champion for you and can tackle some of the more difficult conversations is always helpful.
If you’re the only one—only woman, only person of color, only person that identifies as LGBQT+—on your team, or in the room, what are some tips for raising a red flag when your company is heading down a path that is counterproductive without the fear of consequences?
First and foremost, it’s important to find a community of people who are similar to you to help you process and share the challenges you face. Maybe that’s on the internet or through a local organization—it doesn’t necessarily have to be internal.
In terms of how to navigate the fear of retaliation, find examples of other companies that have done this work and have had success (even if they’re outside the outdoor industry). This allows you to not have to extend your own personal experience.
Continue Your Education:
Special thank you to our sponsors, W.L. Gore & Associates, Inc., for making this webinar possible.