Create a shared ownership and accountability, across MHP, to drive a culture of belonging and inclusion for all staff
Enabling a Culture of Action and Inclusion for Organizational Growth
The Massachusetts Housing Partnership (MHP) is a public, non-profit organization that works to increase access to, and the supply of, affordable housing. Since 2019, alongside an influx of new and diverse talent to the organization, MHP has worked to gain a deep understanding of its culture and intentionally advance a more inclusive environment for its staff.
In 2020, under the leadership of an internal Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) working group, MHP identified several DEI priorities to advance throughout the year. However, the resources and time required to drive these priorities forward were hard to find, as MHP faced increased demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the housing sector.
In 2021, Coeuraj began working with MHP to reorient the organization on these DEI goals and create shared ownership and accountability amongst its staff tosteward this change.
Our approach to work centered around bringing staff members into the equation: having the leaders of MHP champion this change, but ensuring impact and growth were felt and stewarded by each individual.
To re-engage the larger organization with its DEI priorities, Coeuraj worked with MHP’s leadership team and DEI working group to design a survey to assess the experience of belonging across the organization. This data allowed both groups to pinpoint staff sentiment towards the DEI priorities as well as the organization’s culture.
After capturing this survey data, Coeuraj facilitated a participatory design session to invite the entire MHP team to co-create a shared vision for inclusion and belonging, generate excitement with all employees, and align on and drive DEI priorities as an organization. From this session, four priorities were selected to be the starting point of MHP’s ongoing DEI journey:
- Creating an equitable approach to employee growth and development,
- Building out a multi-year DEI learning agenda,
- Developing new equity-based retention practices, and
- Exploring how to use staff identity data to continue to drive positive change.
For organizational transformation to resonate across a given system, the best solutions are designed from lived and shared experiences.
With these four priorities in hand, it was important that the action forward was designed by MHP for MHP. Building from the all-staff prioritization session, Coeuraj created a four-month-long collaborative design program for four DEI workstreams.
Each workstream was made up of a group of up to seven MHP volunteers and a Coeuraj facilitator, tasked with developing work towards one of the identified DEI priorities. Meeting on a weekly basis, the workstreams completed Coeuraj’s co-design program toturn each DEI principle into actionable progress.
To make a fundamental shift to an organization’s culture, the readiness of its staff is a key factor to success.
Through Coeuraj’s program design, the workstreams created new processes and ways of working for the organization-at-large, contributing to a culture of shared ownership when it came to turning DEI principles into action.
Alongside the workstreams, Coeuraj worked with MHP leaders to create new norms around decision making as well as internal communications. These activities prepared the organization for the change it was about to embark on, with inclusive ways to keep its staff aware of the change and part of the progress taking place.
In 2023, MHP will continue to implement its new DEI ways of working. The organization continues to stay connected with Coeuraj as it considers the next stage of its journey.
"Embarking on a DEI journey for the first time, MHP worked with Coeuraj to help engage our full staff in imagining what a more inclusive workplace would look like, identifying priorities and developing guiding principles for implementation. Coeuraj has served as a sounding board and partner as we attempt to build a culture that offers a stronger sense of belonging for all of our colleagues."
–Mahtowin Munro and Shelly Goehring, DEI Working Group co-chairs