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Inclusive Gainesville

Inclusive Gainesville


With challenge comes opportunity. Communities around the country and the world have united in asking, “How can we do better?” as we look for solutions that create a more inclusive and equitable world. Gainesville has long been ahead of the curve on these topics and conversations, but recent events afforded us the opportunity to reassess our dialogue and ramp up efforts to lift all our citizens up. Economic development drives success in every community, and equitable access to opportunity is key to a thriving community. Therefore, it is imperative to not only stabilize and create more local business opportunities, but also to ensure those opportunities are accessible to all.

“As a business community, we must take the time to gauge our health in the areas of diversity, inclusion and equity, and we must work continuously to improve,” said Eric Godet, president/ CEO of the Greater Gainesville Chamber. “Business is ideally suited to implement best practices as our conversations and culture continue to evolve. Action transforms future to present.”

In that spirit, Inclusive Gainesville is a holistic, community-wide initiative launched by the Greater Gainesville Chamber and anchor stakeholders to build a more inclusive and equitable community for everyone in our region. The effort focuses on improving wage equity and growth potential for under-represented populations by targeting workforce development and diverse business inclusion. Practical tools will include digital resources, personal connections and a minority business accelerator.

“I am so excited to be part of this historic initiative,” said Kathey Porter, founder and principal of Porter Brown Associates and Inclusive Gainesville Advisor. “We hope minority businesses feel like they finally have an opportunity to start, grow and thrive, and that they are part of a community invested in and rooting for their long-term success. I know the impact this will have, and it is exciting.”

Though newly launched this year, Inclusive Gainesville was born from the many conversations and local research aimed at increasing equity across our community that took place well before the pandemic brought the issue to the nightly news. In 2018, for example, the University of Florida, Santa Fe College, the Greater Gainesville Chamber, Alachua County, the City of Gainesville, UF Health and the Alachua County School Board — known as the Friendship 7 — funded a study called “Racial Inequity in Alachua County” (University of Florida Bureau of Economic and Business Research, 2018).

The study validated that minorities fare worse than whites in our community in almost every aspect of daily life, including educational attainment and salary levels, housing opportunity and quality and  transportation availability. It also helped illuminate the key elements to improve the situation: jobs and education. To dig deeper into finding the root causes of systemic inequities in Alachua County, in 2019, Santa Fe College (SFC) conducted “Measuring Racial Inequity: A Groundwater Approach,” an introductory workshop the Racial Equity Institute presented to the college.

Early last year, the Chamber partnered again with SFC, the University of Florida and the Community Foundation of North Central Florida to bring the workshop to the community at large. REI was formed to help leaders and organizations who want to proactively understand and address racism, both in their organization and in the community where the organization is working. The group emphasizes that to understand racism and effectively begin dismantling it requires a fierce, consistent and committed effort.

“Before we attempted to open what we knew would be a brutally honest dialogue, we wanted to validate that systemic racism is a real problem here,” Godet said. “The Racial Inequity study provided specific data that clearly documented the lesser outcomes experienced by people of color in our community. The Groundwater workshop then cemented the fact that our community is certainly not unique in experiencing these outcomes and that it will take true commitment on all our parts to affect lasting change.”

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From the Groundwater workshop –– which more than 270 community members attended virtually –– the Greater Gainesville Chamber and Gainesville Black Professionals partnered in 2020 to launch the discussion series, “Crossroads: Exploring Intersections in Race and Business.” The series was designed to facilitate authentic conversations that answer questions — submitted anonymously by employers and employees — about the implications of race in their day-to-day work, as well as the long-term visions they have for their business.

More than 450 people have participated in the first five episodes of Crossroads, with discussions including how race affects the average workplace, strategies to improve diversity when recruiting talent, the impact the national dialogue has had on employers and employees and identifying and dealing with microaggressions. Change is not possible without acknowledging the need for change, and that is the beauty of this ongoing community dialogue.

“We got the honest questions and answers we sought with the Crossroads conversations,” said Alyssa Brown, vice president of public policy for the Chamber. “The feedback we have received so far confirms that we are onto something. We were talking about the real problem, not a politically correct version of the problem.”

For more information about the Chamber’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, contact Chief Operating Officer Ian Fletcher at [email protected].

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