INNOVATE is a verb and it means to make changes in something established, especially by introducing new methods, ideas, or products. It is often thought of as it relates to technology, inventions, manufacturing, and business development. It is less often thought of as it relates to culture, social development, diversity, and inclusivity. So, I would like to take a moment and change the conversation.
As Gainesville continues to embrace innovation and technology, we must be mindful of how it will impact our culture. As we invest in technology and economic development, we must invest in creating diverse and inclusive spaces. In order to be innovative and protect our culture, we must be willing to make changes by introducing new methods, ideas and sometimes products.
We must be willing to do things differently. Gainesville is an extremely diverse city but does not always feel inclusive to those who need it the most. As a city there are a few things we can do to create a sense of belonging for all residents.
BE INTENTIONAL. We must be intentional when it comes to diversity and inclusion. Being intentional means that we purposefully welcome others to the table. We go out of our way to extend an invitation to others. For example, an HR manager might consider placing job posting ads in nontraditional mediums in order to draw more applicants.
TAKE AN ASSESSMENT. We must be willing to take a true assessment of our professional and social spaces. Look around your workspace and see how many people are from different cultures, races, ethnic groups, religious beliefs, age groups and genders.
EXPAND YOUR NETWORK. We must be willing to step out of our comfort zones and visit other groups in their spaces. Go to networking events hosted by different groups, attend cultural events or festivals, visit a different church.
TALK ABOUT IT. We must be willing to have the difficult conversations. Be willing to ask others what would make them feel more welcome? And be willing to openly and honestly share thoughts, ideas and concerns.
Gainesville is established and it’s time for us to make changes. We must introduce new methods and ideas. As a community, we must be culturally innovative, we must look for ways to create a city where everyone feels a sense of belonging. We must be intentional in our efforts, be honest about our current limitations, and be willing to step out of our comfort zone to meet others in their spaces. If we do, we will create a community that is inclusive, diverse, and innovative.