2021 JC DE&I Year-End Summary

In March 2021, the Junior Council (JC) Board of Directors formed the JC Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) Committee. The committee functions as an open forum for JC members to gather and discuss DE&I and its role in Junior Council’s fundraising, social media, recruitment, programming, and initiatives. A year later we wanted to offer a retrospective on our goals, highlight what we have accomplished, discuss the lessons learned, and identify our plans for moving forward in 2022. 

Forming Our Goals

The JC Board realized that to create effective goals around DE&I, we first needed to better understand who our current members are and what their experiences have been like with Junior Council. To meet this need we launched our first-ever DE&I survey to JC members (you can find the survey results here). We received 36 responses in total, which makes up around one-third of our membership (~100 members). We used the survey responses in our committee meetings as a discussion tool to identify areas for improvement. 

From a demographic perspective, the survey supported our impressions that many Junior Council members identify as caucasian (~75%), heterosexual (~87%), female (~78%), and are working professionals living mostly on the north side (~63%) of Chicago. According to the survey, the second most common identity was Hispanic/Latinx (9%). We understand the responses only represent a third of our membership, but these figures were broadly confirmed by the feedback of the committee members. 

From an inclusion perspective, the survey told a positive story. Only including the responses of “strongly agree” and “agree” JC members, on the whole, felt respected and welcome (~95%), that JC cultivates a culture where people are respected and valued (~78%), and would take strict action against any kind of intolerance or discrimination (~80%). On the flip side, 10 percent of respondents felt that Junior Council could do a better job encouraging people of different backgrounds to apply for director positions. And less than 9 percent of people responded that they felt comfortable discussing their background and cultural experiences. There is obviously room for improvement here, which is addressed below.

Commentary about the survey: We acknowledge the survey responses might represent an echo chamber. For example, members who are active and engaged are likely respondents and would, in theory, be more inclined to feel respected and welcome. Prospective members who had unfavorable experiences with Junior Council likely wouldn’t join as members and would therefore not have been within the scope of this survey. 

After several months of reflection, we solidified our goals for 2021 and paired them with specific action items. While there are two separate goals with individual action items, both goals influence and support the other.

Our goals for 2021 

  1. Create a more diverse and inclusive membership 
  1. DE&I survey every 6 months to track our progress. 
  2. Highlight the board application process by posting on social media (LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.) and include a dedicated PowerPoint slide during general member meetings.
  3. Directors promise to publish an end-of-year DE&I summary report, which will be reviewed by the DE&I committee and published on social media and JC’s website for transparency and accountability. And include a DE&I statement when the summary report is published.
  4. Include a QR code on flyers at JC events for members to leave feedback about their experience. 
  5. Publicize that prospective or current members experiencing financial hardship can work with the JC Board to forgo annual dues. 
  1. Establish strong relationships with mission-driven community partners
  1. 2-3 volunteer (and free) events with other community organizations and diverse young professional groups. To be held in a variety of neighborhoods. 
  2. Goal of two events (or member happy hours) at different locations—other than Lincoln Park, River North, and Lakeview. 
  3. Form partnerships with and support minority-owned restaurants. The DE&I committee will work with the hospitality chair to track engagement and perform outreach to minority-owned restaurants.

Create a More Diverse and Inclusive Membership

When we launched the survey our initial goal was to resend the survey every 6 months to compare our progress. However, given the combination of communication fatigue from general Junior Council messaging, competing communication around upcoming events, COVID-19, and low survey response rates, the board chose to launch it annually instead. We launched the second survey in March 2022. That said, listed below are some of the ways Junior Council met our first goal during 2021.

  • Launched JC DE&I Survey twice (March 2021 and March 2022)
  • Included a QR code on flyers at JC events that took members to a form allowing them to anonymously submit their feedback about their experiences at JC events—both positive and negative. 
  • Enhanced focus on the idea of being inclusion ambassadors at events to make sure everyone feels welcome
  • Wrote and published (social media and website) the JC DE&I summary report
  • During general member meetings, directors would mention that if members are experiencing financial hardships they can talk to a director about joining without paying dues.

What did we learn? 

  1. We can be more intentional about communication of our goals during general member meetings. There was initial enthusiasm for the DE&I meetings, but it slowly waned as the year progressed (one or two members a meeting). We identified three possible reasons why: 1) we didn’t adequately engage DE&I members with action items they could take ownership of and plan during the year; 2) meeting timing didn’t work for members; 3) low visibility into DE&I’s goals among general members.
  1. To that end, we will be changing our meeting cadence in 2022. We will have larger planning meetings once a quarter and have DE&I breakout sessions at the end of every general member meeting. We believe this structure will allow for more intentional planning and increased membership visibility
  2. We will also be including a dedicated slide during general membership meetings that will announce our goals for the year and how members can get involved
  3. Additionally, a dedicated slide announcing leadership opportunities for general members will be included in every general member meeting

Establish strong relationships with mission-driven community partners

This goal has two main drivers. The first is to support our previous goal of creating a more diverse and inclusive membership. We will accomplish this by expanding our outreach to the broader Chicago community. The second is to create more non-drinking events for members. For additional context around the creation of this goal it’s helpful to understand how Junior Council traditionally recruits. Junior Council’s primary recruitment channels are through our large events (Boat Party, Snowball), our general member meetings, and word-of-mouth (WoM) among our friend groups. That said, because Junior Council relies so heavily on the connections of members’ friends, the demographics of the people who attend our events is more homogenous than not. Additionally, members have reported that they would like to see more non-drinking events. Junior Council has offered non-drinking events such as Cardio for a Cause and intramural sports, but we’d like to expand our event mix.

The main issue with what’s described above is that there is no intentional outreach to other communities (i.e. not just relying on WoM), which might lead to opportunities for more diverse attendance. This is where outreach and volunteerism with other mission-driven community partners would benefit Junior Council. We recognize that we exist as an organization dedicated to raising money for the HIV/AIDS program at Ann & Robert Lurie Children’s Hospital. But we are also part of a larger Chicago community of advocates and professionals. There are opportunities at the intersection of our missions to support each other. Through intentional outreach to other organizations and a fierce commitment to inclusivity we can create opportunities for people to engage with Junior Council. If these people find our mission and culture attractive, we can start to build a more diverse membership. To that end, listed below are some of the ways Junior Council lived into its second goal. 

  1. Made a connection with Holiday Heroes and set up a volunteer event for members
  2. Coordinated a meet-and-greet with the Associate Board of the AIDs Foundation of Chicago at a South Loop restaurant 
  3. Invited a guest speaker from the Young Leaders Fund to present at a Junior Council general member meeting

What did we learn?

Execution and planning around this goal could be better. We felt there was insufficient delegation of tasks to the DE&I committee and not enough coordination with outside organizations. Below are some of the ways we’ll improve in 2022. 

  1. We will be changing the structure of our meetings to focus more on execution than planning. This involves aligning on pre-work before the meetings and having specific action items for the committee to accomplish during the meetings
  2. We will continue to plan events with groups we met with in 2021 (Holiday Heroes, AIDs Foundation, and Young Leaders Fund) and other Chicago organizations
  3. Work with the membership chairs to plan events in areas other than the north side of Chicago 
  4. We weren’t able to work with and support minority-owned restaurants during 2021 because of COVID-19, but with the mask restrictions lifted in Chicago, we will be renewing outreach

That said, as we make our way into the second quarter of 2022, we are excited about improving on our goals. If you’re interested in getting involved and helping us improve, join the JC DE&I Committee! Please reach out to education@juniorcouncil.org to learn how you can participate. Please know the Junior Council Board of Directors is committed to working with our membership to ensure all people, regardless of background or identity, attending our events and participating in our programs feel welcome, included, and that their voices can be heard.

Sincerely, 

Junior Council Board of Directors