DEI Commission setting goals amid town-wide survey

By Kelly Walters - Correspondent

The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Commission has set resolutions for the new year on its journey toward creating a more inclusive, welcoming Concord.

The commission identified key goals for 2023 in a memo to the Select Board last month, from wrapping up a town-wide survey to creating a new incident reporting system for discrimination in town.

“The memo reflects over a year of work that the commission’s been doing meeting with the public to hear about their experience in Concord,” DEI Chair Josh Lee said in a Dec. 19, 2022 meeting with the board.

The commission hosted a number of well-attended community events in 2022, including a conversation with the police department and a speaker series with the League of Women Voters. Now, it aims to gather information to help direct future efforts through an online, town-wide survey, currently open to all who live, work or study in town. Questions are submitted anonymously and range from simple demographics, to whether participants feel a sense of belonging or have experienced discrimination based on their race, gender, disability status or other identifying factors while in town.

“As of today, we have 276 answers. We’re hoping to reach 1,000 answers before we close the survey,” Commission Member Andrea Foncerrada said. “We don’t have unlimited resources and time so you have to prioritize, and that’s what the survey will give you … data on how Concord is made up and what it wants.”

Establishing a system of accountability for discrimination is another top priority for the group. “We recommend that there be a two-part incident reporting system much like they have in Belmont,” Lee said, “one for incidents in schools and one for the public at large.” Belmont implemented a bias reporting system following a racially-charged hit and run in 2021.

Creating new systems from the ground up is a tall order for a group whose members also hold full time jobs, however. The commission hopes to hire dedicated staff and acquire additional funding from the town in the future, therefore, to give “arms and legs” to these projects, Lee said.

The group also intends to provide DEI training to select board members and evaluate housing production plans and residential tax policies to promote equity in housing access.

“I think it’s very important that we’re informed and that we can navigate diversity in a respectful and caring way,” Foncerrada said. “The town caring, setting this up, asking for help and asking for training makes a difference. It makes a difference for everyone to feel safe and welcome.”

Click here to access the DEI Commission’s town-wide survey.

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