Alliance ED Lisa Howard on Organization’s Commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Recently, we announced our organizational “Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” statement. This statement, crafted with support by consultant group BDS Planning, details the Alliance for Pioneer Square’s commitment to developing and embedding a race and social equity framework within our organization’s foundation. This is a commitment to use our position as a leader, advocate, and trusted steward in the neighborhood to support populations within our community that are experiencing barriers to thriving, both economically and personally, due to the impacts of historic and ongoing systemic racism and oppression. 

In this month’s staff interview, Lisa Dixon Howard, Executive Director of the Alliance, talks about what the “Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” statement means for the organization and what’s next. 

  • The Alliance for Pioneer Square Board of Directors, and the Pioneer Square Business Improvement Area (BIA) Stakeholder Board, recently adopted an organizational equity statement. What does a codified equity statement mean for the Alliance and for you as the organization’s leader?

As the Executive Director of the Alliance, supporting and advancing racial equity is a top priority. This work is only possible through the result of committed and sustained action. We – myself, my colleagues, our organization, and our community –  must combat the racism and inequities, both individual and institutional, that persist in our neighborhood and beyond. The Alliance’s “Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” statement allows us to examine and reinforce our work supporting Pioneer Square through a diversity, equity, and inclusion lens. It is our joint statement, from the Alliance Board, the BIA Stakeholder Board, and staff to formally commit to collaborative action and drive systemic change, in partnership with community stakeholders and partners.

It also allows us to be intentional about ensuring conversations are centered on equity when policies are formed and actions are taken within our district boundaries. Seattle’s rich history is centered here in this place – and not all of it is something to be proud of. We are committed as an organization to ensuring that past harms are not repeated here in Pioneer Square. 

  • Can you describe the process in which the equity statement was created and who was involved?

The creation of the “Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” statement included time, effort, and energy from a variety of stakeholders and partners. BDS Planning and Urban Design provided consulting and guidance throughout the process. The Alliance Board and the BIA Stakeholder Board, along with Alliance staff, lead and learned through this process. Every individual was instrumental in providing their unique perspectives, being open and transparent with one another, and, ultimately, crafting an equity statement that exemplifies a shared organizational vision plus a larger framework to incorporate into our work.

Over the course of several months, the Alliance Board, the BIA Stakeholder Board, and staff convened in weekly cohort meetings to fully grasp the history of racism and inequity in Pioneer Square, come to a shared understanding of how past harms and systemic racism shaped the district, and develop a detailed framework to strengthen and advance race and social equity work throughout our organization, our partnerships, and our programs. Creating the “Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” statement is a first public step in a larger effort to examine our organization and how we interface with, and advocate for, the Pioneer Square community. 

  • What’s next in the Alliance’s RSJI work?

We’re on a journey of reflection and of change to ensure race and social equity is a top priority in all we do. There will always be work ahead to genuinely support our community through activities, programs, and advocacy that match the aspirations of our equity statement. As we move forward, we will endeavor to reach for these aspirations and integrate our learnings through this process into our everyday work. We fully commit to the difficult conversations, the hard work, and the actions that will continue to make Pioneer Square a great neighborhood that is vibrant, unique, and welcome to all. 

Our initial actions include reviewing and adjusting internal policies, hiring practices, and board recruitment and orientation processes. In addition, we are currently fine-tuning programs to ensure they are done through a race and social equity lens. You can keep up to date on work we are doing on our website.

Please feel free to reach out to me or anyone on our team if you have questions or are curious how this work dovetails into our current programs. We are here to serve everyone within the Pioneer Square neighborhood and be a welcoming presence for all who are interested in becoming part of this community.