In 2020, amidst the feelings of crisis and uncertainty of the pandemic and social unrest, the team at DORIS had many open conversations regarding these topics, and quickly realized they were in over their heads a bit. In an effort to learn, grow, and enact diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives at DORIS in a truly thoughtful and intentional way, Sam, the President and founder of DORIS, began where everyone should. She set aside the time for training, intentional conversation, and thoughtful engagement. 

The work is not finished, no it has just begun, and it is not just important, it is not just ‘doing the right thing’, it is imperative to DORIS’ core that the organization continue to embody diversity, equity, and inclusion. Read along as Sam tells us her thoughts on what DORIS is doing, and her thoughts on the future of DEI + DORIS.

Question : What have you seen in your work that made you want to develop a stronger foundation in DEI?

Answer : Within the last 18 months, the summer of 2020, the pandemic had some influence and we all went through the social unrest in some capacity. It was a catalyst. I don’t pretend to think the summer of 2020 was the beginning. We are a company who has always tried to be inclusive, but we didn’t think as deeply as we should have, especially how race and ethnicity played into it. 

In summer of 2020, we hired a person named Starr to help us understand racism, and how it is embedded, sometimes unknowingly, by white people in all the things we do. This prompted us to look more closely at our research process.

Question : Why are you investing in DEI? And, why did you hire a professional? What extra value does that bring? 

Answer : I can’t imagine not investing in DEI. At this point, it is a need, and a natural progression, not to mention it is the right thing to do. We have to, whether it’s our process or learning, we have to constantly stay sharp on learning. It’s not even just the right thing, we just have to. It’s important to the people who work here.

It is so important that we decided to financially invest, in addition to our time, so we hired a consultant. It is similar to hiring an accountant because we’re not formally trained in accounting. Or if we were involved in something legal in nature, we’d hire a lawyer. We needed to hire a subject-matter expert. It’s the same as hiring a professional for anything else. They’re the expert. And we, as DORIS, might never be an expert in this space, we might always need to partner with someone and that’s okay.

Question : What scares you about this process?

Answer : Similar to a lot of things in business, I worry about getting it wrong. It seems a little scarier because peoples’ feelings are at stake. There are real people who are affected, and we’re trying to make adjustments at DORIS that will hopefully help us engage with them in a better way, or make some part of their life easier. So getting it right seems like the stakes are higher. 

Question : What will you do with the information you are provided?

Answer : I would imagine we’ll implement it. I don’t even think of it as a report. I think it will be something we’ll continue to evolve. It’s not an option to not do something. It feels very alive, it’s not just a document. We’ll take whatever we learn and iterate on it.

Sam was ready to talk for a while, she is so passionate about this initiative. As the interview was concluding, she said “I think Dr. Tiffany is so smart, and Star is so brilliant and liked working with them. It’s a subject matter that stretches my brain and is interesting. It’s one of the first things in a long time that has forced me to think differently.” And perhaps, if anything, that is what it is all about. There are brilliant passionate people stretching DORIS to think, act, and research differently. 

Takeaway #1 : It’s not about stakes being higher, or being scared of saying the wrong thing, at DORIS, we know we will fail and fail fast. But, it is imperative that we keep going. When we talk about people-centered research, we want to make sure that it is not solely ‘white-people’ centered. 

Takeaway #2 : There is no real beginning and end to this work. It will have been successful if the work and partnerships with subject-matter experts continues, is enacted, and maybe even spurs change.

Takeaway #3 : Sam said it best “I hope that it is understood that this is part of what we do. People know when they’re working at DORIS and with DORIS, that it is as natural as breathing that we continue to evolve our practice, to be equitable and inclusive to a diverse group of people. I’d hope that it would inspire other organizations to do the same and have more open conversations.”

Did you notice Sam mentioned Dr. Tiffany? She is DORIS’ expert consultant, Dr. Tiffany Polite, PhD. We will interview her soon. You don’t want to miss it!