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Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance did an implicit bias scan. Here’s what it found

Maud Lyon at GPCA's 2016 annual member meeting. June 27, 2017 Category: FeatureFeaturedMediumResults
Early last year, Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance President Maud Lyon told us GPCA would be concentrating its future work on three main issues. One of them was diversity and inclusion.

“We need to be a reflection of those communities [we’re in],” she said.

This month, GPCA announced the results of an implicit bias scan, a key part of a new diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiative announced in 2016. The scan captured feedback from internal and external stakeholders, taking a hard look within in order to assess the GPCA’s past and current performance on issues of diversity and inclusion.

“We’re very conscious of the fact that this is not an area where the Cultural Alliance has been active in the past,” Lyon said. “We’ve touched on it in different ways but we’ve never really embraced this work as an ongoing initiative.

“We felt that before we started doing any kind of training programs, research or education,” she said, “first we needed to know where we stand as an organization, what’s our reputation, where are we authentic when we speak about this and where do we … have a lot to learn.”

To complete the scan, the Alliance contracted The ROZ Group, a local strategic communications firm. From February to April of this year, The ROZ Group conducted dozens of interviews, surveys and roundtable discussions with staff, members, non-members and lapsed members. The scan also included input from affinity groups and DEI professionals who conduct diversity trainings in the corporate, nonprofit and government sectors.

Read the report

The 48-page report reveals the same reality much of the U.S. is currently grappling with — that when it comes to equity and inclusion, there is a lot of work to be done.

According to the scan, the 32 stakeholder interviews contained “consistent expressions of Cynicism, Distrustfulness, Frustration, and Anger from respondents of color at all levels.”

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Said one roundtable participant, “We are tired of talking about this.”

“I think it’s a very emotionally charged topic,” ROZ group founder Rosalyn McPherson said. “One of our skills and mine in particular is getting people to open up and really tell me exactly how they feel. When you’re conducting one-on-one interviews where people can really express, you get a lot of honesty and a lot of frustration and people are sick of talking. They want to see these arts organizations act and do more than just express empathy.”

According to Lyon, the GPCA board ranked diversity, equity and inclusion as the organization’s second highest priority, the highest being audience engagement in the arts and culture sector. It was this high-level support, as well as a grant from the Samuel S. Fels Fund, that allowed the Alliance to contract the ROZ Group and perform the scan.

“You have to have support from the top to do a really hard and honest assessment,” McPherson said. “This is tough and sensitive work. Arts is an area of expression and an area of opportunity, so I think that the Alliance can help set a road map for some of these other institutions to take the hard look and begin to pay attention.”

Action based on the scan results is forthcoming. GPCA will release its DEI action plan, which will include input from the organization’s DEI task force, at its annual meeting this September. An all-staff diversity training will be held in July.

Lyon characterized the scan as not only beneficial to the organization, but also crucial to the Alliance’s work and to progress in the arts and culture sector.

“We should be a sector that welcomes people in and gives them the opportunity to understand others,” Lyon said. “That creates greater empathy and we can’t do that unless we do it ourselves as an arts and culture sector. If we’re going to have audiences in the future, if we’re going to be funded in the future, [then] being more inclusive is absolutely critical.”

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