Reflecting on Black History Month 2022

CSI

CSI

As another February comes to an end, we want to take a moment to reflect on the commitments, actions, and occasional missteps we’ve taken over the past year on our journey toward a more inclusive, diverse, equitable and accessible future.

WE'VE ADDED TWO BLACK LEADERS TO CSI'S MOST SENIOR BOARDS THIS YEAR

Manu Kabahizi is a seasoned executive and entrepreneur with over 20 years of experience in the technology industry building products used by millions in 80+ countries. He recently exited Ulula, a company he co-founded in 2013 and co-led through two rounds of raising capital from investors. As CTO and co-founder, he oversaw technology and product strategy, including product research and development, fundraising dilutive and non-dilutive capital, building strategic partnerships, growing the team, privacy and cybersecurity compliance, and serving customers like Apple and Nike amongst others. Previously, Manu also held senior roles in business development as well as research. Currently, Manu is the Canadian Digital Service’s Head of Accelerator, a brand new initiative experimenting with incremental investment to drive innovation in the federal government. He also continues to serve as a board member for Ulula and an advisor. Manu is currently serving as an EIR at Ryerson’s famed DMV. While not working, Manu likes to spend his time with his daughter, exercising or taking online courses.

Amanuel Melles (Aman) brings more than 24 years of management and senior management experience in various sub-sectors of the non-profit sector: settlement and immigration, community health, social services and community development, and funding & sector capacity.

Aman was on the Senior Management Team at United Way Toronto and the Director of Programs & Capacity Building where he led the development of the Organizational Capacity Building Unit and was responsible for leading the introduction of several innovative and creative leadership, capacity building, evaluation and granting programs aimed at building various capacities of non-profit agencies and communities in Toronto. Prior to his role at UWT, Aman held various roles at OCASI, Lawrence Heights Community Health Centre and Family Service Toronto. Over the years, Aman has contributed to the vibrancy of the non-profit sector and communities as a Board member, executive officer and civic leader: Distress Centres Toronto (Board member), Social Planning Toronto (VP), Ontario Council for International Cooperation (Board member), Inclusive Cities Canada’s Toronto Civic Panel (Co-Chair), Couchiching Institute on Public Affairs (President), African Canadian Social Development Council (Founding President), and InterChange Community-Based Peacebuilding Institute (President), African Canadian Mental Health Support Network (Founder). 

Currently, Aman sits on the Confronting Anti-Black Racism Unit’s, City of Toronto, Partnership and Accountability Circle, volunteers as President of the InterChange Community-Based Peacebuilding Institute, and chairs the Peace Leadership Member Community at the International Leadership Association. Aman is the recipient of the Jane Jacobs Prize, the New Pioneers Award and the African Community Leadership Award. As a former marine ecologist, Aman often brings, with joy, ecosystem and systems thinking to his work with leaders, organizations and communities.

We’re Making Demographic Progress Toward the City Benchmark 

Our 2021 Demographic Survey tells us that our membership has become more diverse over the last 6 years, dropping from 70% white in 2015 to now 61%. We have tracked people who identify as Black and can now say that 5% of our staff, and 5.6% of our members (who are also our paying customers) identify as Black.

CSI is committed to having our spaces reflect the communities in which we operate. The City of Toronto reports it is 8.5% Black, so we know we are not there yet, but we are making progress.

We are quite proud of our demographic work as there are very few, if any, institutions that report on the demographics of their clients — something that is not within our direct control but is ultimately a result of how welcome people feel.

IDEA COMMITTEE

CSI’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accessibility (IDEA) Committee is made up of members of our community, DECAs, Staff and Board and has met on a quarterly basis since 2016. The IDEA Committee’s purpose is to steward and support the work being done by CSI Staff and the community to make CSI more welcoming and inclusive. 

2019/20 annual report cover

DEMOGRAPHIC SURVEY

CSI, guided by our IDEA Committee, launched our first demographic survey to our staff, board, DECAs (volunteers), and community in late 2016.

The purpose of the survey was to help us establish a baseline understanding of our community, and to report on our progress with a large degree of data transparency. We use this data to identify and address the potential barriers for individuals and communities who are currently underrepresented at CSI.

While the results are in for 2021, as as we stated above, more progress has been made, we are still working to publish the final report. In the meantime you can check out the previous reports here.

EDUCATION

In collaboration with CSI Member, Anima Leadership, CSI now provides a mandatory two-day Diversity and Inclusion training for all CSI Staff and DECAs twice a year.

Smiling group of CSI staff and community members at our Party on the Patio. Photo by Sara Elisabeth Photography.

HIRING

We recognize the impact of historical oppression when evaluating education and experience, and make adjustments when evaluating the credentials of potential candidates. 

When hiring for our most recent position, part of the process was to assemble a finalist group that represented the demographics of the City, to ensure “the race” began with equal representation among the potential candidates. This intentionality of design was to compensate for the fact that, based on historical, systemic discrimination, an organic process did not produce an equal starting lineup. 

Acknowledgement

We didn’t post about or acknowledge Black History Month until February 17th this year. This is out of character for us, not something that we’re proud of, and although there were reasons, they are not valid excuses. CSI sincerely regrets the oversight, and apologizes for our failure and the harm it may have caused to our Black members and supporters. We will do better. 

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