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If I wanted to be serious about my business, it required some clarity.

My past self as an urban planner collided with my present as future self as a organizational development consulting.  I debated on a name change again.  Urban planning and finance professionals still attempt to reach out via social media because of the name, but I attributed this to utter laziness on their part.  So the name is here to stay.

Most importantly was the logo change.  What precipitated it?  I wanted it to be resemble continuity and flow.  The Black and Gold was old, tired and resembled anger in my mind.  It needed a refresh.

The teal colour has meaning.  Ever since the San Jose Sharks were announced as a National Hockey League franchise in the early 90s, I fell in love with the colour.  (I still root for the Toronto Maple Leafs, for better or worse.)

Digging deeper, “Teal combines the calming properties of blue with the renewal qualities of green. It is a revitalizing and rejuvenating color that also represents open communication and clarity of thought. For Tibetan monks, teal is symbolic of the infinity of the sea and sky, while it is the color of truth and faith for Egyptians.”, according to creative design Canva’s website.

Finally, there are teal organizations. Named by Frederic Laloux in his 2014 book Reinventing Organizations, these organizations are characterized by features such as self-managed teams, intuitive reasoning, decentralized decision making, wholeness and a deeper sense of purpose.  It is with this purpose of a human-centred approach I want use to bring equity and belonging to organizations.

Welcome to Urban Equity Consulting Services.



Yes you read that right!

Whatever you would like to call it: EDI, DEI, D&I, DI&B does not belong under human resources. While I am not currently involved in this work, through my own research, I have come to find that too many times that this work reports into human resources departments or other areas of an organization for the life of me can’t figure out why this is still the case, especially in Canadian organizations.

So why is that to this day consultants hired by an organization still advise that equity and inclusion rest within HR fully cognizant that it is an organization wide issue? As well, why do we organizational leaders continue to hire one person, mainly on a one year contract to do all the work with no support? It is already bad enough many executives want to see the “business case” for equity and inclusion, yet when equity practitioners are hired, especially those who report to HR leaders, they become underutilized. These concepts where discussed in episode 2 of the Urban Equity Chats podcast “The Party of One” with Dr. Shana Almeida and Meeta Gandhi.

As we discussed, these one person teams are set up to fail. There is immense pressure to deliver which eventually leads to burnout. If HR includes personnel management, why would an organization want to see this occur?

I will explain why this should stop being the normal practice.

Let’s define what the profession of human resources is all about.

Human resources (HR) is the department responsible for maintaining a company’s personnel, employee relations and workplace culture. The many functions within HR include recruiting, hiring, terminating, training, professional development, policy implementation, benefits, payroll, government regulation, legal compliance and safety and often mediates conflicts and concerns between employees.

HR partners with management to address personnel concerns as well as provide support and resources where needed so that managers can focus on running their department operations.

But when there are discussions surrounding racism, homophobia, misogyny, ableism, neurodiversity, etc, should this not be a function of just more than people but something that is organization wide. These issues are systemic across departments, which include human resources.

There are several problems with equity and inclusion (E&I) practitioners reporting to human resources.

  1. It signals to your non-HR people that E & I is not their job. It is the responsibility of everyone within the organization to promote equity, inclusion and belonging. Leaders must be aware of the differences of the lived experiences of racialized and marginalized populations. If equity and inclusion is placed under HR, it signals that employees cannot foster inclusion or they should not. I continue to see this time and again when internal departments do not address equity.
  2. There are implications that there is nothing that other business functions can do to promote equity and inclusion. Equity and inclusion, and more so the hiring of a Principal Equity Officer (PEO), must be its own business and must be operationalized. So much of this work falls outside of equity and inclusion. The image below is a perfect example.
via Toby Egbuna

PEOs must be

“nimble in supporting varying needs of workers and staff, while also strategizing about how to weave E&I into the organizational structure for long-term impact. They will develop plans to help organizations tend to the conditions of employees identity and values that differ with the changing times. A key element of a PEO’s role is working with the CEO or COO to develop initiatives to support equity, inclusion and belonging. This means that they support leadership in strategy and structural planning.” 

Netta Jenkins Head of DEI Shouldn’t Report to HR

3. E&I practitioners who are reporting into HR signals that organizations do not give precedence to E & I related metrics, key performance indicators, goals and progress. While I will credit those organizations who prioritize metrics, many of these positions highlight only the metrics related to HR functions. E&I should not be a five minute update in a executive leadership of staff meeting.

There are so many key points from this PhD project podcast episode that highlight these issues. I started the video from the 22 minute mark.

Chief Diversity Officers have a seat at the table…but which table? Via PhD Project.

It requires every single member of an organization, regardless of level for true change to occur. Leaders must be adaptive to change in order to deal with the complex socioeconomic issues of the day that affect an organization.

PEOs should be at the same level as other executives and be equally as instrumental towards transformational and adaptive change. They should lead a team of people responsible for procurement, strategic policy development and implementation, data governance, infrastructure and project management. Other areas include the liaison with internal employee resource groups and external partnerships.

E&I is not the sole responsibility of HR . It must be implemented organization-wide and be a greater part of its culture. A fully-funded E&I department with a PEO at the helm signals the organization’s serious in being accountable and its willingness to be sustained. An organization will more than likely be successful if it brings credible strategies, metrics and KPIs to advance equity and inclusion.

Every year, I would write a post reviewing what transpired over the year and plans to move forward. Last year it did not happen because of a major upheaval. This year, I decided to return to the long standing tradition.

This year it is a year of transition, while remaining consistent with others. The biggest accomplishment this year was the recommencement of graduate school in September to complete the Masters of Public Administration (MPA) program in Local Government at Western University. The last time I was in school was March 2016. Tragedy stuck where I lost my mother and took a lot of out of me emotionally. Now I return with greater confidence and purpose.

My research interests have slightly changed. I initially went into the program concentrating on regional transit governance. Those who have followed my blog, or those on social media, noticed my constant defense on the subject. I have been out of the transit profession for a while and the planning profession for three years and have been more focused on strategic and equitable leadership in local government. While governance remains a subject of interest from an organizational perspective, the majority of recent blog posts concentrated on racial and social equity.

This year’s international and national events surrounding addressing and eradicating racism after the deaths of innocent Black people with of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Regis Korchinski-Paquet was one factor. My post Enough is Enough from May highlighted my frustrations with systemic racism and my lived experiences navigating through White spaces in the professional world, and my own personal lived experiences from childhood to today.

Another factor was highlighted by the COVID pandemic that exacerbated the existing anti-Black racism and income gaps surrounding transit, public health and housing. Earlier this year, I contributed to an article to The Local Health Magazine where I spoke about my experience on the Jane 35, a Toronto transit bus route that traverses low-income neighbourhoods and where the hardest hit communities with COVID.

The plethora of Zoom webinars and meetings came with some positive results. One of them was meeting Carlton Eley, who provided me with some input on successfully maneuvering through the professional world focused on racial equity. I am forever grateful in him suggesting a book from Susan T Gooden titled Race and Social Equity: A Nervous Area of Government. I summarized the book in a post from the summer related to disrupting the status quo in the public sector. I will be incorporating some of her thoughts into my major research paper.

During this pandemic, I took up running as a form of physical activity in lieu of gyms being closed. As novice runner, it was more for exercise as well as visiting new neighbourhoods such as Oak Ridge and Birch Cliff in Scarborough and trails like the Finch West Hydro Corridor and the Beltline Trail.

But my social justice conscience went into high gear where I witnessed such disparities between the aforementioned Jane Street corridor and the Swansea neighbourhood as well as my experience seeing a makeshift encampment in Alexandra Park in Downtown Toronto. It was my last post on addressing the housing inequities in the City.

Finally, I started Urban Equity Consulting as a stop gap to find a way to work on contract developing solutions in strategic and technical urban planning and policy. But work has been scarce. It will be a placeholder to add racial and social equity to my practice once I complete graduate school and gain more experience in that area.

I predict the first half of 2021 will be more of the same, even with the discovery and distribution of vaccines among the general public. I will be graduating with a MPA degree in hand with a paper that hopes to carry me forward in my career, running a consistent 6:30 minute per kilometre pace, either continuing my practice with greater fervor or landing a full-time job – which the latter is preferred, and volunteering for causes with a strong racial equity focus.

I am looking forward to completing this transition in 2021 with greater purpose and success. Who’s ready to come for the ride? Drop me a note in the comments or follow me on my various social media channels.

I’ve been curious about the reliability of ChatGPT. So I tested it out to see how accurate or elementary the post can be.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is revolutionizing the way businesses operate and solve problems. With the help of AI, organizations can make informed decisions that enhance efficiency, reduce costs, and optimize workflows. However, AI also has the power to impact equity, diversity, and inclusion in a global organization. In this blog post, we’ll discuss the impacts of AI on EDI in a global organization.


Equity refers to ensuring fairness in the allocation of resources, rights, and opportunities. AI can promote equity by eliminating human biases from decision-making processes. This is because AI-based tools follow algorithms that make data-based decisions rather than relying on human judgment. This ensures that everyone in the organization is treated fairly, and decisions are made based on merit.

For instance, when hiring employees, AI-based tools can analyze resumes, perform skills assessments, and conduct background checks. This eliminates human biases from the recruitment process, ensuring that the best candidate is selected irrespective of gender, race, ethnicity, or religion. Similarly, AI can be used to promote cross-gender, cross-cultural, and cross-functional collaboration by identifying team members’ strengths and gaps, making up for each other.


Diversity refers to the differences that exist within a workplace, such as race, gender, nationality, and cultural background. AI can promote diversity by identifying and attracting a talent pool from diverse backgrounds. This is because AI can perform a skills gap analysis and identify specific skills that are missing within the organization. It can also analyze external data sources, such as social media, to identify candidates from diverse backgrounds that might not have been identified through traditional recruitment processes. Fine-tuned models can also predict and notify when diversity drops below a pre-specified threshold and recommend action plans, such as launching retention campaigns.


Inclusion refers to creating a workplace culture that is welcoming, accepting and where individuals feel a sense of belonging. AI can promote inclusion by detecting and reducing unintended biases that arise from interactions within the organization. Examples of such biases include gendered language, evaluations of employee performance that are impacted by personal characteristics, and misinterpretation of cultural references.

AI can help reduce these biases by analyzing the language used in communication, providing vocabulary suggestions that eliminate biased language, and giving perspectives from multiple cultures. Fine-tuned language models can also verify if language used in communication adversely affects any subgroup of employees based on their ethnicity, nationality, or gender.


Artificial Intelligence can have a significant impact on equity, diversity, and inclusion in a global organization. AI can help organizations eliminate human biases that result in unequal treatment and unintentional homogenization. It can identify a diverse pool of candidates and promote team collaboration by bridging the skill gaps between individuals. Finally, AI can detect and reduce biases in communication to promote a culture of inclusion. Considering the benefits AI offers concerning Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, any organization that aims to be successful in a rapidly globalizing world must embrace AI as a tool for improvement.

But I needed more clarity on the effects on global, glocal, and localized organizations. Here’s what came up.

Great point! The impacts of artificial intelligence on equity, diversity, and inclusion in global, glocal, and localized organizations can differ depending on the context and scope of the organization.

Global organizations operate across multiple countries, cultures, and languages. These organizations can leverage AI to promote equity, diversity, and inclusion by developing standardized practices and policies that eliminate biases in different regions. Through advanced machine learning capabilities, such as cross-cultural sentiment analysis, global organizations can gain insights into different cultures and tailor their practices to fit each community’s unique needs. Additionally, AI can enable global organizations to leverage their data collected on a global scale to identify meaningful patterns and inform decisions to enhance their EDI strategy across all regions.

Glocal organizations, which operate in multiple local areas, follow more regionally specific approaches to balance local and global objectives. Similar to global organizations, they can leverage AI to promote equity, diversity, and inclusion by developing standardized practices and policies but tailored to a specific local context. AI can play a significant role in glocal organizations by helping them understand individual employees’ data points and the local communities’ nuances. Through this approach, glocal organizations can tailor their EDI initiatives to the local employees’ needs while maintaining a consistent global strategy.

Localized organizations operate in one specific location and cater to the local population, providing customized solutions for the particular region. They can leverage AI to promote equity, diversity, and inclusion by providing localized recommendations for recruitment systems, performance reviews, and employee engagement efforts. Moreover, by adopting locally specific language models and sentiment analysis, these organizations can enable better communication among their employees and with the surrounding communities.

In conclusion, AI approaches can play a significant role in helping global, glocal and localized organizations promote equity, diversity, and inclusion. The primary strategy for utilizing AI will vary depending on the organization’s scope, but they can all enhance the success of EDI-integration through AI-powered systems. An organization’s size or presence should not be a significant barrier to EDI inclusion via AI.

So my thoughts on ChatGPT? If I’m lazy, I’ll rely on it. I would explore adding resources in the request. I wouldn’t have broken it down my specific equity, diversity and inclusion. It did a decent job for the most part.

What do you think? Would you write anything better?

One sunny weekday morning, I was on my way to see my new family doctor. I chose to take an Uber to my appointment. My driver was a Black male from an African nation. I did not ask him which country, although I could have assumed it was from one of the French-speaking ones since he had a song playing in the background that was French.

He initially piqued my interest when he discussed the number of bike lanes, construction and road closures due to the extended patios on Toronto’s streets. Of course with my city building background, it got my back up. As a driver, their first defense is their car, but never the built environment. So we differed in that respect. Where we concurred was working from home and building a better transit network. I mentioned where I am currently employed and my professional background in urban planning. I also mentioned that I am an equity practitioner.

We got talking about racism in the office and what has transpired in terms of some employers mandating a return to the office, even in a hybrid capacity, and what that has entailed for employees of the Global Majority and women. While he agreed with much of our discussion, he also mentioned that he didn’t see colour. This was based on his relationship with his neighbours in a suburban community and his daughters being university educated. Saying a statement like that would be considered a macroaggression. It is clear that such a statement makes racism worse, but also there is a sense of privilege and classism.

But during my conversation with the driver, it donned on me in terms of where he was from. In many African nations, while many experience sexism, homophobia , and ableism, their first encounter with racism occurs within their new countries. Yet there still, there seems to be a lack of cultural awareness and cultural intelligence among equity practitioners and inclusive leaders.

Cultural competence is a soft skill that is often dismissed by leaders. There are cultural differences not only in our social interactions, but also in our workplace. Nationality, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, ability, profession and organization culture are all part of an identity and have a profound effects on an organization. In our hyper-connected, globalized world, leaders cannot ignore this. Having cultural awareness of differences therefore is the first step to effectively manage people, projects and policies across cultural context.

It is common knowledge that an element of leadership has been their level emotional intelligence (EQ). This is an individual response to situations. With cultural intelligence, it is a further required step working in synchroneity with IQ and EQ.

Image credit: Karine Duranty and Catherine Wu

Cultural intelligence is having the capability to relate and work effectively in complex, culturally diverse situations. Watch a short video from Dr. Rumeet Billan providing a simple definition of cultural intelligence:

Cultural intelligence is a multidimensional construct. First is cultural knowledge which captures individuals’ awareness of how cultures differ and how cultures influence behaviour. Second are the cross cultural skills that refers to individuals’ ability to modify behaviours appropriately to the respective cultural context including acuity and cross cultural interactions. The third and final dimension is meta cognition. This reflects the individuals’ awareness and control of their own thinking, behaviour and learning in situations encompassing cross-cultural interactions.

In addition, it is important that leaders pause before responding to cultural occurrences. It has been common knowledge that we are asked to pause 30 seconds before provide a response. Being culturally intelligent definitely means we must fully be cognizant of more scenarios before making a decision. Therefore it is suggested that we have a 90 second pause before a response. The image below indicates steps in doing this.

via @doodlewellness

Not immediately reacting to the Uber driver’s response right away was an indication of being culturally aware of the scenario by using this 90 second pause.

Doing a deeper dive into cultural intelligence, David Livermore indicated there are 4 capabilities – drive, knowledge, intelligence, and action.

CQ Drive is your interest, drive and confidence to adapt to multicultural situations. Basically it is about how you respond to intercultural scenarios under stress and time pressures. In my scenario, I was not under any duress to respond, but it is good to still good to use the 90 second pause as a basic first step in dealing with any trigger.

CQ Knowledge is understanding differences and similarities. A Black person from the Caribbean has cultural differences than that of someone from an African countries. That was my understanding of the scenario with the Uber driver when mentioning his family’s livelihood as a new immigrant to Canada. So equity practitioners and leaders should learn to go beyond simple generalizations about Chinese and Eastern European cultures, for example, but understand cultural differences when they encounter them.

CQ Strategy is just like it sounds. Planning and interpreting an intercultural encounter. Livermore states this is the most valuable component because provides a way to strategically work through the many nuances and complexities of intercultural situations. For example, if a work colleague makes a racist statement or refuses to participate in training exercises, how should an individual respond.

CQ Action is what you do to apply your learning towards an intercultural scenario. Livermore states that over adapting to another culture is inauthentic. It often reduces the power of cultural differences and could compromise yourself or the organization you represent. It is important for individuals to balance organizational values while adapting enough to be respective and effective. Dr. Oliver Phillips provides a brief explanation of CQ Action.

I admit that I still am not fully culturally intelligent, yet. For now, I would say I am culturally aware. I strongly believe this a useful tool to add to an equity practitioners box as there is a clear link with CQ and equity and inclusion work. The ability to work, lead, and communicate efficiently in a culturally diverse environment strikes as an essential behaviour for leaders aiming to be – or become – more inclusive. Also one of the traits of being inclusive leader is having the competency of being culturally intelligent.

My recent encounter has opened the door to becoming more culturally aware and opens the door to add CQ to my toolkit.

Look! I’ve never watched any Star Wars movies and never will. SciFi isn’t a genre of film I like. Sue me!!!

So when I hear continuously hear practitioners float around JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion), or some jumbled up letters to mean the same thing, I take issue with it. I already have an issue with the bastardization and cheapening of the industry through the forever use of acronyms.

There are four criteria for measuring equity: procedural fairness, access, quality, and outcomes. Justice is also the larger organizational value within which equity resides. They are equivalent in nature where equity is focused on the concern of the provision of services and justice is more values-oriented. So then why do we need to separate the two areas in the work we are trying to achieve?

For those on LinkedIn, I’m going to leave the debate between Lily Zheng (they/them) (with a clarification here, Dr. Sam Rae (she/her) (with another clarification) and Aaisha Joseph for your own reading. But here is my commentary on this debate.

I will concur with Lily in that justice informs the work we do with the eventual outcome of equity through policies, process and access to services. Just like I never understand why were are still chasing diversity like its a fad, I believe adding justice to the title means we are not going to take away the power of organizations to operate. Justice is the role of the public sector, an area I have been in for much of my career. If you want justice, run for public office and be part of that change. As Lily said in their post, there is no price tag for justice.

We are all activists in some way, shape or form. But to achieve equity and proper organizational change, there must be some form of level-headedness and maturity. Not shouting to the rooftops, or getting likes on Linked In. By no stretch of the imagination am I a gatekeeper to White privilege. My experience working in the public sector, it has been about making effective policy change through equitable facilitation and consultation. As Susan Gooden states in her book, Race and Social Equity: The Nervous Area of Government, “the implementation of justice is context-based which is dependent upon understanding a complex array of historical, political and social factors” and equity means that public administrators are attentive to differences in fairness and justice based on social characteristics (p.25).

To create equitable organizations, it is about engaging leadership , defining equitable outcomes and redesigning the system with employees and public at the forefront of that change – regardless of the sector. Have a read of Minal Bopaiah’s book Equity: How to Design Organizations where Everyone Thrives where she goes through her steps for organizational change.

I am never going to call myself a JEDI practitioner, as much as I won’t call myself a DEI/EDI practitioner. Justice and fairness definitely inform my work. My mantra though is to advance equity in organizations through strategic policy change using a systems thinking approach. My call to action is for practitioners to do away with this acronym in order to make effective change with the work we do.

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