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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.

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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.

No mistake about it. Housing is unaffordable worldwide. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated housing inequities. Demand for affordable housing continues to increase, putting pressure on municipalities outside of major metropolitan centres to provide housing. Vacancy rates in existing purpose built rental units will eventually creep back up making construction of new units paramount. The housing market bubble is about to burst and there maybe evidence to support this.

The housing market downturn in Canada maybe happening as we speak. The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) announced last week that the national housing market sector moved from moderate to high vulnerability during the second quarter with major municipalities of Toronto, Ottawa and Montréal shouldering all the risk. In fact, recently a home in North York dropped nearly $500,000 from its original asking price from a year ago.

Here are also some startling projections from the demand side in Ontario taken from a recent report from the Smart Prosperity Institute:

  • Of the 910,000 net new households formed over the next ten years, primarily made up of couples planning on having children, we project that 195,000 will live in high-rise apartments (of five storeys or more), while 715,000 will live in all other forms of housing.
  • 1.475 million new households, with a head of household currently under the age of 55, will be formed over the next ten years. Of these, approximately 225,000 will live in high-rise apartments, with the rest living in other forms of housing.
  • Of the 225,000 new young households that will live in high-rise apartment units, only 30,000 units will be freed up by the generational turnover of those currently over the age of 55.
  • Generational turnover of other forms of housing will house roughly 45% of the new young families that will live in forms of housing other than high-rise apartments. The rest will come from new home construction.
  • Differences between levels of generational turnover are substantial. In some communities, generational turnover can provide an adequate supply of housing for the next generation. In other communities, it only scratches the surface. (Source: Smart Prosperity Institute, p. IV, October 2021)

While there has been “some” progress with Canada’s National Housing Strategy, clearly the housing bubble is about to burst. More changes are going to be necessary from policy and regulatory perspectives in order for this collision to be avoided. It will be telling if this a blip or a sign of things to come.


One such solution in addressing housing affordability is eliminating or modifying single family residential zoning to build missing middle housing. Single family residential zones only allow for, as you would guess, detached or semi-detached homes within neighbourhoods. While municipalities have become flexible to include granny flats or coach houses on the same property, this is a band-aid solution to address the supply issue.

Protection of single family residential neighbourhoods has racial and classist undertones to them. These are barriers to providing rental housing as well as home ownership. In the United States, single-family zones have been associated with redlining and covenants that exclude racialized and marginalized people, which then become barriers to providing rental housing as well as home ownership. While in Canada, NIMBYs that are behind protection of the neighbourhoods through ratepayers associations is evidence on why zoning changes are difficult to come by.

In risk-averse compliant Canada, there finally seems to be a general consensus among housing advocates that this should happen sooner rather than later. For instance, the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA) recently posted an statement about fixing the affordability crisis through upzoning.

OREA is encouraging the Province to use the Planning Act to implement as-of-right zoning in Ontario’s highest-demand urban neighbourhoods. This change would allow the seamless and legal development of gentle density, including duplexes, triplexes, and fourplexes, next door to existing density and close to subway and transit stations without unnecessary and lengthy case-by-case approvals.

Source: OREA, September 29, 2021

Oregon was the first state to ban single family zoning. Minneapolis was the first city to eliminate single-family zoning in 2020. Portland followed their lead too. California recently passed several bills to address the housing crisis including State Bill 9 (SB 9), which gives homeowners the ability to build multifamily residential on their own properties.

There will be detractors to this policy proposal. For example, in response to the passing of SB9, The Terner Center for Housing Innovation indicated that the legislation could be relevant for 1 in 20 single family home parcels. The law was watered down slightly to instill protections for existing renters and those in heritage districts. Parcels of land in major urban centres are already expensive in California. This is no different in the Greater Toronto Area and Metro Vancouver for example. So developers may not have the incentive to build in the end.

The province must take swift action to modify land use policies within the Planning Act. While there is evidence that building housing of all types by eliminating single family zones- especially in major transit station areas (MTSAs)- is necessary. The ultimate purpose is to build affordable housing equitably and without prejudice. Of course there must be financial levers in place, a matter of federal monetary policy, as a starting point to help make this happen. Collaboration with municipal planning agencies, land developers, and other stakeholders/rights holders will be critical in making eliminating single family zoning a success, and potentially making housing affordable.

September 30th was the first National Truth and Reconciliation Day, deemed as a national holiday, which was one of the 94 Calls to Action proposed by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It was meant to honour Indigenous children who were forced against their will to attend residential schools.

The day is also known as Orange Shirt Day in memory of Phyllis Webstad who wore an orange shirt to school, which was taken away from her, and was forced to wear the school uniform instead.

The “Every Child Matters” slogan is of even more significance since approximately 1300 unmarked graves were found on the sites of four former residential schools across Canada.

On this day, people were asked to reflect by reading books written by Indigenous authors, attending a ceremony, wear an orange shirt in solidarity, and taking a moment at your workplace to reflect through workshops. I chose to read Indigenous Relations: Insights, Tips and Suggestions to Make Reconciliation and Reality by Bob and Cynthia Joseph.

I also chose to watch two short films: First Stories: Two Spirited and Urban.Indigenous.Proud: Full Circle.

I will admit that my knowledge of Indigenous culture is very limited, especially not having learned about residential schools until I attended in Edmonton back in 2012. While there has been anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism, the lived experiences are different. The common thread here is colonialism and economics, land had been taken from Indigenous people while Black people were brought to North America and the Caribbean as indentured slaves. So there was more to learn here.

My takeaways from this material is plentiful. The RESPECT model (p.65) outlined in Joseph’s book was very helpful.

Image from p 67

This model is meant as a “principled approach to relationship building, which (is seen) as the key to working effectively with Indigenous communities” (p.65). It is seen as a circle rather than a triangle, which is typical of Western culture with respect to hierarchy.

One example was about timelines. Me being the sometimes impatient person that I am, I want to get the job done as quickly as possible. NOPE!!! The best way to approach Indigenous communities is by having the willingness to listen and understand that issues are more complex than anticipated (p 82). This is a perfect example of where an adaptive leadership framework can be used.

Another example was the word “stakeholder”. During community engagement, the word is used as a blanket term to indicate a person, group or organization that stands to be impacted by a process. The difference though is that Indigenous groups should be called Rights Holders because they are protected by the Constitution (pp 109-110).

Indigenous Peoples have been subjected to trauma and marginalized within and outside their communities. Whether it is acceptance of Two-Spirited people or through the residential school system, a lot must change. This is a learning process for myself, even as a Black person. I certainly hope that many of my friends and colleagues took something away from their day of reflection. We must continue to give Indigenous peoples the dignity and respect they deserve.

Share with my what you did on Truth and Reconciliation Day.

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