The most important decision AIGA Chicago made regarding its diversity and inclusion agenda was decoupling D&I from under the Design for Good umbrella. This established it a standalone strategic imperative and way of being—eliminating any subtext that the chapter’s pursuit of diversity and inclusion was a philanthropic effort or sociopolitical campaign—it would simply be how the chapter “showed up” going forward.
The second most important realization made was that as one of the largest chapters within AIGA (~1600 members strong), we have virtually no visibility into the composition of our membership. Taking on the newly created role of VP of Diversity & Inclusion, I have no baseline measurement for diversity or inclusion. The D&I Committee has nothing with which to measure our progress (or failure) in understanding our members’ needs or aspirations as multifaceted designers with intersectional identities. As we discussed future programming and potential events, I kept coming back to one question over and over: how would we know if we were making any progress without first assessing our current state?
Rather than design and execute our own diversity and inclusion research (something no one on the D&I team has experience with), we decided to partner with Culture Amp, a leading employee sentiment research group with deep expertise in the cultures behind design-led organizations, startups and Fortune 500 companies. The two-part survey is designed to assess participants’ opinions of how the chapter is doing with regards to diversity and inclusion as well as providing a snapshot of the demographics and identities of our members Partnering with Culture Amp means relying on their expert survey methodologies, data collection and experience evaluating the cultural climate of organizations. Additionally, they’ll help benchmark AIGA Chicago against other companies.
Once the results are in, Culture Amp will help us make sense of the data as provide cultural-competent guidance towards next steps. The D&I Committee will, in turn, share all the results and facilitate a work session around the findings during our annual summer event This Is Chicago. And equally important to reflecting and working on the future with our members, we will have finally captured a baseline with which measure our progress towards the D&I objectives year-over-year.
Some members may be asking, “How is this different than the Design Census fielded by AIGA National?” We see our Culture Amp survey as adjacent, but wholly different in its purpose. Participation in the Design Census by Chicago members has been historically low, giving us little data to work with. The Design Census also covers many topics outside the issues of diversity and inclusion making it more comprehensive but also more diffused. We feel strongly that a partnership dedicated just to Chicago—focused entirely on surveying diversity, inclusion and membership composition—will result in a clearer picture of our membership and what we need to improve on.
If this year’s Culture Amp survey is a success, we intend to work with other chapters to help them pilot something similar. If it fails, we commit to learning from the experience and pivoting to other means of assessment. In either case we’ll be sharing what happens next in Part 2.