How do we change the tree at the roots?
This is the question at the heart of Greenwood’s work to foster greater diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging. We want to ensure that our efforts create lasting, meaningful change in the areas where that change is needed, and that our entire community is part of the process.
“It would be very easy to have 5-6 people in the school take on all of this work, but then only that small group holds the knowledge,” says Rachael Brownell-Swain, Greenwood’s Director, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Outreach. “We need to have buy-in from everyone.”
That’s where RIDES come in. Reimagining Integration: Diverse and Equitable Schools
, created by Harvard University, is a research-backed framework that gives schools the tools to support deep work in diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging. Using RIDES, communities can identify the areas where change is needed and benchmark those areas to track growth over time.
“This work is a lot like teaching - doing “more” of something without evidence to back up the need for it won’t make an impact,” says Mary Gauthier, Executive Director, Greenwood Centre for Teaching and Learning. “You need to be thoughtful in your actions and ensure that your goals are aligned with what others are working towards.”
With permission from Harvard, Greenwood has personalized the RIDES model, including all Greenwood community members through connection and collaboration focused on common goals. Using a rubric with detailed success criteria, Rachael and Mary, along with Bethany Glick, Coordinator, Inclusion & Belonging, met with a range of teams at the school to understand and document the work on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging completed during the 2020-2021 school year.
“These were comfortable, honest, authentic conversations,” Mary says. “They were about looking at the work that is being done now and saying, ‘What is it you do now that you could take further action on? What could be reframed?’”
“Conversations about equity can become combative,” Rachael says. “People can sometimes feel they are being attacked. The wonderful thing about the RIDES framework is that it is objective. You’re looking at the work as a whole, not at a specific person.”
For example, the Student Diversity Committee was one of the teams interviewed through the RIDES project last year. During the discussion, the student group shared that they observed a clear increase in discussions and course content centred on diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging over the 2020-2021 school year and that our DEI online feedback form is safe and inclusive. Next steps they identified included providing more opportunities for staff and students to learn about calling in and calling out exclusive language, gestures and behaviours, and providing more DEI learning opportunities for parents and guardians.
By exploring various lenses and areas of responsibility, Rachael, Mary and Bethany aimed to identify gaps and to examine how they might be filled. Ultimately, the objective is to create actionable steps that encourage subject matter experts to grow within their own spheres of influence in a measurable way; progress on these action items can then be tracked over time. Concrete changes to processes and written documentation are also key to creating lasting, positive differences.
“This model puts responsibility on everyone within their spheres of influence,” Mary says. “It’s very easy to look outside of yourself and say ‘You should do this’. We all need to own something that is ours to change and take action in order to make progress.”
While Harvard has concluded their RIDES project, this model has also been adopted by Panorama Education, a student survey organization. Greenwood students will complete the Panorama survey this year, ensuring that each student has a voice and can identify areas where growth is needed. Rachael, Mary and Bethany will also continue to build on last year’s work, adding a new group of interviewees and revisiting the interviewees from 2020-2021 to track progress in their areas of responsibility.
“We’re not finished with RIDES,” Rachael says. “We have so much more we need to look at, and our community is constantly evolving.”
Ultimately, RIDES weaves people together. It allows an entire community to clearly visualize how they can work as a group to create real, lasting, fundamental change.
“Everybody at Greenwood really wants to see better when it comes to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging,” Rachael says. “The fact that we can provide them a roadmap for how to do that is really impactful.”