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Special Interest Group and Open Dialogues to Promote Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion at CLD

Related Objective(s)

The Center for Leadership in Disability (CLD) at Georgia State University created a special interest group (SIG) to further their work in promoting equity, diversity, and inclusion. The SIG has been meeting regularly and engages the larger staff on pressing topics relating to equity, diversity, and inclusion, especially in regard to ongoing racial violence in the US.  The SIG also tackles accessibility topics and brainstorms ways to continue to promote sense of belonging at the CLD.

One of the SIG activities focused on self-identifying as disabled.  A staff member with a visual disability partnered with a part-time professional with a developmental disability, and together they developed topics and lead discussions about internalized ableism. As part of these SIGs, CLD provided further support to staff as they identified internalized “isms” during the self-reflective discussions.

The SIG focused on promoting belonging within their UCEDD. They guided their first discussion using the diagram below which explores the intersections of diversity, equity, and inclusion. They broke apart each piece and also explored what might happen if one piece is missing and how all three contribute to sense of belonging within organizations.


 Venn diagram of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Text reads: diversity- multiple identities represented in an organization. Equity- constantly and consistently recognizing and redistributing power. And Inclusion- thoughts, ideas and perspectives of all individuals matter.  The interesection of diversity and equity- Culutre assimilation results in disengagement and low retention. The interesection of equity and inclusion reads over saturation of similarity, homogeneous, culture, and simplified points of view.  The interesection of inclusion and diversity- the dominant group or ideology is deferred to for decision making, opportunities and promotions.  When all three circles overlap, it reads Belonging- An org that engages full potential of the individual, where innovation thrives, and views, beliefs, and values are integrated.


The SIG also hosts Open Dialogue events guided by the principles of Race Forward:

  1. Fix systems, not people
  2. Create racially equitable solutions that benefit all
  3. Ensure that solutions are grounded in and emerge from the experiences of communities of color, by engaging leaders of color who are accountable to those communities
  4. Commit to collecting race/ethnicity data and use it to track and target the greatest needs
  5. Set measurable, results-based equity goals with specific attention to racial impacts


For example, following the violent siege of the U.S. Capitol in January 2021, the group met to have a brave and honest dialogue about those events and the implications on their work. The Open Dialogues are open to all CLD faculty and staff and have designated facilitators from the ED&I team.  The SIG discussions involve 3-5 staff members to ensure all staff have equal opportunity to participate and engage in rich conversations.  These timely dialogue events promote both internal self-reflection as well as external reflection on the center’s work.

Lessons Learned:

  • It is valuable that staff can self-select to be a part of the ED&I team and have the option to opt-in as opposed to the material or events being mandated.
  • Open Dialogues are most successful when the housekeeping rules are set early on and when all involved practice patience to listen to others that are not like them.
  • It is helpful to have multiple days for the SIG discussions, as opposed to only one opportunity to engage on a topic or discussion.
  • SIG activities can be a good opportunity to engage you Community Advisory Board or other member groups around equity, diversity, and inclusion.
  • It is valuable to both reach out to partner organizations for new opportunities to engage your SIG and create more space for ED&I related opportunities within the context of your SIG.

For more information about the ED&I Special Interest Group and Open Dialogues, please contact Ashley Salmon at

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