In many organizations I work with, something frequently talked about is equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI). Given its importance, I thought we could open up a conversation in this month’s blog post. I have invited my friend Val Cortés, who not only teaches about EDI, but has lived experience to share. I’m taking Val’s message to heart around the inner personal work we need to do as well as the impact and opportunities we have around the tables we work at.

Here is what Val has for us:

“Somewhere around 2018, I received this message:

“We are looking for new directors.  In all honesty, one of the reasons I reached out to you was because we want to improve our diversity…”


Well intended, but poorly executed…

When Frank and I facilitate The Inclusive Board: Transforming the way Boards engage in EDI practices through Volunteer Victoria, we find that board members understand the rationale behind the need to cultivate inclusion and promote diversity, but often do not know where to start or what else to do.

I could offer a step-by-step implementation plan (and there are plenty online) but that is NOT the
way to go about this work. Instead, I will offer a metaphor and a few ideas:

Photo by Izzy Gibson on Unsplash

The Drop of Water

The EDI work starts with each one of us, learning to self-locate and being aware. I consider self-location a systems thinking skill because it invites us to explore our individual relationship to the historical, social, and cultural context in which we live. The scope of this practice can be as large as a nation or as small as the organization’s board.

Being aware and able to identify and name my thoughts, emotions, and sensations in my body have been the most challenging yet essential practices that I’ve undertaken in the past year. This awareness has led me to practice self-compassion.

Remember equity, diversity, and inclusion work is at its core emotional and personal inner work. If you are not engaging at a deeper level, you are missing the most important piece.

The Ripple Effect

Let’s assume that you are already doing the inner work. What is next? Focus on the actions that you have agency over. We often hear “we don’t have the budget for that” or “not all members of the board believe EDI is important” or “we need to have a strategic planning session first”. Whatever is the case, YOU can identify and enact small actions with a big impact or leverage. You can model the way!

For example, to cultivate spaces of belonging and inclusion I emphasize relationships over tasks and always start meetings with a quick or fun check-in.

What about bringing diversity to the board while co-creating learning opportunities? Universities and colleges are usually looking for organizations to partner with their co-op programs (Yes, there is funding from the Government of Canada to create quality work experiences).

Make connections, build relationships, create spaces to share! And on that note, let us know what you are already doing. Reach out to other organizations who serve diverse communities. Meet people, tap into their expertise, not just their perceived diversity.

Finally, check out the Deep Diversity Solo Snapshot, a tool from Anima Leadership that will give you an idea of where your organization is at in this journey. Best wishes!

“We never know how our small activities will affect others
through the invisible fabric of our connectedness”

Grace Lee Boggs

February is Black History Month. I celebrate and honour the legacy and diversity of members of the Black Communities and actively act in solidarity to being anti-racist and to cultivate belonging.”

Valeria Cortés (she/her) is a mestiza immigrant from Mexico; grateful to raise her kids on lək̓ʷəŋən land. She is the founder of Tlatoa Consulting and as a practitioner and scholar, she focuses on culture and belonging as the path for developing collective leadership capacity and self-efficacy. Val is currently working in partnership with Royal Roads University co-creating learning experiences with Indigenous communities. You can reach Val at

There you have it. Please feel free to reach out to Val if you want more information.



Join our Newsletter