the Athena Group

Equity Work

Our Commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI)

The Athena Group is deeply passionate about diversity, equity, accessibility, inclusion, belonging, and dismantling systemic racism that has had lasting impacts on individuals and families. For most of us, the stakes have never been higher, and approaches for change will need to consider larger systems, multiple perspectives, and new ways of thinking and acting that strengthen trust and safety and help grow relationships.  

All elements of our projects are designed with equity in mind– both to ensure that the most marginalized voices are heard and prioritized through the engagement, and to test every strategy and structural option for its impacts. We continuously check-in with ourselves and our client to build a design that intentionally elevates diverse voices through engagement and co-creation of solutions driving resources to the communities that need them the most.  

We believe an equitable organization: 

Develops People: We commit to advancing equity in every relationship and in our work with individuals, organizations and communities. Our firm currently is focused on racial equity, and we plan to deepen that work through studies of intersectionality. We ensure that our recruitment and hiring practices are built and conducted on the premise of equity by casting a wide net to notify and attract a diverse candidate pool to our employment opportunities, focusing screening on each candidate’s qualifications, presenting candidates blindly to hiring managers to avoid conscious or unconscious bias, and making job and salary offers that are equitable across all others in similar roles.

Drives Results: We consciously and deliberately apply a racial, social, and cultural lens to our evaluations and quantitative and qualitative data collection and analysis to ensure we are understanding program results and participant experiences from multiple perspectives. We are skilled at researching evidenced-base practices and conducting targeted data collection and analysis to strengthen program design, operations and outcomes, and elevate the voices of diverse stakeholders through effective qualitative engagement such as surveys administered and focus groups facilitated by native language speakers.

Fosters Learning: An ongoing training and development budget allows Partners to learn in three pillar service areas: Inner Leadership, Organizational Culture and Resilient Communities. Externally, the engagement practices we use in all community and organizational planning projects encourage shared learning of content and of diverse interests and perspectives. We find that this generates transformative results, as emerged in our work on a city’s Group Living Zoning Code update; Planning group members learned about each other’s perspectives so effectively that they regularly spoke to each other’s concerns while developing a mutually satisfying proposal across historic divides on the topic.

Builds Relationships: Building relationships and encouraging individual connections is at the heart of our work culture. Externally, the organization’s process in seeking collaborators includes leveraging our network and reputation, recruiting diverse groups as collaborators and contracted associates, and encouraging highly talented people with non-traditional credentials to work with us.

Fosters Teamwork and Collaboration: Our internal structure provides a strong container for collaborative decision-making in our weekly Partner meetings and company ownership. Additionally, project team members work together to ensure all projects are designed using best and promising practices and leverage the strengths of all teammates in the design and implementation of those projects.

Communicates Effectively: Our engagement approaches allow for different styles, norms and understanding, removes language barriers, and encourages listening across differences. Two-way communication is emphasized along with story gathering and sharing. We have been offering online engagement tools like ConsiderIt and Konveio to increase participation, including removing language and technology barriers, for over eight years.

Makes Things Happen as a Public Servant: Several Partners, including our founder, bring direct experience supporting state legislative and local government management and governance, and we continue to work to strengthen good government practices. This includes working with clients to manage stakeholder relations and build coalitions. We know this is a major challenge due to heightened divides in our communities, and we work to find mutually satisfying ways forward.

Leads and Navigates Change: Organizational change management experts and adaptive and equitable leadership coaches are among our firm’s core Partners, and they work closely with state and local government leaders to understand and facilitate change in accordance with their organizational needs.

Embraces and Embeds Inclusion in Decision-making: We believe that a critical factor in achieving equitable outcomes is how systems are set up for shared, transparent, equitable, responsive decision-making among all who may be affected by the decisions. Internally, we use Holacracy as our decision-making system for this purpose. Externally, whenever appropriate, we design projects with diverse decision-making tables for practicing shared/participatory leadership.

The Athena Group is committed to advancing justice, equity, diversity, accessibility and inclusion internally, in collaboration with the subcontractors on project teams, and in our work with clients, organizations and communities.  

Our work is guided by a Social Agreement, and new team member onboarding practices that underscore how we work together to manifest our potential.

Various aspects of this agreement help us to:

  • Build trust by cultivating authentic relationships and by conducting our business transparently. For instance, all firm Partners are invited to quarterly budget meetings.
  • Explore privilege through training, reading and discussion. Onboarding readings include “White Supremacy Culture” by Tema Okun and “White Fragility” by Robin DiAngelo. We host and promote a 21-day racial equity leadership challenge for our Partners and larger network.
  • Engage courage as we model learning and development of strong diversity, equity and inclusion practices when working with our clients, such as in a community transportation planning project we led in which we advocated for and secured adequate project funds to allow all interested community members to participate without language, economic or other barriers.
  • Listen deeply and create a space for each voice to be heard. We commit to being conscious of our individual communication style and engaging in ways that benefit the group. For example, stepping forward if we tend to be hesitant in speaking, and stepping back if we tend to speak a lot.
  • Demonstrate a commitment to high quality public service, with equity factors inextricably linked. We seek to share opportunity and responsibility with others for the best outcomes in the organizations and communities we serve.
  • Shift power with focus on community members who have been most marginalized. This is a foundational aspect of our approach to equity, and we consistently seek to understand the experiences of people most impacted/marginalized in firm projects, elevating those voices and guiding projects to be responsive to expressed needs, strengths, and concerns.

Our Policies

We share our policies, anti-discrimination statements and more information on our policies page.
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