Our actions will continue to evolve as we start to measure our results, learn, adapt and grow. Some actions will yield results quickly; others may take longer to implement or achieve desired outcomes.
In August 2020, we established a “Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Council”, led by our Head of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, a member of our Senior Leadership Team. The Council’s objectives are to advocate for, advise on, implement and monitor the actions taken to achieve the vision we have for diversity, equity & inclusion, both internally and externally. Council membership and related Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Action Teams are open to all employees and reflect a diverse and representative membership. We have formalized this work in team members’ performance responsibilities and evaluation.
We have increased our focus on recruiting, developing and promoting BIPOC and 2SLGBTQIA+ candidates for leadership roles. This is paying off, with seven Leadership Team and Board members hired or promoted in 2020-2021 who identify as BIPOC. We have identified and are committed to addressing gaps in representation.
To ensure we improve our hiring practices and alleviate any barriers, in 2021 we removed mandatory postsecondary degree requirements for most roles and ceased our practice of credit checks for new employees. We continue to broaden our outreach in recruiting and promoting diverse employees at all levels, and in particular Leadership Team and Board members.
IDiversity and Inclusion is one of Futurpreneur’s foundational organizational values and as such we are committed to supporting our team members along their learning journey. We recognize that everyone is at a different place on their journey and we aim to support them where they are at while encouraging continuous active learning.
In early 2020, we spent months identifying and working with experts to develop diversity, equity & inclusion workshops and training tailored to Futurpreneur’s needs. In April-July, we worked with Ann Divine, CEO of Ashanti Leadership and Professional Development Services, to deliver workshop-based training to all Futurpreneur staff and Board members. Together we embarked on some foundational learning around unconscious bias, anti-black racism and diversity, equity and inclusion.
To continue our learning we implemented online “Learning Snippets” that send scenario-based learning to our team’s inboxes monthly and a DEI Conversation Series for continuous employee learning and engagement throughout the year. Along with providing a safe space for employees to unpack the topics touched on in Learning Snippets, every second month we invite an external speaker to share their story and experience of diversity, equity and inclusion in their life and work.
Upon the announcement of the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation in June 2021 and in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) Call to Action #92, Futurpreneur’s DEI Council began a commitment to take more actionable steps to the ongoing work of establishing and maintaining respectful relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Peoples. In accordance to the TRC’s Call to Action #92, Futurpreneur’s Training Team began the process of establishing and implementing education for both staff and management on the history and culture of Indigenous Peoples as well as foundational learnings on truth and reconciliation. In preparation for the inaugural National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on September 30th / 2021, Futurpreneur invited the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR) to provide a presentation on the Residential school history and residential school experiences, Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, and History of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) and the NCTR. In addition, our DEI Training Team created a Futurpreneur Truth and Reconciliation Toolkit to provide a living document designed to assist Futurpreneur staff with relevant information and resources that could be utilized for the observance of the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation and beyond. On the recommendation of the DEI council, Futurpreneur staff were given a half-day to observe, learn, and take action to participate in the inaugural National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
During National Indigenous History month in June of 2022, Futurpreneur DEI council implemented the 4 Seasons of Reconciliation Education course for our entire Futurpreneur staff and management. The 4 Seasons of Reconciliation Education is an online multimedia course that will provide Futurpreneur with basic, foundational learnings on Truth and Reconciliation as well as the culture and history of Indigenous Peoples. As an organization, our collective goal is to have our staff and management obtain their 4 Seasons of Reconciliation Certificate of Completion by March. 31st / 2023.
Recently we started sharing a DEI Monthly Calendar publishing a monthly list of the widely recognized months and day(s) of celebration for diverse cultures and historically underrepresented people’s. These holidays are intended to help raise awareness and understanding, celebrating diversity throughout the year.
We have made significant strides in adjusting our programming in several important areas.
In recognition of the credit barriers faced disproportionately by Black and Indigenous entrepreneurs, we adjusted our credit eligibility requirement to provide loans to young Black and Indigenous entrepreneurs whose credit ratings would have made them previously ineligible (we are unable to support entrepreneurs in collections or with bankruptcy proceedings not discharged for at least 5 years). We developed a two-part Credit Information video resource available to all young entrepreneurs who register with Futurpreneur, in hopes of helping them manage their credit responsibly and setting them up for financial success.
Alongside these developments, we spent over six months working with RBC on new resources to support Black entrepreneurs and were thrilled to launch our Black Entrepreneur Startup Program on March 24, 2021. This new offering, delivered by Futurpreneur with funding from RBC and additional loan financing from BDC, is a tailored version of our core Startup Program created by Black professionals and others on our team and delivered by Black team members for Black-led founding teams, in recognition of the value of lived experience. We have also bolstered our Indigenous Young Entrepreneur outreach and programming, with support funded by ISED, with the same principles in mind, including collaborating with NACCA to develop and deliver an Indigenous-focused version of our online Business Plan Writer.
To ensure that our programming is both accessible and delivered in an inclusive, safe way, we have improved the accessibility of our website and online portals, and now include an anti-harassment statement at the beginning of every event, in addition to our loan application process.
Outreach & Partnerships
We are grateful to partner with a diverse array of BIPOC- & 2SLGBTQIA+ – focused and led community associations and organizations. We will make the work of BIPOC & 2SLGBTQIA+ organizations more visible within our organization, to raise awareness and create opportunities, including with suppliers and strategic partners, and initiated this work with the recent signing of a partnership agreement with CAMSC (Canadian Aboriginal & Minority Supplier Council). We recently signed an MOU with Canada’s LGBT+ Chamber of Commerce. Through this partnership we will offer opportunities for our 2SLGBTQIA+ Entrepreneurs to connect with more like minded entrepreneurs and supplier diversity opportunities. We also hope to engage with their members and strategic partners in the hopes of engaging mentors with lived experience from the community.
We have added questions about the BIPOC status of entrepreneurs and mentors at intake, to better understand the diversity & inclusion of our community and client base. In an effort to provide better support to the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, we have also adding questions about 2SLGBTQIA+ identification in the months ahead. We intend to establish targets and track both the number of BIPOC and 2SLGBTQIA+ entrepreneurs we support and mentors we work with in order to improve our ability to serve the communities.
We’re also developing an inclusive procurement policy that will better allow our organization to live our values and procure services and products from a diverse pool of companies.
Recognizing the barrier that credit can create, and building on the existing credit education program within our online application. We are partnering with an organization that can provide an more immersive program to support people who have credit barriers.