‘Experiences are the stories people live.’ (Berryman et al.)
My first meeting with the City of Waterloo involved staff describing their lived experiences to the attendees at an interdepartmental equity meeting. Lived experiences are our personal stories and knowledge of the world gained through direct involvement; they are storytelling of what has personally happened to people, in their own words. These stories deeply inform qualitative research because of how personal and educational they were. Every person experiences the world differently; everyone experiences different situations and has access to different resources. As individuals, we need to be compassionate and informed about the different places people are in life and as staff understand the impacts of all residents through the design of city services, programs, and policies. This foundational research was part of my work with the City of Waterloo to begin the development of the city’s Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) plan.
I worked with the Indigenous Initiatives, Anti-Racism, Accessibility, and Equity division at the City of Waterloo to research best practices by reaching out to EDI professionals working in local and international governments, businesses, universities, and think tanks to get their expertise on engaging the community in EDI. I also worked closely with the internal measurement and monitoring team to share the best practices and receive feedback.
Measuring EDI can quickly become impersonal and clinical such as hiring a quota of equity-deserving individuals to meet minimum requirements for an equitable organization. Hiring equity-deserving individuals is important, but it cannot be the only part of an EDI plan. It is about building an equitable, inclusive, and diverse world responsive to community members and listening to people’s stories and experiences. It is about seeing the people behind the numbers, especially when designing policies and services for the people of a community.
Measuring and monitoring EDI in the community in an engaging way is a tall order. EDI research typically applies effective strategies to hire a more diverse staff. Research in this area is new, limited, and untested. To have community research that the City of Waterloo is engaged in is even rarer. The City of Waterloo began this process to ensure the corporation better reflects the citizens of Waterloo that it serves. My research will help create the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion plan for the City to meet the team’s goal to design a plan to observe and measure equity, diversity, and inclusion within the community.
This type of community engagement is especially important because as a local government, the City of Waterloo wants to make sure they listen and respond to truly represent its citizens by considering the impacts of unique and diverse opinions and provide the best possible services for community-building and a safe space for everyone.
Community-based EDI research takes this meaning to heart and includes everyone, to make all services equitable, and to ensure every service provided includes diverse points of view. For instance, using both QR codes and city tax returns to gather information ensures a true understanding of all people, not solely one group. This makes sure the research reflects a true understanding of people and their stories.https://www.waterloo.ca/en/government/reconciliation-equity-diversity-and-inclusion.aspx
Measuring EDI is about building an equitable, inclusive, and diverse world that is kind to the community members and listens to people’s stories and experiences. It is about seeing the people behind the numbers and measuring our progress to support EDI goals within municipal policies and structures.
Emily Kraemer (she/her) is a recent graduate from the Master of Applied Politics program at Wilfrid Laurier University. She specialized in legal studies in her undergraduate degree and has a special interest in international relations and geopolitics. She has engaged in equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) policy creation and research during her graduate research practicum at the City of Waterloo.
Emily holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Wilfrid Laurier University alongside her Master of Applied Politics. She is passionate about the environment, evidenced by her work with environmental-political organizations such as GreenPAC.