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Business Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Starter Guide



What is the Portland Means Progress commitment and why should it matter to businesses?

The commitment is to provide your workplace with the skills to address racism. This can mean many things, among them:

  • Training to create shared understanding and language surrounding oppression

  • Examining how your business can help to mitigate the impacts of racism

  • Gaining tools to support employees to change organizational culture and center racial equity

What are the facts around earnings for people of color and why is culture change connected?

Communities of color access management and professional positions at half the levels of Whites in Multnomah County. (Communities of Color in Multnomah County: An Unsettling Profile)

Workplace culture can directly contribute to this disparity. Diversity, Equity and Inclusion training helps your business identify the ways in which you may be unconsciously or consciously contributing to a workplace culture that doesn’t allow people of color and other cultures to thrive.



Communities of color access management and professional positions at half the levels of Whites in Multnomah County
(Source: Coalition of Communities of Color)


So, what does the culture change process look like?

Your journey will be unique to you and your trainer. You can set a very tailored approach including ideal outcomes and goals that make sense for your business. You can expect trainings, discussions, and if you and your trainer decide, some short and long-term goals to shape more equitable business practices.

Different Approaches

There are many approaches to foster successful organizational culture change.

Prosper Portland will be engaging very thoughtfully in all elements to encourage this work and ensure a quality Portland Means Progress program but will never dictate the specific strategy you and your equity practitioner come up with.

Given Portland’s wide variety of companies, resources, trainers, and thought partners, success in culture change and racial equity will take a variety of forms. However, the essence of your approach does need to be aimed at training employees on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and the other ways your business can center a racial equity strategy in your workplace culture.

Not an end to this work

It will be very important for you to take a deep breath, roll up your sleeves, celebrate benchmarks and understand that the nature of this work is ongoing.

It’s a deep and long-term mission to end the ways in which racism impacts our communities, businesses and the people that make up both. Be ready to think differently about how to measure the success of your culture change work.

Sometimes it can be simply changing the way people feel; many times, it can bring your team closer together. So, while you may launch your equity work through Portland Means Progress, know that the overall journey will be constantly changing and consistently needing your support.

Definitions of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion


DIVERSITY is having multiple perspectives, identities, and cultures present in your workplace. While this is a great start, it doesn’t always incorporate the dynamics that will make everyone successful.


EQUITY is working toward an organizational culture that meets the specific needs of your diverse workforce, customers and products. It is not synonymous with equality. For example, if three people are eating pizza and each person gets one slice, that would be equality. Equity is asking who is the hungriest and dividing the pizza to meet each person’s needs.

Photo by jacoblund/iStock / Getty Images

INCLUSION is ensuring the optimal space and process for diverse people to participate, engage, and want to stay in your workplace.


Readiness Assessment

Here are some questions to consider before launching a DEI program at your place of business. It’s an important decision, one that we strongly encourage all companies to commit to. We also want to make sure this work is done in an intentional and responsible way so as not to create even more harm for communities of color.

  • Is investment present at the top of the organization, specifically the CEO?

  • Is staff time dedicated before, during, and after foundational training?

  • Is the company prepared to establish a baseline to track progress, such as a staff survey prior to beginning the work?

  • Is money devoted to these resources?


  • Is there a company-wide acknowledgement of the existence of racism and a shared understanding of the company’s commitment to dismantling it?

  • Does the company have a public statement or visible signs on display promoting equity & inclusion?

  • Do staff and customers have a process for supporting or investigating race-related complaints?

Lots of things will come up during this process, including feelings of camaraderie and relief to be working on such a critical and urgent mission. However, there will be times when some folks will be tested outside of their comfort zone and when employees of color might feel particularly exposed. Be sure to prepare with your equity practitioner for these situations.

Curriculum/Topics of Discussion


Our skilled practitioner community offers the following list of potential skills, topics, and dialogues that could be part of your DEI curriculum:

  • Dismantling white supremacy/dominant culture

  • Inclusionary practice

  • Implicit bias training

  • History of racism

  • How to be an ally/accomplice for racial justice

  • Building a shared language

  • Managing and investing in staff of color

  • Board engagement around racial equity

  • Policies, practices & organizational analysis

  • Inclusive communications

  • Micro-aggressions

  • Community building with communities of color

  • Cultural curiosity – how to foster a genuine care and understanding of other cultural values

  • Intercultural communications – how to connect and communicate cross-culturally

  • Detour spotting – spotting the ways in which dominant groups avoid the hard work

  • Launching and supporting an equity team

  • Employee coaching

  • Intersectionality



How to Find Equity Practitioners

Prosper Portland will be working within the equity practitioner community to come up with the most accessible and ethical ways to connect businesses with practitioners, such as an equity fair or a directory to foster connections and ensure that resources are ready for you to be successful. However, we are proceeding cautiously.  Numerous trainers are available, each with a different style, and to endorse one philosophy over another is not within our role or scope. We do hope to make links between businesses and trainers, so watch our website for updated information and events.

In the meantime, shop for a consultant that seems right for your style and needs. Share this starter guide to see what they think and what other elements they would add to your startup knowledge. And finally, be sure that whomever you choose is working with you on diversity, equity, and inclusion and will help you center racial equity through organizational culture change.  




Feel free to contact Prosper Portland’s Equity and Inclusion Program Manager with questions related to this guide.

Court Morse | email or 503-823-3193