The Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (J.E.D.I.) Council is a group of colleagues continuously working to make Animal Friends Alliance a more welcoming place for its staff, supporters, volunteers, and community members. The council achieved several noteworthy accomplishments in 2022 & 2023 and will continue to act on the JEDI themes during 2024. 

In 2022 the JEDI Council began to share cultural celebrations and offer cultural education in the organization’s internal weekly updates. This initiative is a crucial step towards recognizing and honoring different cultures and communities. It also helps to promote cultural awareness and appreciation within the organization. Throughout 2022 and 2023, the JEDI Council highlighted celebrations related to religious identity, national origin, race, gender identity and sexual orientation, and more.

The JEDI Council also hosted a gathering to celebrate Pride in June 2022. This event was an opportunity for staff to come together and celebrate the LGBTQ+ community. The Alliance marketing team created rainbow-themed Animal Friends Alliance stickers to share with staff and volunteers. These stickers have been a fun and creative way to show support and are still available for purchase from Animal Friends Alliance!

In 2022, The Alliance began to offer pronoun pins for staff members and volunteers to wear as an optional uniform piece, and in 2023 employees and volunteers had the option to add their pronouns to their name tags. The JEDI council provided education on how this simple and effective way of sharing personal pronouns shows acceptance and solidarity when it comes to the complex and deeply personal concept of identity. Animal Friends Alliance recognizes that pronoun indication is an essential part of creating an inclusive and safe environment for all individuals. The JEDI Council also advocated for staff to state their pronouns when introducing themselves, and many Alliance staff members have begun to include their pronouns on name tags, email signatures, business cards, and video chat titles. 

Animal Friends Alliance leadership requested help from the JEDI Council to develop an animal naming guide. The JEDI Council created a “disallowed names” list in response to this request.  Names or words that may seem as “harmless” or “silly” can still carry a great deal of significance depending on context, use, and origin. Even if unintentional, choosing a name for an animal with racist, sexist, oppressive connotation or overtones, and/or history could make the reader of that name feel hurt, traumatized, or unwelcome. This resource of names that cannot be used for Animal Friends Alliance animals helps our staff navigate challenging conversations about choosing animal names that are in line with our organization’s values with respect to the diverse populations we aim to serve.

The JEDI Council has also worked to provide training for staff on diversity, empathy, and communication at company-wide All Staff Meetings. Training in these areas is an essential step towards creating a more inclusive and welcoming workplace. It helps staff members to understand and respect different perspectives and experiences, thus promoting greater understanding and collaboration among team members that transfers to daily interactions with community members. In 2023 JEDI Council launched a Lunch & Learn series for Animal Friends Alliance staff members where they could learn and have meaningful conversation around inclusivity topics that affect animal welfare.

During the Bringing Paws Together Capital Campaign, JEDI provided suggestions during the planning process to improve accessibility at the new Animal Friends Alliance facility, which opened to the public in late 2022. The new facility is fully ADA accessible and includes tables with wheelchair accessible seating in meet and greet areas, directional signage with braille lettering, and a private break room that can be used for a number of things such as nursing parents, or privacy during moments of grief, or for anyone living with a condition or belief that requires a private space for care or contemplation.

In addition, JEDI also sought ways to develop a culture of inclusivity further by reviewing the venue choices for the All Staff Meeting. Guidance was offered that allowed the agency to make a choice of venues that aligned more closely with our core values and DEI initiatives.

Finally, JEDI reviewed the performance appraisal format and questions for bias. Recommendations were made to ensure that appraisals would be fair and unbiased in an effort to promote greater equity and justice, and improve communication.

Throughout 2022 & 2023, Animal Friends Alliance demonstrated their commitment to justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion through a range of initiatives that promoted awareness, understanding, and respect. These efforts are a testament to the importance of creating a welcoming and inclusive workplace while recognizing the ongoing and active processes required to truly embody all of these principles. In 2023 our DEI statement was finalized and entered into the Policy and Procedure Manual and Employee Handbook update and JEDI Council has become a chartered committee. In 2024, the JEDI Council will continue to facilitate conversations and take on projects related to challenging systems, organizational structures, policies and practices to make Animal Friends Alliance a more welcoming place for everyone.

We invite anyone who is interested in learning more or participating in this process to reach out to the JEDI Council at Jedi@SavingAnimalsToday.org.