Case Study #2: Building a coalition to increase belonging
The challenge: In a predominantly white city, residents of color did not feel welcomed and included within the broader community.
The solution: A coalition came together to amplify commonly excluded voices through an event that showed local businesses how they could be leaders in inclusion.
Why it matters: Partnerships are an effective tool to plan and execute events that support welcoming and long-term inclusion beyond Welcoming Week.
Building a coalition
According to Megan, Embrace Bend wants their events to build on each other and reach new limits. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Embrace Bend compiled a list of area businesses committed to being more inclusive. The following year, they wanted to go deeper.
Embrace Bend partnered with the local destination marketing organization, Visit Bend, and a broad group of partners for their 2021 Welcoming Week event. Titled Investing in Belonging: Aligning Businesses for Bend’s Growth, the event’s goal was to define with broad groups of community members – including BIPOC, LGBTQ+ people, disabled people, elders, and unhoused people – what it means to be safe and welcomed in local businesses.
The event was a success and the coalition that formed had a lasting impact: Visit Bend and other local businesses have continued to partner with Embrace Bend. After the event, they began working with a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) consultant on a pilot program that conducts anonymous assessments with volunteer business owners and their staff. The consultant provides feedback to the businesses and develops seminars that support their learning. Because of fundraising through the coalition, including with Bend’s local foundation, the program is free for small businesses to participate.
Megan stated that coalition-building has been the most important part of organizing events like this. She shared that Welcoming Week messaging supported Embrace Bend’s outreach and relationship-building with non-traditional partners.
Megan said Embrace Bend prioritizes paying stipends to community members for providing their expertise and sharing their lived experiences. This supports the organization’s commitment to equity. She encourages other Welcoming Week event organizers to incorporate speaker compensation into their planning as well.
Megan suggests focusing on events that have more than a one-time impact and events that build on previous event themes. The best events build partnerships and support the organization's long-term goals for a greater impact.
More examples of coalition-building:
Thank you to Megan Perkins, board president of Embrace Bend & city council member at the City of Bend, Oregon, for sharing insights about this Welcoming Week event.