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Opportunity and Inclusion in Akron - What Does the Future Hold?

Thursday, July 25, 2019 by Robert DeJournett

Sit-Down with Robert DeJournett

Robert DeJournett was named the Greater Akron Chamber Vice President of Opportunity and Inclusion in May of 2019. Robert has been heavily involved in diversity and inclusion issues in our region since his early days as a professional and has emerged himself in all there is to know about this topic in the Akron community. Below is a just a glance into the visionary’s early work at the Chamber in advancing the mission of the Opportunity Akron initiative.

Q: What does your role mean for the Akron community?

A: It’s been my life mission to be a connector. I spend a great deal of time in the community, getting to know its people, its companies, the region’s strengths and weaknesses, where opportunities exist and trying to help everyone find their fit, fulfill their needs and get ahead.  As a result, I have been fortunate that I've never sought after leadership roles I’ve held, people have reached out for help, which in turn has helped me. Not everyone is so fortunate, which is why this work is so important to me. We have to be better finding everyone their opportunity.  My main goal is to connect the opportunities to the community and vice versa. This work will focus mainly on identifying resources to help present opportunities for our people and businesses in our minority communities, in particular, which are particularly underserved and not as easily connected.

Q: Where does your work fall under the Elevate Greater Akron initiative?

A: The goal of the Greater Akron Chamber’s piece of Elevate Greater Akron, Opportunity Akron, is to assist minority-owned small businesses of our community, including African Americans, women, veterans, LGBTQ, and more, to be more connected, have more opportunity and thrive. There is significant work to do in connecting our larger corporations, governments and purchasers of all services and products aware of the incredible wealth of small businesses we have locally. We are looking to create a central place where we will have a comprehensive and searchable list of these minority-owned businesses, what they do and how to engage with them. This will be a good start in ensuring that no group is excluded and we will work diligently to drive inclusion in Akron.

Q: What is the Greater Akron Chamber doing to mirror Opportunity Akron internally?

A: The Greater Akron Chamber is leading this initiative by changing who it is, what it does and how it interacts. We are intentionally increasing diversity in our memberships, staff members, and Board members. We are executing plans to reach out to and engage with minority leaders and business owners in our community.

We are also excited to announce a new Opportunity Inclusion Committee that will consist of 40 different individuals that represent various members of the Chamber. The committee’s focus will be broken down into three primary objectives:

  • Corporate Norms 
    • Creating awareness of biases in the workplace and how they drive our decisions.
    • Offer diversity roundtable events.
  • Support for Minority Businesses
    • Database of female, LGBTQ, veteran-owned businesses in our region.
    • Peer support and education.
    • Mentor programs - CEOs mentoring small businesses.
  • Storytelling
    • Success stories on the topic of inclusion.
    • Increase visibility of resources.
    • Populated pools of talent and have stakeholders be a model of our workforce and hiring practices. 

Q: What will the Greater Akron Inclusion Summit consist of?

A: The Greater Akron Inclusion Summit will target CEOs, other C Suite leaders, community leaders, and stakeholders of all kinds. It will provide an overview, local reaction, and perspective of the inclusion narrative in Akron. We’ve heard time and time again that many organizations cannot find diverse candidates. We have to change that narrative! A panel of corporate leaders will be featured, discuss issues, determine what is working and what is not, develop solutions and share best practices, challenges, and recruiting strategies for inclusion in their organizations. A national speaker will also be featured to give us a look into different ponds and how other locations in the U.S. are tackling inclusion and winning.

Q: Where do you see Akron in one year?

A: This problem didn’t arrive overnight, and it will not be solved that quickly either. It's going to take great commitment and work to get there. While we will not have arrived in a year, we will start moving the needle forward. We will identify what we know, what we don’t and start forming strategies about how to move forward and make real progress. We will work with the City of Akron and the County of Summit to help support other community partners in these most important inclusion initiatives.

Posted: Thursday, July 25, 2019 by Robert DeJournett | with 2 comments


Comments
A. Clay SMith
community resources are scarce and must carry the perspective of those we wish to help, There is no one of us as smart or experiences as all of us. F.O.C.U.S. Follow one course until successful good luck.
10/24/2019 10:45:17 PM
 
Tammy Grimmett
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7/26/2019 3:31:12 PM
 
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