DiverseCity onBoard is the “go-to” program that connects qualified, pre-screened candidates from visible minority and underrepresented communities to volunteer board positions. It provides training in governance through an online learning campus supplemented by in-person discussions and events. The connections are made through a searchable database that matches qualified diverse individuals with board opportunities. DiverseCity onBoard promotes full inclusion. It’s based on merit – it’s not about tokenism.
Governance is the top tier of leadership, where ultimate oversight, strategic direction and policy are determined. But equally important is the representational role that boards uphold. A lack of diversity at this level has sweeping implications for how underrepresented groups see themselves, their relevance and their place at the decision-making table. DiverseCity onBoard directly addresses this challenge with a proactive matching service that identifies, trains and facilitates the placement of qualified candidates in governance roles on public and nonprofit agencies, boards and commissions.
Diversity is rising and multiplying in cities around the world. It’s most visible feature derives from the increasing ethnic and racial diversity, particularly in large urban centers. Yet, while our cities and urban regions are increasingly diverse, urban leadership, be it political, social, cultural or economic, has not caught up to the demographic reality. Research conducted by Ryerson University in 2009 found that, on average, only 13% of leadership positions in the GTA were occupied by visible minorities, compared to 49.5% share in the population. Our cities are diverse, our leadership is not.
Our vision is to enhance the standard for modern, effective governance through diverse leadership. We want to change the face of leadership in cities where DiverseCity onBoard is operating.
Our beginnings can be traced back to 2005 when Maytree developed a solution to address the lack of diversity at public agencies, boards and commissions in the Greater Toronto Area. With a roster of 100 candidates and the goal to match at least 10 per cent of them with boards by the end of the year, the program launched as abcGTA. In 2007, at the first Toronto City Summit, it gained added impetus with louder calls for action on diversity in sectors like housing, health and education. The province of Ontario made a $1.5 million commitment to DiverseCity: The Greater Toronto Leadership Project. With this, abcGTA metamorphosed into DiverseCity onBoard and became a key cornerstone of the Toronto effort.
Since its launch we have successfully matched more than 720 qualified professionals, entrepreneurs, social workers, administrators and marketers from visible minority and under-represented immigrant communities with hospitals, museums and the voluntary sector. These organizations range from small community charities such as the Storytelling Toronto and Photographers without Borders to large institutions such as Seneca College and the Liquor Control Board of Ontario.
News of our success spread globally. In December 2011, DiverseCity onBoard was recognized by the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations and the BMW Group, underscoring that the program is smart, simple, and – most importantly – scalable. We are pleased to announce that DiverseCity onBoard is now part of the new Global Diversity Exchange housed at the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University. It has evolved from an Excel spreadsheet to a social enterprise model with a state-of-the-art board matching database and a new DiverseCity onBoard Campus that offers affordable, quality online governance training to anyone, anywhere in the world. Our new association with Ryerson University comes at an opportune time and allows us to move from a community-based initiative to become part of an institution with a bigger footprint and reach.
DiverseCity onBoard has expanded to six additional cities in Canada: Calgary, Hamilton, London, Montreal, Ottawa, and Vancouver. It is also the home of a growing international community of practice which gathers virtually and in person to deliberate and develop new instruments for change. More than 30 cities are members of this network, from Boston to Stockholm to Berlin.
In 2011, DiverseCity onBoard was selected from over 400 international proposals to receive second prize in the Intercultural Innovation Awards sponsored by the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations and BMW Group.
The award opened up a new chapter for DiverseCity onBoard and Maytree. It supports the replication of DiverseCity onBoard nationally and internationally and has resulted in a growing network of more than 30 cities working together to develop similar programs in countries around the world.
The international community of practice is growing and already counts organizations in Auckland, Atlanta, Barcelona, Berlin, Birmingham, Boston, Calgary, Cologne, Copenhagen, Dublin, Hamilton, London, Montreal, New York, Oakland, Ottawa, Stuttgart, Sydney, and Vienna.