A committee formed by Allen City Council has identified key ways to make Allen more welcoming and engaging to people of all backgrounds.
The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) Ad Hoc Committee presented their final report to Allen City Council on November 9. The committee was formed in April 2021 in response to the goals outlined by City Council in the 2036 City of Allen Strategic Plan. Councilmembers charged the group with finding ways to enhance Allen’s diversity, equity and inclusion, then presenting recommendations to help guide future initiatives.
The group of twelve citizens, appointed by Allen Mayor Ken Fulk, discovered Allen was the first and only city in Collin County to take such a specific and meaningful approach to this topic.
“DE&I can mean many things to different people. But for our committee, we viewed it as inclusion for all, as well as respecting the diversity of thought and lived experiences of each individual,” said John Gain, committee Chair. “We would define it as full community engagement, in which all residents of Allen from all backgrounds are engaged and collaborating with each other to ensure Allen continues to be a welcoming, inclusive and thriving community.”
Committee members logged closed to 2,000 hours to research and prepare recommendations. Their findings coalesced into four themes: Listening, connection, education and continued citizen involvement through creation of a permanent Community Engagement Citizen Advisory Board.
Listen and Learn
The group’s first recommendation is to listen and learn from the individual and collective unique voices and perspectives of the Allen citizenry. This could include development of a citizen survey and in-person focus groups, along with feedback from ongoing programs and events. This would help provide a baseline of citizen expectations and experiences to set measurable goals for future efforts.
Connect and Communicate
They discovered many Allen organizations were already involved in work that advances diversity, equity and inclusion, but lacked a central way to publicize and share their efforts. Similarly, City departments frequently engaged residents on a wide range of topics, but efforts were often siloed, leaving many residents unaware of opportunities to give input or get involved.
To address this gap, the committee recommended developing and promoting a brand which focuses on full community engagement in Allen. They also encouraged quarterly meetings with Allen groups so that the City could collaborate and promote programs. This could include development of an annual calendar which is focused on a variety of different activities, events and programs involving people of all backgrounds.
Educate and Enhance
The committee suggested assessing and enhancing the City’s inventory of past and current educational events and programs. This could help identify areas where new learning workshops or educational series could be beneficial. This could include development of unique awareness events focused on particular topics, or even an annual festival which highlights the varied cultures and backgrounds found in Allen. The group recommended partnering with other communities and organizations to plan and implement these types of new programs and events.
Continued Involvement: Permanent Advisory Board
Though the ad hoc committee was designed to be temporary, group members recommended that Allen City Council consider forming a permanent Community Engagement Advisory Board to serve as a link between the City and its residents. This group could be tasked with advising council on engagement strategies; working with residents, elected officials and City staff to advance the recommendations of the initial plan; promoting the board to the public; and helping to implement the strategies ultimately selected by Allen City Council.
From discussions with the Allen Economic Development Corporation, the committee learned that companies often weighed a community’s embrace of diversity, equity and inclusion when considering a relocation. The group believed this reinforced the need for a long-term strategy and permanent committee.
“We believe and trust that this is just the beginning of a new, exciting and inspiring in Allen’s story,” said Gain.
Councilmembers will discuss the recommendations as part of an upcoming strategic planning session.