Member Spotlight: Home Forward


January 31, 2024 – Our monthly Member Spotlight showcases a dedicated member who is actively working to dismantle obstacles for professionals of color and foster workplaces that prioritize equity and inclusion for everyone. This month, we connected with Aimee Smith, director of human resources at Home Forward who shared insights on the specific steps the organization is taking to foster an inclusive culture.

How have you seen Home Forward’s diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives enhance its internal culture and foster a more inclusive environment for all members of the community?

Home Forward has made a focus of building and fostering a culture that lives into our values, creates a foundation of trust, space for learning, grace and pace, and anti-racism. 

Our internal culture is evolving and continuing to shift. I have watched us live into our values and develop a Racial Harm Hotline where we have seen an increase in staff observing racist behavior and report it, meaning they are aware of what it looks like and calling out that it is not acceptable. We have implemented a Racial Harm Policy and held people accountable for their behavior under it. We have had each department identify goals specifically related to equity. So, that slowly over time we are weaving in the focus on equity and anti-racism into all facets of how we think, make decisions, spend money, develop programs, create positions, and hold people accountable. 

We are currently working on developing culture metrics that will help us to evaluate the impact this work is having on our employees and our culture. I am excited for what it is to come because we are just getting started!

Tell us about a notable Partners in Diversity program or connection that has helped further your organization’s DEI efforts.

Partners in Diversity has been a great resource for us as an organization and human resources department.  We have enjoyed engaging with new people in the area at the Say Hey! events, as well as using the jobs board to advertise new opportunities for our organization. As a smaller organization we are lesser known as an employer in the area, and we love connecting and sharing more about what we do and how we serve the greater Multnomah County community. 

Also, the Equity Summit was an engaging space to meet other passionate folks and learn from some amazing speakers. I really valued their experiences, wisdom, and insights. I found myself connecting some dots and had some ah-ha moments. Plus, this was one of those events where both our HR team members and our Equity team members engaged and shared in learning together!

What advice would you give to other organizations who are looking to actively engage their employees in their DEI efforts?

You will see the greatest success if you apply three approaches. The first being, seeing this as an investment in your people and your culture versus a good business decision. Second, this can’t be a one-time event, there needs to be ongoing work that looks at systems and decision making. Third, this can’t be held by one or two people in your organization; it must be the work of everyone.