Inside The Center May 2024 – DEI Experience

For this months Behind the Scenes, Philip Polk, Director of The Center’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Experience, discusses the program. 

What makes this program such a valuable resource for our community?   

The DEI Experience offers a roadmap for organizations of any size to create a more inclusive environment. Ideally, these cultures treat everyone equitably, combat bias, and embrace diversity. Our customized training sessions promote understanding and empathy, which in turn improve relationships, strengthen networks, and increase civility. 

Our program is unique in that we apply the lessons of the civil and global human rights movements throughout history to inform our approach to workplace issues. In 2023, more than 5,500 participants from 43 organizations took part in our DEI Experience—companies like Siemens, Chick-fil-A, and the Atlanta Braves, as well as nonprofits like the Girl Scouts of Atlanta, United Way, and Goodwill. 

How did the program begin?   

In 2019, The Center convened chief diversity officers throughout metro Atlanta to explore best practices. This forum led to a broader internal conversation about how our organization could share information about DEI.  

I joined The Center in 2020 after serving as Hallmark Cards’ chief diversity officer. Excited to shape The Center’s DEI program, I developed a curriculum and built a team of facilitators.   

We launched our first training session in September 2020 with The Home Depot. In our inaugural year, we facilitated 30 client sessions and offered a seven-course curriculum.  

In 2024, we expanded our curriculum to 18 courses to deliver more tailored training. By the end of this year, we expect to conduct more than 115 training sessions.  

Our team of six experts conducts presentations on DEI, moderates town hall meetings, and leads small-group discussions. We offer virtual and in-person facilitations. Clients can have sessions at their location or The Center, including a guided tour of our museum. 

What are some of the near- and long-term goals for the DEI Experience?  

In the near term, we aim to expand our service area from Georgia to the nation and reach universities, chambers of commerce, and smaller organizations in need.  

Our long-term goal is to broaden our audience to include anyone interested in DEI. We will introduce a certification program to provide individuals with a robust DEI skill set and to facilitate deeper community engagement. 

How do you see the program’s role at The Center? 

DEI Experience is vital to The Center’s mission to inspire changemakers by empowering individuals to transform their workplaces towards inclusivity. 

Our training exercises equip people to make sustainable changes within their organizations. A prime example is our Brave Space Forum. Participants in this networking lunch-and-learn tackle challenging issues and solutions to shift their workplace culture.  

These conversations and educational events enhance public awareness of our program and serve as a potent model to heal our communities from polarization and discrimination.   

How can people support the DEI Experience Program?   

I encourage people who are passionate about DEI to join our events and tell others to attend. Use your knowledge to help people become changemakers in their communities and organizations.  

Consider bringing our DEI program to your organization for a facilitated experience. Volunteer to lead tours at our museum and share the importance of DEI. Finally, consider supporting our work through donations to The Center.