What began in 2019 as a plan to create a one-day event aimed at helping businesses in the Eugene, Oregon, area adopt more equitable, inclusive, and diverse practices has ramped up to become what is now Endeavor Eugene.
Endeavor Eugene is an initiative of the Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce in partnership with Kaiser Permanente. The program focuses on bringing voices of color together each month to have real conversations about real issues facing individuals in Lane County.
Ayisha Elliott, host of the podcast “Black Girl From Eugene,” kicked off the conversation series in February 2021 with topics of anti-racism. Facilitating the group of mostly individuals from local businesses, Elliott helped the attendees explore their personal relationship to racism and how it can influence their professional performance.
“You are going to get uncomfortable,” Elliot told the group of nearly 200 who had joined her virtually. “The process is vulnerable and it’s personal, but it means we are on the right track,” she said.
Exploring equity, inclusion, and diversity
In 2019, Kaiser Permanente approached the chamber about local partnership opportunities. About that time, the chamber had been exploring the topic of equity, inclusion, and diversity and what role it has in creating more inclusive communities.
“People are experiencing their lives in our community. They might be building social outlets and relationships,” said Brittany Quick-Warner, executive director for the Eugene Chamber of Commerce. “But all of us are spending a lot of our time in workplaces. If those places are not inclusive and places where someone feels safe, then how can our community feel safe?”
Deeper than business practices
With support from Kaiser Permanente, the chamber began planning an EID workshop to help businesses adopt more equitable and inclusive policies. The team quickly learned that a one-day session was not enough.
“We knew this went deeper than business practices. We found that we were faced with difficult conversations that we knew our community needed to have,” Quick-Warner said. “And, we wanted to be part of the solution in addressing racism in our community.”
In late 2019, the chamber’s EID committee held 2 community listening sessions. Close to 60 people attended each session.
During this time, political and racial tension was on the rise, hate crimes were increasing, and in May 2020, the murder of George Floyd brought mass protests to the streets.
“We wanted to make sure the chamber was not stepping into this work offering the solution,” Quick-Warner said. “There were good organizations in the community that had been doing this difficult work. These are voices of experience and leaders who we wanted to amplify and align with to create change.”
Addressing deep-rooted issues
From these efforts emerged Endeavor Eugene. In addition to the monthly Endeavor Conversations, Endeavor Eugene provides EID training for local businesses and nonprofits; support for businesses owned by people of color, and individuals to achieve success; as well as a virtual resource center.
“The Eugene chamber is an incredible organization. They are committed to helping address deep-rooted issues in the community. We are proud to be a part of this important ongoing work,” said Sarah Wagener, business-to-business consultant for Kaiser Permanente in Lane County and member of the chamber’s EID committee.
“Kaiser Permanente is a shining example of what can happen when we align our work with the businesses who sponsor us,” said Quick-Warner. “We get to be true partners in the impact of the work.”
Get involved and learn more about Endeavor Eugene.