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Lehigh Valley Organizations Partner on Strategic Plan for Diversity and Inclusion

By Colin McEvoy on October 29, 2019

An impressive array of Lehigh Valley’s regional organizations have come together on a project seeking to identify and remove the systemic and structural barriers to racial equity and inclusion.

The project, called Color Outside the Lines, involves a coalition seeking to develop a five- to seven-year Strategic Plan for Diversity and Inclusion. The hope is to engage hundreds of Lehigh Valley residents in a conversation on race that would lead to the creation of the plan.

“This effort will distinguish the Lehigh Valley from too many communities whose scars can’t seem to heal,” said David Jones, a health benefits consultant and former three-term Lehigh County commissioner, who will be co-chairing the project.

“Addressing the issue of how we deploy and even celebrate our diversity and actively seek to include rather than exclude is a labor supply issue, an economic development imperative, an educational challenge and a moral obligation,” Jones said during a public announcement of the project last week.

The project is being organized by the Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley (CACLV), which is providing staff support for the planning process.

The Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation is one of several regional organizations participating in Color Outside the Lines, and LVEDC President & CEO Don Cunningham will co-chair the development of the plant.

Cunningham noted that a community that respects and celebrates its diversity is far more attractive to companies looking to locate in a new place than one that is intolerant and homogeneous.

The Color Outside the Lines coalition hopes to complete a draft of a plan by June. It will then go back to each participating organization for a new endorsement, to be followed by a new phase of implementation, according to CACLV Executive Director Alan Jennings.

“In an us-versus-them world, this process needs everyone to be ‘us,’” Jennings said. “This is an opportunity to learn how much we are all better off when we are all better off. Let’s show the rest of the nation what it means to be from the Lehigh Valley.”

This multi-year strategic plan will be developed through a series of informed community-wide conversations involving forums, workshops, informal gatherings, community meetings, focus groups, conferences and trainings in the business community, Jennings said. The process will include stakeholders from a variety of fields, backgrounds, and ages.

Other organizations participating in the project’s development include Lehigh Valley Partnership, Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce, Workforce Board Lehigh Valley, United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley, Lehigh Valley Arts Council, My Brother’s Keeper Lehigh Valley, and Greater Lehigh Valley Consortium for Excellence and Equity.

County and city elected officials from Lehigh Valley were also asked to participate, including Allentown Mayor Ray O’Connell, Bethlehem Mayor Robert Donchez, Easton Mayor Sal Panto Jr., Lehigh County Executive Phillips Armstrong, and Northampton County Executive Lamont McClure.

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