New Year, New Programs: Introducing the DEI Series

New Year

With every passing year, America grows more diverse. In today’s competitive arena, workplace diversity is something most companies strive to achieve. It’s no wonder, too, because workplace diversity is so much more than just being politically correct – it is a serious competitive advantage. Studies show diverse companies outperform their competitors time and time again. The many benefits of diversity in the workplace include increased creativity, higher employee engagement, increased profits, and improved hiring results.

Through our annual member survey, members reported a talented workforce as a top issue impacting our region. Without diversity, equity and inclusion, we limit our talent, resources and the business opportunities necessary to thrive in an increasingly competitive global marketplace. A diverse and inclusive company culture helps companies attract great people and create an ideal environment for the entire workforce.

The Grand Rapids Chamber is pleased to provide programs and services to help businesses employ a strategic approach to this work. This year, we are proud to introduce a new program, the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) Series.

Through the DEI Series, the Grand Rapids Chamber will provide workshops and seminars covering an umbrella of highly sought-after topics, from DEI 101 to gender equality, physical disabilities and more. This series is designed to inspire sensitivity and increase awareness. Subject matter experts will provide attendees with tools to help their businesses capitalize on diversity and inclusion.

Ken James, Director of Inclusion for the Grand Rapids Chamber, is excited to offer this new series in addition to the work the Chamber is already doing.

“Last year we saw record numbers in our DEI programs, with a sold-out DEI Summit and over 120 participants in the Institute for Health Racism,” James said. “We are proud to expand on this work. The DEI Series will focus on providing our members with the knowledge and tools necessary to take actionable steps towards a more diverse and inclusive West Michigan.”

New Year, New Programs: Introducing the DEI Series

Introducing Institute for Healing Racism 2.0

In addition to the DEI Series, in 2020 the Chamber is also adding the Institute for Healing Racism 2.0.

Institute for Healing Racism is a two-day program that brings people together to have an open and honest conversation about racism, examining it as both a personal and societal problem. Once this is accomplished, the framework is set for not only knowing how to identify racism, but learning how to take steps to combat it in our workplaces and communities.

“The Institute for Healing Racism was a very eye-opening experience,” said Karen Powell, Vice President of Human Resources at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital. “It is a great – and safe – way to learn to recognize racism as it presents itself socially, and the tools that can be used to confront it. It is helping me to mind my own bias and teaching me why minimizing only fuels the problem.”

Institute for Healing Racism 2.0 is an extension of this program. This one-day immersive experience allows participants to look deeper at racism and other “ism”s, including LGBTQ+ and gender issues, ageism and more.

“Based on feedback we’ve gotten over the years, we’re excited to offer participants the opportunity to dive deeper into these important conversations,” James said. “By addressing them head-on, we can continue to educate ourselves and others and work to combat racism in our community.”

James has a long history in this work, facilitating more than 80 sessions of Institute for Healing Racism since 1999. He is currently in the process of completing his Executive Certification in Diversity Coaching (ECDC). This exclusive program combines the transformational power of coaching with diversity and leadership training.

The Grand Rapids Chamber is committed to actively seeking a diverse, equitable and inclusive workforce, membership, business environment and community. We will continue to roll out new program offerings, resources and events to best serve our members. Keep an eye out on the Chamber’s website for more information!


To learn more about the Grand Rapids Chamber’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, contact Ken James, Director of Inclusion, at or 616.771.0320.


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