JOURNAL

CO Justice + Equity+ Diversity + Inclusion

By Antoinette Bunkley and Rachel Bascombe

CO Architects is an architectural practice of diverse employees, hailing from multiple countries and speaking multiple languages. The firm has been successful in creating a diverse and inclusive workplace that makes everyone – regardless of who they are or what position they hold – feel equally involved in and supported in all areas of the workplace. CO believes everyone brings with them a diverse set of perspectives, work and life experiences, as well as religious and cultural differences that contribute to our goal of creating lasting impact through design for both the communities our buildings transform and the people who use them every day. To that end, the practice has endeavored to foster a work environment for thought leaders at all levels, from junior positions all the way to leadership and is committed to seeking opportunities for growth in the workplace.

Diversity + Inclusion

In 2018, acknowledging the firm’s commitment to creating and maintaining a diverse and continually improving workplace, CO’s Diversity + Inclusion initiative recognized that additional outreach was needed into the Black architectural community. CO’s goal was to expose more Black people to CO Architects and the architectural profession, since Black architects represent about 2% of all licensed architects and Black women represent approximately 0.4%. Employees joined the Southern California Chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architects (SoCal NOMA), a national organization dedicated to the development and advancement of minority architects. NOMA’s mission is to champion diversity within the design professions by promoting community engagement and the excellence and professional development of its members.

CO has been a proud participant and sponsor of the SoCal NOMA Architecture and Engineering Summer Camp for the past three years. The camp is a part of the NOMA National Project Pipeline initiative, which aims to engage and teach youth between ages 10-17 and specifically targets underrepresented minorities. It exposes minority students to the architecture profession through the architectural design process in hopes of nurturing their growth at an early age.

Justice + Equity

The events that took place mid-2020 made us acknowledge we could no longer ignore that racism exists, leading CO to make a commitment to deal with social injustice by establishing a CO Justice + Equity + Diversity + Inclusion (JEDI) Task Force. Our mission is to dismantle systemic racism by taking decisive action and empowering marginalized voices.

 

The JEDI Task Force’s goals include:

  • Establish common language, common ground, and common platform for understanding racism
  • Create a safe space for discussing racism
  • Educate, inform and discuss
  • Empower marginalized voices (using your voice and your platform to give a voice)

 

Below are some call-to-action items generated from these initiatives: 

JEDI COnnect We are developing an Intranet page to communicate our mission statement and initiatives to the office. This will provide continued awareness and visibility of the JEDI Task Force activities and be a resource for current and relevant information on education, communication and awareness of social justice and defeating racism. 

Theory of EnchantmentThe purpose of the second initiative is to educate the office on systemic racism and bias by providing resources and tools that will help create spaces of inclusivity at CO and beyond. The Theory of Enchantment’s three principles and accompanying media content have been proven to inspire new pathways of thinking about ourselves and one another, anti-racism, and diversity and inclusion in the workspace and beyond. The Theory of Enchantment is an innovative framework for compassionate antiracism. This deeply moving training includes interaction and open dialogue, and is offered to all CO employees. 

CO Gallery Our future art shows will promote the work of local Black and minority artists to engage with multiple creative perspectives that further CO’s greater mission of inclusion, diversity and equity.

Exhibition Black Sheep by Micah Johnson.

USC Architecture – A-Lab Program The USC A-Lab Architecture Enrichment Program is the next iteration of a successful high school architecture program first established by Dean Milton S. F. Curry at the University of Michigan in 2015. The program partners with public and charter high schools in downtown and South-Central Los Angeles to provide immersive instruction in architecture and design to underrepresented minority students.

Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) HBCUs are institutions of higher education in the United States that were established before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 with the intention of primarily serving the Black community. Our goal is to reach out to HBCUs for talented, creative and visionary students seeking a career in architecture and introduce them to our firm, establish an ongoing working and financial relationship, and provide internships and employment opportunities to undergraduate and graduate students.

SoCal NOMA Diversity, Equity, Inclusion Challenge – CO has taken the SoCal NOMA Pledge, and through our partnership with SoCal NOMA will work towards the Diversity Equity Inclusion (DEI) Challenge. This is an annual challenge that will foster change in the architecture profession.

All of us at CO believe we are obligated to reconstruct a new and better society, starting first with our practice and profession. CO also sponsors WoCO (Women of CO), which focuses on developing leadership skills for women employees of all levels. CO annually conducts COU (CO University), a six-month leadership and staff development program for a rotating group of staff. CO is proud to have a firm composition of 55% Women, and 44% Minority, out of a total staff of 144.

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