w(HERE) we are is a new collective of designers, illustrators and creatives who are POC and LGBTQ+, led by organizers Lisa Congdon, Eugenie Jolivett Fontana, and Victor Maldonado. The collective was launched at Design Week 2017, and they are back again with their first major event, a diversity, equity and inclusion workshop, led by inclusion experts Randolph Carter and Elizabeth Denevi.

Teams that leverage diversity are more creative, more collaborative, and better at solving problems. This workshop will empower agency leaders, hiring managers, and executive teams to strengthen their organization’s core culture and create a more equitable environment.

At minimum, agencies must register two participants from their agency, including one decision-maker (a partner or CEO) and the hiring manager/HR lead (if one exists), plus anyone else who is interested in helping to lead the effort. The workshop fee includes a catered lunch.

Participants can expect to:

  • Build an understanding of why diversity, equity and inclusion, along with managing bias, are critical to enhance creativity and breakthrough innovations, ultimately contributing to the success of the design industry and your agency.

  • Begin to build an understanding of how to create a more equitable environment for employees of color and LGBTQ employees to do their best work, to thrive and to grow into leadership positions.

  • Gain access to resources to do this work immediately.

We caught up with two of the organizers, Eugenie Jolivett Fontana and Lisa Congdon, to learn more about the workshop and w(HERE) we are. Read on and visit the event page to register.

DWP: What involvement have you had in the Portland creative community in the last year, and why are you excited to participate in Design Week again?

Eugenie and Lisa: Since our launch at Design Week Portland last year, we’ve had several meetups with conversations, explorations, and discoveries in finding the intersectionalities that exist between the people of color (POC) and LGBTQ folks who work in the creative industries in Portland. We’ve been asking ourselves how we can create the cultural shifts we want to see right now in the Portland creative community. We have been using tools like the Social Design Pathways matrix to hone in on what interdisciplinary actions might lead us to the change we want to see in the art and design industries. For example, we have been brainstorming what can we do as individuals and what can we do as a group to leverage eventual change in the Portland design industry so we can increase the opportunities for POC and LGBTQ folks to grow into positions of influence and leadership. We’re working to build a platform where a safe space exists to share our experiences.

DWP: Why was it important to offer a workshop about changing culture at the agency level for your first major event?

Eugenie and Lisa: Initially, the group became excited by the possibility of presenting a job fair to create and connect a pipeline between the POC + LGBTQ folks to creative agencies in the city. And then we realized we can do better and build a stronger line by starting where the foundation is the weakest: the lack of a sustainable culture of inclusion in most agencies. We realized that before even making the connection to hiring from these marginalized groups, an agency must examine what it means to support diversity, equality and inclusion in the workplace. Agencies must ask themselves questions like, “how can we become unafraid to change the leadership models we’ve come to be accustomed to and create an environment where the impact is shown by retention and success?” It’s important to understand that this work a long term commitment and the payoff in the long term will be incredible. Research shows, without a doubt, that innovation, creativity and effective design increase exponentially when diverse teams are working on projects.

DWP: What's up next for w(HERE)?

Eugenie and Lisa: We want to continue to provide real-world strategies and solutions to the current landscape of diversity and inclusion in Portland, build the power to change the narrative within the creative environment, and partner to create the space for under-represented POC + LGBTQ to contribute, celebrate and

Event Details

Where: PNCA, 511 NW Broadway
When: Wednesday, April 18, 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM
Organizer: w(HERE) we are
Cost: $125

Visit the event page to register.