Equity, diversity and inclusion
Inclusive assessment framework
The inclusive assessment framework is the basic conceptual structure underlying the recognition component of the Dimensions program.
Three principles of the framework
1. Centrality of voices
Institutions are expected to address experiences of racism, gender discrimination, homo- and transphobia, ableism, and other harms within their communities. A key strategy for doing so begins with gathering “engagement-based evidence,” which emphasizes the centrality of voices of those impacted by inequity, exclusion, and injustice in postsecondary institutions. Such voices form the core of the evidence that leads to the identification of priorities addressed in the institution’s Dimensions action plan.
2. Mutuality and co-operation
The program is also designed to bolster the practice of mutuality, reinforcing that an institution’s EDI commitments is not just to itself, but to the improvement of the research ecosystem. Evidence should show not just how the institution is faring internally, but how its work is part of the broader goal of re-imagining the Canadian research community.
3. Context-specific evidence
The Dimensions program aims to be inclusive of institutions of varying types, sizes, and locations confronting different challenges and opportunities. A firm understanding of historical, cultural, and geographical factors is key. To accommodate the unique context and experiences of each institution, the Dimensions application will allow for flexibility. Therefore, institutions will have the opportunity to submit information that represents their specific circumstances, communities, and priorities.
Categories of evidence
Institutions applying for Dimensions recognition will need to provide evidence of their efforts to address equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) in their research ecosystems. Five categories of evidence that demonstrate this work were established. The categories of evidence, and their definitions, were designed to prioritize honest and authentic self-reflection, action and cultural shift.
Evidence of motivation
Institutions should explain the reasons or catalysts (e.g., events, incidents, etc.) motivating their efforts to address inequity, underrepresentation and exclusion in the research ecosystem. Such evidence should include specific reference to issues raised in their own institution and be supported by community engagement and other evidence-gathering activities. Transparency should prevail when explaining how to recognize the need for change.
Evidence of gaps and needs
Both contemporary and historical gaps and unmet needs generated by inequities, underrepresentation, and exclusion, as well as the realities of many forms of oppression, should be truthfully and explicitly named and examined. Evidence provided here includes that related to culture and lived experience as well as demographics and representation. It should be skewed toward qualitative evidence based on lived experience and should include intersectional analyses. It should include a deep dive to get at the root of the systemic and structural reasons these gaps and needs have persisted.
Evidence of assets and obstacles
Options should be considered to address the problems identified above, and consideration should be given to whether these are deemed feasible in a timeframe that corresponds to the application process and with available resources. Priorities must be justified and tied to a timeline. This should be an honest reflection of the institution’s current situation and should present both the progress already made and anticipated challenges for future work.
Evidence of commitment
Institutions must demonstrate their commitment to the Dimensions program, to their internal and external communities identified in the engagement strategy, and to addressing identified EDI gaps and needs. Commitment is demonstrated not only through public-facing work, but also through internal evidence that an institution is taking ownership of, and holding itself accountable for, the findings of this process. Evidence of commitment will also include evidence that institutions are engaging with one another in the spirit of mutuality and collaboration and are committed to sustaining a community of practice.
Evidence of change
Institutions should provide evidence of actions taken to date toward systemic and transformational change. Systemic change will take time to become apparent, other forms of change will be observable more quickly, and small but meaningful changes that feed into the big picture should be noted. Evidence of change will include evidence that EDI is being or has been woven into the institution’s culture and structure, rather than being approached as a siloed pillar of institution’s overall plans. Evidence of change should also show that institutions have put mechanisms in place to make their EDI policies, practices and cultures adaptable to unpredictable circumstances, such as COVID-19 pandemic.
Visual representation of the framework
The following illustration captures the elements of inclusive institutional self-assessment, described above. It is meant to illustrate that Dimensions work is grounded in the voices and lived experiences of equity-deserving groups in the institution’s community. Quantitative and qualitative tools are intended to expand and augment the voices, all of which form the basis for the five categories of evidence required in the application. Finally, the Dimensions program recognizes that activities take place within the institution’s unique context.
Recognition application review committee
The evidence and information provided in applications are assessed by academics and professionals with expertise in EDI-related scholarship and work, using an innovative review process to prioritize action, learning, and promising practices to be shared widely.
The review committee provides a careful and thoughtful review of applications by assessing institutional progress and by providing constructive feedback to help institutions continue to make change. It also evaluates their efforts towards reflection, critical self-assessment and engagement with their research communities; their collection and analysis of data; their development and implementation of initiatives through an action plan to address gaps and inequities; and their assessment of the impacts of actions taken.
The program adopts a holistic approach, which should not be seen as a competition among institutions. During the adjudication process, institutions are not compared with each other. Rather, they are evaluated based on their realities, context, available resources, assets and obstacles.