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Governor Northam Introduces First-Ever Statewide Strategic Plan to Advance Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

2020 Governor of Virginia

Written By: Governor Northam

Administration engaged community members and experts over the last year in developing the ONE Virginia framework

Governor Ralph Northam today unveiled ONE Virginia, a first-in-the-nation statewide strategic plan to advance visible diversity, equity, and inclusion across state government.

“To truly move forward as a Commonwealth, we must prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion as our collective goals,” said Governor Northam. “The ONE Virginia Plan is a strategic blueprint to institutionalize equity across state government and effectively address deeply-rooted structural and systemic barriers to access and opportunity. This roadmap will ensure our efforts are accompanied by accountability, measurable results, and sustained impact, and help make Virginia the best place to live, work, visit, and thrive.”

In September 2019, Governor Northam appointed Dr. Janice Underwood to serve as Virginia’s first cabinet-level Chief Diversity Officer. The Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (ODEI) has worked collaboratively with public and private stakeholders to develop the ONE Virginia Plan—a sustainable framework to operationalize equity and promote inclusive practices across Virginia with a focus on reducing inequities.

“Diversity, equity, and inclusion are more than a moral imperative or a legal mandate—they are key to achieving organizational excellence,” said Dr. Underwood. “Together we are charting a new path for our Commonwealth, one that values our diverse people as our greatest strength. Using the Inclusive Excellence framework, ONE Virginia will help implement tangible reforms that interrupt long-held systems of structural inequity to create sustainable change, innovation, and productivity across state government, throughout Virginia, and around our country.”

The ONE Virginia Plan will support more than 100 state agencies in the Commonwealth in prioritizing and implementing strategies to provide fair and equitable services and cultivate a valued and high-performing workforce. It will help ensure that people in positions of leadership understand systemic inequity and its effects and work to increase diversity at all levels of government, foster an inclusive and welcoming organizational culture, establish a shared accountability for visible equity, and promote community engagement. In the coming months, the ODEI will seek input and suggestions from state employees, external stakeholders, and community leaders to further develop concrete equity policy.

“It has been an honor to work with Dr. Underwood, alongside an amazing steering committee, to stretch the ONE Virginia model throughout the Commonwealth to build statewide capacity for inclusive excellence,” said Dr. Kevin McDonald, Vice President for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Community Partnerships at the University of Virginia. “I have already engaged the greater Charlottesville area in this important work, and I am excited about its potential for scale across Virginia.”

The ONE Virginia Plan is an unprecedented model for fostering diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace environments and is being codified by the General Assembly through legislation supported by the Northam Administration. House Bill 1993, sponsored by Delegates Alex Askew and Delores McQuinn, requires state agencies to establish and maintain comprehensive diversity, equity, and inclusion strategic plans in coordination with the Governor’s Chief Diversity Officer.

“The comprehensive emphasis on equity-minded legislation throughout the 2021 General Assembly session has been historic,” said Secretary of Administration Grindly Johnson. “This legislation makes Virginia a national exemplar in fostering the business case for organizational effectiveness in our state agencies.”

This plan was developed in collaboration with the Department of Human Resource Management (DHRM). Together with the ODEI, DHRM and an interdisciplinary volunteer executive steering team created an online toolkit for use by state agencies and other stakeholders to facilitate the implementation of individualized strategic plans that advance diversity and inclusive excellence. The next phase of the ONE Virginia Plan will focus on working with an initial cohort of 10 state agencies that provide direct support to the public during the COVID-19 pandemic to create agency-based strategic diversity and inclusion plans modeled after the statewide framework.

“The critical work of state government depends upon our ability to attract and retain a talented workforce that reflects the diversity of the Virginians we serve,” said DHRM Director Emily Elliott. “We charge all agency leaders to adopt the ONE Virginia Plan and subsequent Principles of Community to create an engaged workforce that leverages diversity as a strength, supports an inclusive work environment, and works in pursuit of policies and practices that hold each agency accountable for expanded access, success, and overall inclusive excellence.”

The ONE Virginia Plan and the online toolkit are available here. For more information about the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and its work, please visit governor.virginia.gov/diversity.