The Village of McFarland now has a framework for addressing issues of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the village and in the community.

On June 20, the village held a joint meeting of the board and the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee to approve a report outlining the work of equity consulting group Meraki Consulting LLC and the village, as well as possible action items for the future.

“This gives us the groundwork that we needed to move forward in incorporating DEI initiatives in all parts of our community, our government, our staff,” said Stephanie Brassington, a McFarland village trustee and the chairperson of the village’s DEI committee.

The 12-page report comes a year after the village approved a $43,000 proposal to hire Meraki Consulting in July 2021 to conduct a DEI audit of the village and community.

Over the course of the year, Meraki Consulting met with village committees and community members to review the strengths and weaknesses of each group, and identify opportunities and challenges in developing DEI efforts in McFarland.

In May 2022, 20-30 people from the village participated in an “equity institute” where committee members and staff reflected on their beliefs and understanding of DEI topics.

“You don’t know what you don’t know,” said McFarland Village Trustee and DEI Committee member Edward Wreh. “Part of bringing in the consultant was just trying to identify our blind spots.”

The report also includes a series of action items for the village and community to take. These include developing guest speaker and community roundtable programs, and tracking demographic data in the village. The report includes steps for village staff to increase resources and budgets to focus on DEI work, develop a DEI professional growth program, and increase inclusion in hiring.

Wreh emphasized that the report was just the beginning of work in the village.

“We have a good framework for where to start,” Wreh said. “But this is not something that we just flip a switch overnight and we’re there. It takes time. It takes commitment. It takes support. And it takes collaboration.”

Wreh introduced a goal to be added to the village’s 2022-2023 strategic plan to “foster a community and organizational culture that embraces and supports diversity, equity and inclusion.”

The village board’s Committee of the Whole will discuss next year’s strategic plan at its July 26 meeting at 5:30 p.m. in the McFarland Municipal Center’s Community Room.

The DEI committee first met at the beginning of last year, following months of demonstrations and public comments by young village residents of color.

In early June 2020, McFarland High School students organized a Black Lives Matter rally in Arnold Larson Park.

Momentum built in the months following the rally and in September 2020 the village board created the 9-person ad hoc subcommittee. It first met in January 2021 as an ad hoc subcommittee, and became a standing committee in May 2022.

The committee will meet next on Monday, Aug. 15 at 6 p.m. in the McFarland Municipal Center’s Community Room, 5915 Milwaukee Street.