Where Do We Go from Here?

Blog > Trends

Where Do We Go from Here?

By Zoe Moore | Aug 10, 2020

We never could have imagined that 2020 was going to lead to the MPI Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) Committee being in such high demand. Each committee member joined because they know diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) are of value to our organization.

However, when we first met in January, we were only discussing the 2020 mandate and the recommendations made by the 2019 committee, led by Antwone Stigall. Now, seven months into the year, Tanida Mullen (my fellow committee co-chair) and I have spoken weekly like we’re on staff for MPI. Our sub-committees have worked tirelessly to meet quick turnaround deadlines while managing their full-time jobs, and we’re preparing for some significant tasks to wrap up the second half of this unprecedented year.

We all know the reasons why 2020 is a year like none other. You can read the Meetings Outlook report for a snapshot of employment, business conditions and budgets and quickly draw the conclusion that this is the worst off our industry has been, ever. So, why am I optimistic? Why do I believe this is a watershed moment to leverage the uncertainty of illness and injustice?

In this stillness, while the noise is turned down, once-unheard voices have captured global attention.

Well, like I said, with a review of Meetings Outlook, you’ll see that working from home has seemingly improved productivity for our members, and virtual attendance is the best we’ve ever seen. When I analyze those findings, they indicate that people are attentive, aware and engaged at record numbers. Shelter-in-place has forced a pause that many of us have not had in years. In this stillness, while the noise is turned down, once-unheard voices have captured global attention.

Social unrest is not new, as I stated in Rich Luna’s “From the Editor” column in the July issue of The Meeting Professional: “The demand to end racial injustice has been ongoing since the framing of the United States of America...” Unfortunately, the original sin of trafficking and enslaving melanated people helped to design a system that negatively impacts everyone across all dimensions of diversity. The difference now is “more people are willing to stand in solidarity” because more people are tuned in, reading and learning. There is no better time to share the journey of the D&I Committee. To hold everyone accountable, we must lead with education, we must be transparent and we must provide actionable steps that will make the endeavor of a more inclusive industry less challenging.

Let’s begin with the MPI Principles of Professionalism, our 2020 mandate and recommendations made by the 2019 committee. Then I’ll tell you how we are implementing a DEI strategy using three defined pillars followed by what we have accomplished and what we’re working on. However, beware: once you’ve read our first column, you’ll be an accomplice. You’ll be on your way to becoming an Inclusion Agent (thank you, Paula Sotnik) and you’ll be more inclined to get certified by MPI as an Inclusive Event Design professional and/or join the D&I Committee for 2021 to work with myself and Tanida. “If not now, then when?” That’s what Rich said.

Principles of Professionalism: Respecting Diversity

•          Embrace and foster an inclusive business climate of respect for all peoples regardless of national origin, race, religion, sex, marital status, age, sexual orientation or physical or mental impairment.

•          MPI will not tolerate harassment based upon race, color, religion, national origin, age, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, citizenship status and disability. The definition of harassment is based on applicable laws.


Identify areas and opportunities for MPI to increase the diversity of its overall community, especially as it relates to the next generation of chapter leadership roles and provide guidance and feedback to staff that enables MPI to create a more inclusive environment across MPI’s community, events and chapters.

D&I Committee 2019

The committee that you know today actually started as a Diversity & Inclusion Task Force. The MPI International Board of Directors (IBOD) had a vision of making sure that the pipeline to leadership included a diverse group of industry leaders. The mission was simple: Come up with a plan that would help the IBOD reflect the diverse membership of MPI.

Over the next couple of years, the task force made several recommendations to achieve the mandate. First, they focused on strengthening succession planning beginning at the chapter level to groom leaders to apply for an IBOD position. Second, they recommended that MPI Global take a deeper dive into the demographics of the membership body. Third, they recommended DEI educational resources for chapter leaders.

MPI Resources for Equality and Justice: Furthering the Advancement of All Peoples

By the end of the committee’s term, the IBOD application was updated to include questions about commitment to DEI and the Inclusive Event Design certificate was offered to World Education Congress (WEC) attendees in Toronto. The musically talented motivational speaker Jade Simmons was a WEC keynote, and a breakout session focusing on D&I was led by James Brown and Monica Grinage-Prince. Also during their term, the MPI marketing assets across all platforms began to reflect international multiculturalism—just take a look at the progressive changes from 2016 to 2019. 

Last year’s committee planted the seeds for what is now manifesting in 2020. As you read on, you’ll learn more about how they paved the way for the training, content and our ability to have a seat at the table.

What We’ve Done

Having never met in person, Tanida and I led our first meeting with the above as our foundation. We made it clear from the beginning that we wanted to move beyond the compliance of respecting diversity towards developing a culture of belonging.

Our first challenge to the committee was to share why they joined the committee in the first place. What was the legacy they wanted to leave in their succession? The following successes include ideas from each of the committee’s 20 volunteers. Yes, it’s true that “When we meet, we change the world,” even if it’s virtual.

As shared in the D&I solution room for the Chapter Business Summit, our DEI strategy is similar to a Team Summary Report (TSR) used by chapters. Clearly defining three areas that the committee agreed were our primary areas of focus, we have developed objectives and key results that help us focus, identify subcommittees and measure our progress. We couldn’t have selected the areas of focus without first acknowledging our challenges. Each pillar pertains to the overarching mission, and when the key results are completed, we know we’re one step closer to achieving the vision.

In order to meet and change the world, we must first begin with ourselves and help create more seats at the table.

For example, one of our pillars is resources with the goal of establishing “best practices and mandates to help chapters and/or regions launch sustainable D&I initiatives.” The first key result is already launched. The Equality & Justice resource page will develop into a more extensive source that provides reading material, videos, speakers and so much more for all dimensions of diversity. The focus on racial injustice now only needs explanation if you have willfully ignored current events.

Next, we’re working on releasing more educational opportunities. Currently, we have the Inclusive Event Design certificate taught by Antwone Stigall, founder of the Black Meeting & Event Professionals Facebook group. Following the Chapter Business Summit, it was apparent that many leaders are looking for more guidance for implementing a DEI strategy, and MPI Global wants to support the interest, as expressed by MPI President and CEO Paul Van Deventer in the July issue of The Meeting Professional. Being able to engage leaders across our nearly 70 chapters has definitely been a goal worth setting. We are building a community of thought leaders.

What We’re Working On

By the end of July, John Ehlenfeldt will have briefed the IBOD on all that we have accomplished. I don’t know which is more rewarding, what we were able to do in the midst of illness and injustice or what we will achieve when it’s difficult to project the future. As we continue to develop the Equality & Justice resource page, we are also working on the following.

·      Develop a reception to celebrate all Dimensions of Diversity by joining forces with the LGBTQIA+ event that has grown in attendance over the past 10 years.

·      Develop a more robust DEI education series.

·      Publish a regular D&I column in The Meeting Professional.

·      Recommend one of our pillars—research—to the IBOD using an informative deck created by our research subcommittee members Faye Nedd, Christina Northcott and Cere Netters.

·      Present a DEI Strategy to the MPI Senior Leadership Team.

·      Strategically promote the Inclusive Event Design certificate to the membership body.

·      Recommend diverse speakers for IMEX, She Means Business and the hybrid WEC in November.

·      Lastly, host a few virtual happy hours for our committee, because all work and no play is not why we became event professionals in the first place, right? If you agree, contact John Ehlenfeldt to sponsor!

The Support We Need from You

Great, I still have your attention! Remember I said when you finish reading this article you’ll become an accomplice? Well, the time has come. The D&I Committee is leading the charge to fulfill the 2020 vision, but we can’t do it alone. Like Rich stated last month, “The work of the D&I Committee and a handful of members alone should not serve as the sole impetus of change. We all must be held accountable from this day forward, measured by authentic action.”

So, what do you pledge? What action will you be taking to go beyond this meaningful dialogue to be an inclusion agent? What will you invest? Because in order to meet and change the world, we must first begin with ourselves and help create more seats at the table.



Zoe Moore
Zoe Moore

Army Veteran honorably discharged after twelve years of service, four military operation specialties and two tours in Iraq. Experience in advocacy, leadership and strategic diversity initiatives. Passionate about Inclusion & Diversity in the meetings, events and tourism industry.