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Community Engagement and IDEA (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Access)

Downtown Decatur with public art sculptures and people walking around

The Indiana Arts Commission has adopted community engagement and IDEA as principles to support our values and funding imperatives and address structural inequalities by providing access to programs, services, and resources.

Who’s really in your community? Who comes to your programs and activities? How would you describe them? Are they mostly older, younger, white, veterans, from a certain area of the community, or from all across the state? Do your participants reflect your greater geographic community? Who’s not coming? Who’s not coming that would really benefit from and appreciate your work? Why aren’t they coming? Even if you think you know, it’s important to reach out and ask. Welcome to Community Engagement and IDEA work. This works bring your organization opportunities to increase its impact, value, resources, and long-term sustainability.

So what exactly are Community Engagement and IDEA?

In the most simplistic form, it's what you do and how you do it. 

Community engagement (the what) describes the intentional cultivation of two-way, exchange-driven community relationships, and IDEA (the how) describes ways we intentionally remove barriers and welcome all to participate in those relationships. 

Community Engagement Defined

The IAC defines community engagement as the activity of consistently cultivating two-way community relationships – beyond conventional programmatic partnerships. Community partnerships are rooted in programs, activities, and marketing, whereas community engagement is rooted in people and requires long-term commitment.

Why Community Engagement? 
  • To build a better community, not just a better organization
  • To understand what the community cares about
  • To build better programs and a more loyal audience
  • To share control with community groups and members
  • To produce things that are meaningful to the community 
  • To challenge organizations and the community
  • To propel change in organizations and the community
  • To build a more sustainable, long-term organization

IDEA Defined

IDEA is an acronym for Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access. IDEA highlights efforts toward underserved communities by addressing structural inequities. Organizations that embrace IDEA are able to foster cultures that minimize bias and recognize and address systemic inequities, which, if unaddressed, create disadvantage for certain individuals or groups.

  • Inclusion: All feel welcomed and valued
    Inclusion is the act of creating environments in which any individual or group can be and feel welcomed, respected, represented, supported, and valued to fully participate.
  • Diversity: All the ways we differ
    Diversity includes all of the ways in which people differ, encompassing the different characteristics that make one individual or group different from another. While diversity is often used in reference to race, ethnicity, and gender, we embrace a broader definition that also includes age, national origin, religion, disability, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, education, marital status, language, physical appearance, geography, and any other identifiers that make one individual or group different from another.
  • Equity: All having the opportunity to fully participate
    Equity encompasses the policies and practices used to ensure the fair treatment, access, opportunity, and advancement for all people, while at the same time trying to identify and eliminate barriers that have historically prevented the full participation of some individuals or groups.
  • Access: Of any and all abilities
    Access refers to the commitment for everyone to be included in all programs and activities.

What can be done as an Individual Practitioner?

  • Identify resources and allies within your own organization and/or your community.
  • Seek support from colleagues who are in the process of creating change within their institutions.
  • Be committed to a lifelong process of learning and change.
  • Be available to your peers as a resource.
  • Conduct data analysis on your own portfolio to identify where dollars are going and opportunities for change.
  • Use inclusive and welcoming language in your external communications.
  • Seek research and data about equity to present to leadership.
  • Learn the history of local ALAANA communities and become familiar with leaders.

What can be done in your Institution?

  • Provide opportunities for board and staff to learn about or attend trainings on implicit biases and historical perceptions of disability.
  • Assure that an equity lens informs all decision-making, programs, policies, and procedures.
  • Establish an equity advisory committee or working group of colleagues that will inform programming direction and guide institutional change.
  • Use inclusive and welcoming language in your external communications.
  • Advocate research and data collection that accurately represents the demographics served by and serving in arts organizations and foundations.
  • Intentionally consider, select, and support board and staff who value equity.
  • Intentionally consider, select, and support diverse candidates for board and staff.
  • Collaborate with other organizations working in IDEA to provide resources and share best practices to create equity.


Contact Information

This work is constant and always evolving. If you have any thoughts, comments, resources, or suggestions you’d like to share with us, please email them to psharp@iac.in.gov.