Efforts to ensure widespread SWOG engagement with diversity, equity, and inclusion—DEI—must start at the top. So as part of our DEI year of action, we have engaged a firm, Pope Consulting, to work with SWOG’s leadership, to assess where we stand with DEI attitudes, practices, policies, and resources; and to help us plot our path forward.

This is one initiative in a vast array of efforts, most led by our recruitment and retention and patient advocate committees, and funded by The Hope Foundation for Cancer Research with additional support from Genentech.

In January, Hope issued a request for proposals titled “Realizing diversity, equity, and inclusion at SWOG.” The request acknowledged that SWOG does not yet have the culture, processes, reporting, and accountability measures in place to fully realize our DEI goals. Although diversity is a core SWOG value, we knew we had so much work in front of us, to flesh out a DEI vision and strategy aligned with our overall strategic plan and supported by the coordinated actions of the entire group.

Among the firms that submitted proposals, Pope Consulting stood out as the clear leader, largely because of the breadth and depth of their experience with just this kind of project. Their client list is astonishing and includes a number of SWOG member institutions.

In phase 1 of the work, already begun, Pope is performing a maturity analysis to assess the current state of and vision for DEI within SWOG leadership. This phase includes 15 hour-long interviews with a selected set of SWOG executive officers, committee leaders, and senior staff to gather information as part of an analysis of DEI structures and systems in the group.

The interviews are meant to identify areas within the leadership team where there is alignment or lack of alignment related to DEI, information that will inform the direction and scope of DEI strategy.

These interviews are now nearly complete.

In June, Pope will convene an online focus group for open dialogue about DEI across a broader swath of SWOG, allowing anonymous participation by a group of roughly 100 SWOG leaders, members, and staff. Pope will use what they learn from the session to further detail a DEI vision statement for the group.

Phase 2 of the project, to be completed this summer, directly addresses leadership preparation and will include a training session in inclusive leadership to help SWOG’s senior leaders explore our own unconscious biases.

This will be followed by a strategy workshop that will open with Pope’s assessment of the current state of DEI at SWOG. Participants will then work to identify specific short-term and long-term steps to implement our DEI strategy.

Our DEI year of action features other initiatives as well. In this posting I wanted to highlight those that focus on leaders—of SWOG, of our committees, and of our trials themselves. But I can’t pass up the chance to also mention last Friday’s virtual symposium!

More than 250 participants tuned in for presentations and panel discussions featuring NCORP site staff reporting on strategies and solutions they’ve deployed to more effectively engage underserved communities in clinical trials. The symposium is meant to be a springboard for research ideas to test promising DEI accrual strategies, with funding for five pilot studies to be offered in late 2021 through The Hope Foundation. We will have much more to say about this, but for now I recommend you view the symposium slides and recording.

This work is so important to our future success. If you’re asked to participate in a Pope-led focus group on DEI, please be part of the solution for SWOG and our patients.

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