Dear Information Architecture Community,
These are increasingly turbulent times. As we, the IAC21 co-chairs, meet to plan next year’s conference, we can’t help but reflect on the current protests and uprisings in the United States in response to the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and countless other Black lives taken from this world by the police and other forms of brutality. We mourn and grieve these losses and recognize that the pain felt by the African-American community is a continuation of the deep trauma resulting from over 400 years of systemic oppression, exploitation, and violence. As co-chairs, we acknowledge that we — and, quite likely, most of the members of the IA community — have not experienced the kind of systemic racism faced by the African-American community.
From its beginning IAC has been shepherded by Vanessa Foss of Kunverj, who writes:
“As the director of the IA Conference and as an African-American woman, I have noticed, not only over the recent years, but from the very first conference (when it was known as the IA Summit), the lack of diversity, especially when it came to black participants. So, about three years ago, together with the IA community, a scholarship program was started, in order to increase awareness about Information Architecture and participation by people of color. So far, about 30 full scholarships have been granted to people of color. We also plan to implement a mentorship program this year. I am proud of the progress that we have made so far and I am firmly committed to building on this foundation as we march forward together.”
Here are some things that IAC has been doing to address racial inequities:
- As Vanessa mentioned, IAC’s Scholarship Program has offered about 30 full scholarships to people of color since 2018. The full scholarship, which will continue in 2021, includes the cost of tickets, airfare, and hotel.
- Beginning with IAC20, IAC has proactively reached out to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to increase student participation. Outreach alone isn’t enough. This year we now have a first-ever student co-chair who will help to deepen university outreach.
- IAC held a Diversity & Inclusion Roundtable in 2018, creating a roadmap aimed at bringing more diverse speakers and attendees. More needs to be done. In addition to bringing this back in 2021, we are, more importantly, looking at ways to translate these ideas into action.
This isn’t enough. As co-chairs, we will uphold the work already started to make the conference be more diverse and inclusive. Throughout our conference planning, we’ll post regularly on our progress. We don’t know what tomorrow looks like, much less what next year’s IAC might look like, but we all have profound work ahead.
Tell us what you think. And keep us accountable.
— Grace G Lau, Claire Morville, Cassini Nazir, Teresa Nguyen
P.S. If you’d like to help, sign up to volunteer: bit.ly/IAC21-Volunteer.