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Feature27 Jun 2022

WCH Oregon22 focused on establishing a blueprint for future World Championships by driving change


RISE Road To Progress (© RISE)

The local organizing committee (LOC) for the 18th-edition of the World Athletics Championships hopes to establish a blueprint that will be used by World Athletics as an ongoing approach for delivering championships in the future. 

It is that theme of driving change that shapes the way WCH Oregon22, the LOC in charge of the first World Athletics Championships to be held on U.S. soil, is planning to deliver the biggest track and field event in the world. 

The three main factors in the policy of driving change by WCH Oregon22 are developing a strategy for diversity and inclusion that delivers clear actions and results; delivering a sustainability strategy that builds on the already established practice in Oregon; and defining clear legacy objectives and putting in place the optimum structure and team to achieve this. 

Track and field has played a pivotal role for nearly a century in inspiring people from different racial, gender, ethnic, and sexual orientation backgrounds to come together and compete on equal footing. While racial hostility has continued to peak and wane domestically and across the world, the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery are reminders that the global call for justice is still unmet.  

Against that backdrop, as well as the war in Ukraine, a conflict accented by racial intolerance and unimaginable suffering, the LOC for WCH Oregon22 is committed to being an equitable and inclusive organization that builds on track and field’s foundation of equity and justice for all.  

Part of a foundation of equity and respect includes recognition of Oregon’s Indigenous population. As stated by the University of Oregon’s land acknowledgment and the Native Strategies Group at the University of Oregon:   

“The University of Oregon is located on Kalapuya Ilihi, the traditional indigenous homeland of the Kalapuya people. Following treaties between 1851 and 1855, Kalapuya people were dispossessed of their indigenous homeland by the United States government and forcibly removed to the Coast Reservation in Western Oregon. Today, descendants are citizens of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde Community of Oregon and the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians of Oregon, and continue to make important contributions in their communities, at UO, across the land we now refer to as Oregon, and around the world.” 

In celebrating the beauty of Oregon, it is important to recognize the remarkable stewardship of First Nations and use it as a commitment to engaging in practices that are just and sustainable. 

“Our goal is to intentionally put in place practices around equity that lead to an inclusive and just organizational culture," said Debbie Grant, Chief Financial Officer for WCH Oregon22. “As such, the World Athletics Championships Oregon22 will reflect the strength represented by our differences, the fairness brought about by balancing the scales of just practices, and the power of creating a space where people from all walks of life feel respected and valued.  

"As an LOC and committed team, we take seriously our responsibility to establish a culture of inclusion as well as policies and procedures that push existing boundaries and inspire progress.” 
WCH Oregon22 is looking to drive change through a strategy of diversity, equity, and inclusion built on these key principles: 

• Diversity as the presence of differences that may include race, gender, religion, language, sexual orientation, ethnicity, nationality, socioeconomic status, age, (dis)ability, or educational experience.  

• Equity calls us to engage in just, impartial, and fair procedures, processes in all aspects of our work, intention, engagement, and impact.  

• Inclusion is engagement of diverse people and their ideas at all levels of the organization, including resource allocation and decision making.  

WCH Oregon22 is expecting athletes from more than 200 member federations to compete in the World Athletics Championships from July 15–24 and wants to celebrate the inherent diversity of all people who will be participating in and attending the event. Driving change is one of the established strategic initiatives the LOC has established in shaping its goals and tactics as the host organization of the event. 

WCH Oregon22 is also working closely with World Athletics, whose social responsibility program and sustainability strategy demonstrate a commitment to social inclusion, global equality, diversity, and accessibility and wellbeing. The LOC then designed a plan that facilitated the accomplishment of these broader goals.  

Through the implementation of intentional diversity, equity, and inclusion measures across all areas of work, the LOC will ensure that leadership, workforce, vendors, campaigns, and promotional efforts reflect and uplift global athletes, guests, and community populations in ways that create a more just Oregon, long after the event is over. 

The diversity, equity, and inclusion measures by the LOC are being applied inward in hiring and training of staff and volunteers, and outward by welcoming all visitors to WCH Oregon22. Earlier this spring, all LOC staff participated in JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion) training offered by RISE, a national nonprofit that educates and empowers the sports community to eliminate racial discrimination, champion social justice and improve race relations. 

The LOC has also worked with RISE on an interactive timeline that promotes key figures throughout track and field’s history who overcame barriers based on their race, gender, and/or sexual orientation, and, in some cases, helped facilitate broader change. The timeline incorporates 25 athletes or moments that brought awareness to social issues that affect people around the world, stretching from 1904 when George Poage became the first Black American athlete to win an Olympic medal through the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Among the athletes highlighted in this timeline are Jesse Owens, Ralph Metcalfe, Alice Coachman, Wilma Rudolph, Billy Mills, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, Derartu Tulu, Cathy Freeman, Bryan Clay, Sarah Attar, and Yulimar Rojas. 

An interactive display highlighting nine of these athletes will be showcased outside Hayward Field during the Championships, and videos will play inside the stadium of two of these athletes in U.S. women’s shot putter Raven Saunders, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics silver medalist, and U.S. marathon runner Mark Plaatjes, the 1993 World Champion who left South Africa for a better life for his family in the United States. 

Additional workforce training for WCH Oregon22 staff on cultural humility, equity and L.A.C.E. was offered by Dr. Yvette Alex-Assensoh, the Vice President for Equity and Inclusion at the University of Oregon and founder of L.A.C.E.-Hearted Way, LLC. That training will also be offered to Crew22 volunteers. The LACE (Love, Acceptance, Courage, and Empathy) framework is being used at the University of Oregon, nonprofits, and other higher education institutions. It focuses on embracing lifestyles, relationships, leadership styles and systems that prepare people for a more just future.  

“LACE facilitates change through self-awareness, connection, and transformation,” Alex-Assensoh said. “Self-awareness opens our eyes to who we are, including our strengths, weaknesses, core values, blind spots, and life purpose. It helps us to better manage those choices, as well as our actions, how we show up, and who we are becoming. 

“LACE provides the common language for leaning in, learning, and resolving conflict. It transforms individuals into teams working toward a common purpose. Ultimately, LACE is about creating systems that are wholly inclusive, actively anti-oppressive and just. The self awareness and connections result in policies, processes and systems that are radically inclusive as well as loving, not just begrudgingly tolerant.” 

Hiring and retaining a diverse workforce and volunteer teams are crucial for WCH Oregon22’s efforts in trying to drive change.  

“We’re trying to ensure that the World Athletics Championships Oregon22 workforce operates from a position of inclusion and respect,” said Katie Babits, People and Culture Director of Oregon22, LLC "As a workforce, we must have a vision for a more diverse, equitable and just world, whereby access gives way to opportunity and achievement.”

Among the ways WCH Oregon22 hopes to meet that vision are by establishing and posting equity and anti-discrimination policies for the workforce, volunteers, and attendees; ensuring that everyone understands their responsibility to safely intervene in, reporting, documenting and addressing discrimination; providing care for those who have been harmed and, at the appropriate time, also providing restorative processes for offenders in ways that build understanding, justice, and trust; ensuring that risk-management, security teams as well as protocols interrogate biases that lead to the over surveillance of communities of color; ensuring that protocols are trauma-sensitive in addressing issues of assault, harassment, and other forms of violence; and working with local, regional and national media organizations to highlight positive stories and events that inspire and motivate positive behavior. 

Other key guiding Workforce principles at WCH Oregon22 include: 

• Prioritizing making others from all levels of society feel welcome. WCH Oregon22’s team, partners and stakeholders are diverse and from all over the globe. These individualities are celebrated and it's key that everyone feels like they have a place at WCH Oregon22.  

• Being a team and having each other’s back. Understanding that working together and lifting each other up makes us all better.  

• When faced with challenges, rise to the occasion. WCH Oregon22 is agile and resourceful in its response and poised in its delivery.  

• Deliver on promises and be passionate about the unique approach to get there. WCH Oregon22 consists of eager self-starters that can be counted on to get the job done.  

• Seeking other perspectives without having to live them. Valuing relationships and delivering work with intention and care. 

Driving change at home is also important to WCH Oregon22. The LOC is working with the city of Eugene and its community engagement program to promote cultural celebrations, work projects, equity audits, advocacy campaigns, community conversations and policy advocacy leading up to and during the event. The strategy includes grassroots efforts that position partners at the University of Oregon, Travel Oregon, and the City of Eugene to achieve these goals across campus and throughout the city, county, and state, and USATF to apply it at the national level.  

Workforce staff at WCH Oregon22 also researched local non-profit organizations providing resources to underrepresented populations, local BIPOC restaurants and businesses, organizations providing resources to people experiencing socioeconomic challenges, and organizations that have patrons who may not be a part of traditional volunteer outreach efforts. WCH Oregon22 staff also reached out to these businesses to explain our efforts in expanding outreach to have a more accessible volunteer experience so that the community was aware that even if their schedules have previously prevented them from participating, volunteering options are more flexible and may allow for schedules outside of traditional volunteer commitment timeframes.

“Our goal is to have a volunteer workforce representative of the communities visiting us from around the world, so that anyone attending, from fellow volunteers, workforce, athletes, and fans alike, would be able to see themselves in all aspects of the event,” Babits said. “We are hopeful that this level of outreach enabled us to have a more representative volunteer experience.” 

Making Tracks, WCH Oregon22’s youth engagement program, is another way the LOC is driving change by connecting with youth and growing track and field in the United States. Making Tracks is a program developed for K-12 students that invites all youth to be a part of the history, cultural diversity, global unity, and excitement of the world coming to Oregon. The Making Tracks website features a collection of informative resources, lesson plan ideas, and activities that explore WCH Oregon22 through a variety of subject areas. It was designed for use by youth educators, youth program leaders, coaches, and families.  

“It is incredibly important to us to use the platform of this event to connect and engage with youth across Oregon and the United States, and even throughout the world,” said Alexandra Rudd, Youth and Community Engagement Director for WCH Oregon22. “Through Making Tracks, our goal is to inspire a younger generation, and to showcase the many ways sport can have meaning and impact on both individuals and communities.” 

Another key component of the Making Tracks program is the World Wide Welcome (WWW) Youth Relay presented by The Daily Mile. Each leg of the relay is dedicated to one of the track and field teams coming to WCH Oregon22. The first 200 registered groups are assigned a nation to welcome; receive a relay leg kit including an official WWW relay baton, banners, and flags; and have the chance to submit a welcome message for their paired nation that will be shared with athletes in the athlete village at WCH Oregon22.

Each leg of the WWW is one mile in length, but groups can determine whether they jog together, race together, or break the one-mile leg into a sprint relay. Groups across the state are also encouraged to keep Oregon’s kids moving long after WCH Oregon22 by pledging their school or organization to run, walk or roll for 15-minutes at least 3-times a week with the Daily Mile Foundation. 

“As we look to change norms and to uproot systemic biases that disproportionately impact marginalized communities, the intentional introduction of practices can be a catalyst for real progress," said Sarah Massey, CEO of Oregon22, LLC. “Efforts and programs launched on behalf of WCH Oregon22 have the opportunity to become permanent legacies for the communities and people impacted for the better.” 

By Ashley Conklin

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