On June 18th, we shared our Commitment to Change, a focused effort to build a more equitable culture within our agency and industry. These weren’t meant to be just words on a page. We asked our community to follow along, hold us accountable and challenge us as we seek to change the way CORNETT thinks, looks, works and impacts our community. This is the progress we’ve made to date. We look forward to sharing more as we continue to work toward immediate and lasting change.

Change the Way CORNETT thinks.We know that meaningful change must start from within. We’ve committed to growth, training and education among our current and future staff in an effort to cultivate a Race Equity Culture. This is an immediate priority. We will continue to cultivate an educated staff dedicated to understanding race, bias, inequity, inclusion, diversity, privilege and racial justice—altogether making CORNETT a safe and welcoming space for BIPOC team members, clients and collaborators.

Actions to Date:

1. On July 22nd, our staff completed an immersive, full day anti-racism workshop by IdeasXLab of Louisville called “Uncovering, Inclusion and Anti-Racism.” We highly recommend this workshop for any agency or organization.
2. Our staff has completed, or is in the process of completing the America & Moore 21-day Racial Equity Habit Building Challenge. Every staff member was given up to one hour of company time per day to complete the challenge, which is designed to instill understanding of power, privilege, supremacy, oppression, and equity while creating habits toward anti-racism and allyship. We are following up on this challenge with small group discussions to reflect and share knowledge, with the goal to maintain an ongoing dialogue and dedication to learning in racial equity. Here are the discussion prompts that will guide those conversations.
3.We instituted a new policy that offers three additional Commit to Change PTO days per year for all full-time employees, an effort to provide time, space and support for racial equity and anti-racism growth. These PTO days can be dedicated to workshops, volunteer opportunities, personal projects, educational trips and other endeavors centered on personal growth and/or community impact. Members of our team have already started utilizing this time.

Change the Way CORNETT Looks

We have committed to work toward more equitable representation of Black talent and voices at senior and leadership positions at our agency while also committing resources to recruitment, training and ongoing opportunities to further diversify our staff. This is not simply for the sake of diversifying our team, but because we know that more diverse talent and perspectives will only make our work more powerful and more reflective of the world we live in.  

Actions to date:
1. We have updated hiring policies alongside our HR partner, Hanna Resource Group, to ensure that 50% of all interviewees for new job postings moving forward will be BIPOC.
2. We have committed to prioritize hiring BIPOC talent into leadership roles and we’ve been establishing connections and relationships that will help us accelerate that process. We admit we still have much work to do in this area, but it will remain an area of focus. We remain committed to a 5-year goal of transforming the racial makeup of our agency to reflect the racial demographics of the Lexington community.
3. We have committed to building an internship and apprenticeship program for BIPOC creatives. We are currently in development of a comprehensive program that will be implemented at CORNETT and across several partner agencies that will expose more young BIPOC creatives to our industry, provide immersive internship and mentor opportunities, and create a stronger pipeline for both our agency and industry in hiring BIPOC talent. We’re still in the early stages but we’re very excited about helping lead this effort. More to come ASAP. We are in development of a plan that will track and publicly report our workforce diversity data on an annual basis. We shared our current demographics in our original Commit to Change announcement.

Change the way CORNETT interacts with and impacts our community.
We’ve committed, both in the immediate and long term, to offer our time, effort, knowledge, talent and financial support to our BIPOC community, as well as other communities that face inequity and injustice. This has been a part of our mindset for many years, but we will further prioritize it and invest ourselves more deeply. All efforts will be thoughtful and long-term commitments.

1. We shared a list of organizations and causes that CORNETT has supported and/or continues to support, noting those that are either black-led or black-focused. We will continue to seek opportunities and maintain our commitment to these causes whenever and wherever possible. We have committed to tracking, documenting and sharing all of our community support through an Annual Giving Report, which will include specifics around giving and efforts supporting BIPOC organizations and causes.

2. We have directed funds and efforts toward a long term partnership with the University of Kentucky African American and Africana Studies (AAAS) program within the College of Arts & Sciences. Beginning in the Fall semester of this year, we will implement the following initiatives:

CORNETT will provide Marketing/Creative/PR Resources for the development of needed communication tools for internal and external use. This will include strategy development, design, copywriting, video production, digital asset development and more. In addition, CORNETT will provide public relations support for AAAS/Commonwealth Institute and their programs, such as the Black Women’s Conference.

As part of our partnership, CORNETT will lend senior staff experience to an overall fund-raising strategy for AAAS/Commonwealth Institute. This will include event development and well as personal fund-raising outreach.

The need for speakers, both for the Black Women’s Conference and also during each academic year, will be supported with a jump-start financial gift of $10,000 per year for the next 3 years.

3. We have also developed a partnership with the UK Center of Equality and Social Justice to grow the current tutoring program in place with the Carnegie Center for Literacy, which offers reading tutoring for Pre-K through second grade students. Our goal is to help double the current capacity of 300 students over the course of one year, and meet the full demand of 3,000 students that need literacy tutoring in five years. We will continue working through the fall with the Center of Equality and Social Justice in implementing this plan, with the hope to launch the effort in Spring 2021.

4. We committed to expanding CORNETT’s partnerships with, and hiring of, local BIPOC freelancers, talent, artists, producers, directors, influencers, creators and vendors. Since our Commit to Change announcement, we have hired BIPOC partners on several projects and developed further connections and relationships with BIPOC creators in our community. We are in development of a BIPOC creator directory, which will be shared both internally and externally. The directory will serve to create more connections and opportunity for BIPOC talent in our community and region. If you would like to be listed in this directory, or know someone who should be listed, please feel free to contact us with information for the listing. We have reinvigorated and refocused our volunteer Community Outreach Operations (CORNETT CO-Op) toward new efforts impacting BIPOC. We plan to share further details on these collaborations and efforts in the coming weeks and months.

Change the way CORNETT works.
All of the above will show up in our work and influence our clients’ mindsets and strategy. We will continue to create bold, breakthrough work that isn’t just imaginative but inclusive, impactful and a force of good and positive change.

In an effort to create more work that represents BIPOC experiences and connects culturally, we have developed a more focused and intentional process and filter that we will apply to projects moving forward, asking ourselves:

Are BIPOC included in this work? If not, why not?
Are they portrayed authentically? How do we know?Are they portrayed respectfully?
*Are we upholding stereotypes about race or culture (negative or positive)?
*Are we authentically and positively representing the unique experience of BIPOC in this work?
*Did BIPOC talent have a voice in the creation of this work?  

Until we have made more impact on the diversity makeup of our staff and leadership, we will seek the input of collaborators and partners to help us answer these questions whenever needed and whenever possible. We see this as a starting point in being more reflective, responsible and intentional in our work representing BIPOC experiences and culture. But we recognize this is only a stepping stone toward transforming the way we work.Through all of the above efforts, we are ultimately working toward creating a culture and collaborative environment that is inclusive and welcoming for BIPOC, while committing ourselves further to purpose-driven strategy for both the CORNETT brand and our clients. We look forward to sharing our progress further and welcome your feedback, ideas and participation.