Incorporating diversity into every aspect of its business operations, including human resources and procurement, is a priority for the Toronto 2015 Pan/Parapan American Games organizers.
The first-ever Pan Am Games diversity policy and strategy was created last year and a diversity and inclusion lead was recently appointed.
Naki Osutei will work with a talented team to implement the policy and strategy and develop new approaches that will enhance the delivery of the first international multi-sport Games to be held in Ontario since the 1930 British Empire Games which later became the Commonwealth Games.
“I think our Games organizers did a really good thing in identifying diversity as a critical component and that was expressed right from the bid process,” said Osutei, who is a member of the Seneca College board of governors and vice-president of St. Christopher House’s board of directors. “I believe that played a large part in us winning the bid. We are in the very fortunate position of having many of the countries in the Pan Am region represented by large communities in Toronto, so it makes for a really exciting opportunity.
“I think about the way in which this city gets energized during the soccer World Cup when you see people driving through the streets honking their horns and waving flags. I feel that’s the kind of energy that will be generated during the Pan Am Games.
“With that in mind, if you consider the cultural and social impact, which is large, you also have to look at the economic impact as being important. Part of my role will be bringing and bridging all those critical components together and ensuring that the Games don’t lose sight of that.”
Prior to taking up her appointment last month, Osutei was vice-president responsible for strategy with the Greater Toronto Civic Action Alliance for six years, working with some of the city’s top powerbrokers, such as the late visionary, David Pecaut and former Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario leader, John Tory, on challenges facing the city, including the integration of skilled immigrants, regional economic development and diversity in leadership.
The University of Guelph Masters graduate and former Learning Partnership research and policy council member beat out several other highly qualified candidates for the position.
“If you had asked me a year ago if I wanted to do a job that was specifically about diversity and inclusion, I probably would have said no,” said Osutei, a founding director of the Emerging Leaders Network. “I think I might have been afraid that the other skills I have might not have been utilized in that role. That was perhaps ignorance on my part.
“I spent the last six years working on social and economic challenges and I was thinking that I really wanted to continue in strategy and, of course, diversity and inclusion contain that. But I really wanted something that has a high level of complexity and this new job definitely has all of that in terms of collaboration, the strategic purpose and the diversity and inclusion mandate.”
Born to Ghanaian parents who migrated in 1979, Osutei grew up in Weston Towers and worked with Metro Toronto Housing Authority in her teens. She was a drug prevention program worker with Thistletown Community Services.
“My job was to create programming that would keep young people off the streets,” said Osutei, who is a guest lecturer at post-secondary institutions and a co-founder of DiverseCity Fellows. “It got me connected to the community in a real way at the grassroots level and really provided me with an opportunity to observe priority neighbourhood challenges.
“I lived those realities, but also having the experiences of other people to compare and contrast with was really important as was the opportunity to see the richness and vibrancy that exists in different communities.”
Osutei’s Master’s research was recognized with the Kim Prize for Outstanding Paper and her overall graduate work was awarded the Duncan Prize for the top graduate student in the College of Social and Applied Human Sciences.
By RON FANFAIR