River Forest Village Hall | Alex Rogals

The River Forest Village Board took a major step toward fulfilling one of the main goals of the diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) ad hoc advisory group on Oct. 10, voting unanimously to hire Nova Collective LLC of Chicago to assess village practices, policies and structures.

The village will pay Nova $50,000 for the assessment, which will be conducted in two phases and is expected to take 25 weeks. A survey is expected to be the first step of the first phase, which also will include a policy and process audit. The second phase will include the development of two deliverables. 

Trustee Erika Bachner, one of three co-chairs of the DEI ad hoc group, said she expects Nova representatives to attend the group’s Oct. 18 meeting to start the process. Other co-chairs are Trustee Ken Johnson and Village Administrator Brian Murphy. According to the suggested timeline provided by Nova, the survey would be conducted in the seventh week, which would be late December.

According to the firm’s website, Nova is a women-owned company “devoted to transforming organizational cultures no matter where they are on the DEI journey.” The website also described the firm as being “BIPOC-led” with BIPOC standing for Black, indigenous and people of color.

Murphy explained that Nova is familiar with the area, having done work for the Oak Park-River Forest Community Foundation. Bachner noted that having data on the area available will help River Forest.

“We’re very fortunate,” she added.

In response to a question from Trustee Bob O’Connell, Johnson said Nova “stood out” for its experience working with municipalities and its familiarity with the area.

The DEI group was established in 2021, providing the internal component of an initiative to address equity and inclusion issues that was introduced in 2020. Originally expected to include 15 members, the group’s membership grew to 43 by April 2021 and now stands at 46. An external component of the initiative is a mutually-beneficial partnership between the village and Dominican University that will assist the village in becoming a community where there is a commitment to a culture of equity and inclusion. Dominican is located in River Forest.

After discussion at meetings over six months, officials agreed that the advisory group’s responsibilities would include drafting a request for proposals for a consultant “to conduct an assessment of the village as a municipal organization to provide an equity analysis of its practices, policies, systems and structures to identify potential unintended consequences.”

Murphy said the village received 16 proposals from consulting firms in response to the request for proposals published in July. Proposals were received from firms local and national, including one from Canada. He said the co-chairs narrowed the field to seven firms that were interviewed, and they selected Nova as the most qualified.

A presentation by Nova representatives of the firm’s work philosophy and processes to the DEI group last month received “a positive reaction,” Murphy said. Although no vote could be taken due to a lack of a quorum, consensus favored Nova, he added.

“The committee liked them just as much as we did,” Johnson noted.

Murphy explained that Nova will collect data by survey and interviews and review village documents in the first phase. In the second phase, the firm will create and provide the village with deliverables including recommendations.

The final step will be presentation to the village board on policy analysis and recommendations. 

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