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Chamber Blog

OutPro Steps Out and Into LGBTQIA+ Advocacy

OutPro: Stepping Out Into Advocacy 2

OutPro, an LGBTQIA+ professionals’ group with the Grand Rapids Chamber, has been re-envisioned for 2022.

The group previously offered a platform for LGBTQIA+ individuals and allies to network at social and professional events, but it is now expanding its mission to be a driving force in community education and advocacy.

OutPro was launched in 2013, led by the Diversity and Inclusion team at the Grand Rapids Chamber. In 2021, its leadership was transferred to the Talent Development team who refined its vision to refocus on more impactful work.

“We would love to see OutPro become more than a social group,” said Monica Mendez, the Talent Development Manager at the Grand Rapids Chamber. “We really want it to be impactful, in a way that advocates for the LGBTQIA+ community and makes real changes within local organizations.”

 

Designing the New OutPro

The new iteration of OutPro has identified several expanded goals, including:

  • To host more regular events that encourage diverse talent attraction in West Michigan.
  • To educate businesses about how they can be welcoming to members of the LGBTQIA+ community.
  • To create events and discussions that include topics like public policy, human resources, and strategies for community education.

Many of these changes to the group’s focus were developed with the guidance of the OutPro Council. This Council consists of fifteen LGBTQIA+ professionals and allies from the Grand Rapids community. Members work together to provide inspiration, feedback, and insights for OutPro’s programming and the Chamber’s partnership with the LGBTQIA+ community.

The Council developed a new mission statement to guide these changes to OutPro. Above all, the group emphasizes that its events and programming are inclusive of everyone, including LGBTQIA+ community members, allies, and more. It seeks representation of a wide diversity of backgrounds, at all career levels, from corporations, small businesses, and both public and non-profit organizations. Everyone is invited and encouraged to participate in OutPro events.

 

Being a Part of the OutPro Council

At their first strategic planning session, members of the OutPro Council reflected on why they chose to be involved in the professional group and why they continue to invest in the community. Hear from three anonymous OutPro Council members on their involvement with the group:

“I feel there’s a disconnect between the LGBTQIA+ community and the rest of Grand Rapids. I want to be a part of a team that works to narrow that gap. I want people to feel welcome here, and I want to provide opportunities of growth within the community!”

“I want to be involved in OutPro to help make Grand Rapids a safe, welcoming, and affirming place for LGBTQIA+ community members to live, work, and thrive.”

“I’m invested in this team to challenge our community to dig deep and provide a space at the table for voices that are not normally heard while building meaningful relationships. I want to leave a legacy that encourages people to stop working in silos.”

 

Get Involved

The first OutPro event of the year will take place Tuesday, March 8th at Creston Brewery! Working hand-in-hand with the Grand Rapids Chamber’s Government Affairs Team, the event will focus on Effective Advocacy and is open to members of the LGBTQIA+ community and allies. Discussions will highlight how to make your voices heard and what creating impact can look like at a local level. Attendees will also receive an Empower Toolkit. Register now!

The OutPro Council is comprised of up to 15 community leaders. If you are interested in getting involved, please email Monica Mendez at [email protected].

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