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Notable People: Ashley Kelly, Empowering Equal Opportunities Through DEI

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) are no longer buzzwords; they're crucial for building successful and thriving organizations. In this interview, we chat with Ashley Kelly, co-founder of CultureAlly, a company dedicated to simplifying and amplifying DEI efforts.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) are no longer buzzwords; they’re crucial for building successful and thriving organizations. In this interview, we chat with Ashley Kelly, co-founder of CultureAlly, a company dedicated to simplifying and amplifying DEI efforts. Ashley dives into her journey, the impact of CultureAlly’s work, and their unique approach that prioritizes progress over perfection and puts “people first.”  Get ready to be inspired by stories of transformation and how CultureAlly is shaping a more inclusive future for workplaces around the world.

Can you tell us more about your journey and what inspired you to co-found CultureAlly, a company dedicated to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)?

CultureAlly began in April 2021 when my co-founder, Hannah, and I noticed a significant gap in how DEI solutions were provided. Many companies struggled with multiple vendors to implement their DEI programs. Determined to simplify this process, we set out to offer a comprehensive, all-in-one DEI solution. Our passion for change drives us forward. We envision a future where organizations embrace progress over perfection and create inclusive workplaces. Through CultureAlly, we aim to be a catalyst for positive change, promoting a diverse and inclusive workforce that fosters growth, empowerment, and equal opportunities for all.

How has your diverse industry background influenced your DEI approach?

Our diverse industry experience is the cornerstone of our DEI approach at Cultureally. Being industry-agnostic, we’ve gained broad perspectives and insights across various sectors. This diversity in experience allows us to identify and share best practices universally while also understanding and addressing the unique DEI challenges each industry faces. Our approach is enriched by this cross-industry knowledge, enabling us to tailor more effective and expansive solutions for our clients.

You’ve pursued DEI studies at prestigious institutions like Cornell University and Purdue University. How has your academic background enhanced your ability to drive positive change in the DEI space?

Our academic pursuits at institutions like Cornell and Purdue have significantly bolstered our company’s effectiveness in the DEI space. The comprehensive education and exposure to diverse thought leadership at these institutions have deepened our collective understanding of DEI principles and strategies and enabled us at Cultureally to drive impactful and sustainable change. As a team, we harness our varied academic insights to tackle the complexities of DEI challenges, creating research-backed, innovative solutions that are adaptable to different organizational contexts.

CultureAlly offers various services to support organizations on their DEI journey, including training, consulting, and e-learning. Can you share some success stories or memorable moments from working with clients that highlight the impact of your services?

At CultureAlly, we’ve had numerous success stories that showcase the effectiveness of our services. A particularly rewarding aspect has been witnessing the positive transformation following our training sessions. Companies often extend their engagement with us, signing up for long-term packages, motivated by their teams’ enthusiasm and engagement with our DEI training. Another significant achievement has been assisting organizations in setting tangible DEI goals and developing actionable plans for real change. Additionally, our work in coaching DEI committees has been immensely fulfilling. We empower them to confidently champion their DEI strategies internally, leading to a more inclusive and equitable workplace culture. These experiences not only highlight the impact of our services but also reinforce our commitment to fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion in the corporate world.

One of CultureAlly’s values is “Inclusion & People First.” How does this value guide your company’s approach to DEI, and what does prioritizing “first-voice experts” mean in your work? 

At CultureAlly, our core value of ‘Inclusion & People First’ is pivotal to our approach towards DEI. This principle acknowledges that despite the diverse expertise within our team, we don’t possess all the answers or represent every experience and identity. Understanding this, we prioritize integrating first-voice experts and external perspectives into our work. This means actively engaging with individuals and organizations outside our own to enrich our understanding and solutions. By doing so, we ensure that our strategies are not just theoretical but deeply rooted in the real-world experiences and needs of those we aim to serve. This approach helps us create more authentic, effective, and inclusive DEI initiatives, truly putting people and their diverse experiences at the forefront of everything we do.

What is the significance of “Progress, Not Perfection” in DEI work?

Progress, Not Perfection, is a guiding principle in our DEI endeavours at CultureAlly, also reflecting a personal value I hold dear. In the realm of DEI, fear often impedes progress, with many hesitating to take the first step due to that fear. This mindset emphasizes the importance of moving forward despite that fear and taking action, however small. Even a 1% shift can make a significant impact. DEI is an ever-evolving journey, not a destination. Valuing progress over perfection allows us to continually move forward, learn, and improve, acknowledging that each step, no matter the size, is vital in fostering a more inclusive and equitable environment.

CultureAlly provides custom solutions for lasting impact. Please provide some insights into how you tailor your services to meet the unique needs of each you work with.

At CultureAlly, our approach to delivering impactful DEI solutions hinges on co-collaboration with our clients. We begin by gaining a comprehensive understanding of each organization’s starting point, considering both quantitative and qualitative aspects. This deep dive enables us to customize our programs and training to specifically address their unique needs or address specific gaps vs a one-size-fits-all methodology. We also offer ongoing support and foster safe spaces for open dialogue on any DEI issue. This tailored approach ensures that the solutions we provide are not just effective in the short term but also pave the way for lasting impact and continuous growth in DEI within the organizations we partner with.

With a global reach and partnerships with corporations, governments, and nonprofits, how do you see the future of DEI evolving on a broader scale, and what role do you envision CultureAlly playing in this evolution?

The future of DEI is on the cusp of a significant global shift, and we are positioned to be a key player in this evolution. Our strategy involves a balanced focus on both technology and the human aspect of DEI, utilizing a blend of consulting, coaching, training, and e-learning solutions that can scale with an organization. By integrating these tools, we aim to deepen DEI’s integration into organizational cultures across sectors, transforming it into a practiced ethos globally. CultureAlly’s vision is to craft a future where DEI is not just a concept but a fundamental, sustainable, and equitable part of every community we engage with, leveraging innovation to make a lasting impact.

What role do you see CultureAlly playing in the future of DEI?

CultureAlly envisions itself as a global one-stop shop for all DEI needs, playing a pivotal role in shaping the future of this field. Our aim is to be the go-to resource for organizations worldwide, providing a comprehensive range of services from consulting and training to e-learning and coaching. By offering these diverse, scalable solutions, we plan to address the full spectrum of DEI challenges faced by various sectors. Our goal is not just to contribute to the DEI conversation but to lead it, driving innovation and progress that resonates across cultures and borders. In doing so, CultureAlly aspires to be synonymous with DEI excellence, helping organizations transform their cultures into more inclusive, equitable, and diverse environments.

What aspects of your brand and experiences have contributed to your ability to shape a more inclusive future for organizations worldwide?

The unique blend of flexibility, approachability, customization, empathy, and a strong sense of partnership forms the cornerstone of CultureAlly’s brand, significantly enhancing our ability to shape a more inclusive future for organizations globally. These attributes, coupled with our deep commitment to actively listening to our clients, allow us to create tailored solutions that genuinely meet their specific needs rather than imposing preconceived ideas. Our approach is rooted in understanding and addressing the unique challenges each organization faces, enabling us to craft strategies that not only foster inclusivity and equity but also resonate deeply with our diverse clientele. This client-centric and empathetic approach positions us as a leader in driving meaningful and sustainable change in the DEI

Ashley Nedaei

Ashley is the Director of Marketing at Notable Life Inc. As an audacious and creative entrepreneurial spirit, she splits her time between raising her two sons with her husband and toy poodle and creative pursuits in music, beauty, and business. Follow her adventures @ndaiart.