Award-winning independent creative agency Duncan Channon today named Kumi Croom as the agency’s first director of collaboration and equity. Croom’s new leadership position builds on the formation of Duncan Channon’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) group – which Croom helped spearhead – in late 2019.
In this role created with and for Croom, she will take a two-pronged approach to driving equity across the agency and its work. Croom will be responsible for embedding the inclusive, culturally-sensitive mindset and collaborative process that she established for Duncan Channon’s largest client, the California Department of Health Tobacco Control Program, across the agency. She will also lead Duncan Channon’s DEI group, with a focus on equitable talent recruitment and retention, inclusive culture and ongoing anti-racism education for the agency. Croom will report to CEO Andy Berkenfield and work in close collaboration with the DEI group, the agency’s creative leadership, as well as Director of Talent Allie Bart.
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“At Duncan Channon, we take to heart the responsibility that we have as marketers and citizens to help shape cultural and social norms that are representative, inclusive and equitable,” said Andy Berkenfield, CEO, Duncan Channon. “It’s what drives us in our growing body of social impact work across the COVID-19 vaccine, vaping and tobacco, and health insurance. At the same time, our agency is reckoning with the same challenges around diversity, equity and inclusion as most of our industry peers. Real change requires new thinking, resources, and commitment. Elevating Kumi as our first director of collaboration and equity will formalize and accelerate our ability to live our values, both inside the agency and through work we put into the world.”
Croom steps into this role after serving as group account director – hired in 2017 to lead the agency’s largest client business, the California Department of Public Health Tobacco Control Program. As part of her account leadership, she helped develop and instill the inclusive, culturally-sensitive and equitable mindset and collaborative process essential to the work’s breakthrough success in changing perceptions about vaping and flavored tobacco among the state’s diverse multicultural residents. Most recently, Croom assembled an integrated cross-agency team led by Duncan Channon that won a $40M contract from the California Department of Public Health to build trust in COVID-19 vaccines among all residents, including Black, Latinx, Asian Pacific Islander and Indigenous communities who have been historically underserved by the medical system. She will now be responsible for instilling this multicultural approach across all teams to help ensure that the agency’s work is representative, culturally-sensitive and relevant to diverse audiences.
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Croom will also assume leadership of Duncan Channon’s DEI group. In late 2019, Croom sparked the formation of the DEI group, which includes 10 staffers at a range of levels who are passionate about driving transformative change in the agency’s BIPOC talent recruitment and retention, as well as in the agency’s culture to reflect diverse perspectives. The DEI group has initiated a process of agency reflection to benchmark diversity data, evaluate its culture with the support of anti-racism educator Dr. Lori A Watson, and engage staff in ongoing anti-racism and cultural education experiences. The DEI group is currently focused on expanding recruitment pipelines to identify qualified BIPOC candidates with non-traditional backgrounds, and prioritizing retention through mentorship, paths for advancement and an inclusive culture that allows people to be themselves and be heard at work.
“My vision is for Duncan Channon to be and be seen as a multicultural agency. An agency that develops inclusive, human ideas that create change – with an institutionalized process to honor cultural nuances,” said Kumi Croom, director of collaboration and equity, Duncan Channon. “To get there, we need to be intentional about everything – our recruitment, retention, culture, and work process across strategy, creative and communications planning. I’m energized by the support and collaboration from my DEI group colleagues and senior leadership to take on this challenge.”
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