Dealing with diversity?


Diversity shown by people's hands together in agreement

Questions and resources for you...

UCAN is a Chicago nonprofit that effectively incorporates its diversity efforts into the organization's fabric and culture. I've spoken with folks at UCAN, and had representatives visit my undergrad nonprofit management and leadership class to talk about their diversity work with both staff and board. I thought I would share their presentation materials that captures some of the principles by which they operate. Several key points include:

  • Involvement of senior leadership and governing board;
  • Focus on diversity with vendors and suppliers;
  • Encouragement of affinity group discussions;
  • Focus on diversity in client programming; and
  • Inclusion of community in UCAN's diversity initiatives.

So many folks shy away from discussing race and ethnicity in an organizational context. Not having these discussions doesn't make our differences disappear; nor does it help us to strengthen our strategies for working together across differences. I'm an advocate for asking questions, sharing, and learning.

Before I moved to Chicago to direct the Axelson Center, I worked for the New York City National Association of Social Work (NASW-NYC). The association began to work with a group out of New Orleans, the People's Institute for Survival and Beyond (PISAB) to sponsor anti-racism training for social workers and human services professionals in NYC (click here for more info). The PISAB approach was vastly different from others I'd seen. It focused on institutional racism. 

NASW-NYC believed that all human services professionals needed to be more aware of and strategically focused on ways to interact more effectively with each other and with clients - who were often from a different racial or ethnic background. The "Undoing Racism" effort has spread widely in NYC through numerous trainings, and long-term change strategies by organizations. In addition, many of the graduate school social work programs made special efforts to encourage their students to undergo the Undoing Racism training. That work continues. As I was moving to Chicago, many of my former colleagues asked why it was that the Undoing Racism group was never invited to Chicago to do the training. I couldn't answer that question. I still can't. Can you? 

What is your organization doing in terms of addressing diversity issues? What challenges or barriers have you faced? What strategies have you employed?

Here are a few resources re: Undoing Racism in NYC.

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