In 2016, when we embarked on our journey to provide therapeutic mentoring services to students in The Bronx, we knew what was important to us – that students would have access to opportunities for healing and exploration. As three organizational leaders who are white, and who were creating a program that would ultimately serve a community comprised mostly of Black and Latinx families, we were deeply concerned with how our organization would foster equity for the students who enrolled in our program. We were also dedicated to leveraging our own privilege in service of this effort.
While we are certainly proud of the impact our program has made for students and families, that it is simply not enough. To foster equity for our community stakeholders, we must also embody and foster equity within our organization. We began this conversation in earnest in 2018 and have since made several changes and adaptations in our efforts.
First, we created our organizational values – in collaboration with students, families, staff, and mentors. After many conversations and reiterations, we developed the following values and beliefs that have been the beacon for every major decision since:
Mattering: We take responsibility for our impact on one another.
Radical Evolution: We reflect on what is and strive toward what ought to be.
Accountability: We hold ourselves accountable in the creation of a just society.
Collective Wisdom: We seek out and cultivate multiple perspectives.
Equitable Relationships: We foster relationships in which power is shared.
Liberation: We create opportunities for healing and self-actualization.
Informed by these values, we have since made several organizational decisions to support equity-building:
- We have formed a DEIA committee to our Board of Directors to oversee how all aspects of our organization may be fostering or inhibiting diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility
- We have embarked on a Strategic Planning process informed by DEIA principles, ensuring that all major decisions about the future of our organization will incorporate these important tenets
- We have instituted a Family Leave policy that ensures not only continuity of employment, but financial stability for any staff member that needs to care for a child or family member
- We have enacted a supportive Personal Time Off policy that allows for staff members to take care of themselves and their families without fear of penalty
- We have provided additional financial compensation to employees who have chosen to work in-person through the COVID crisis
- We have “paused” our recruitment of new Board members until we ensure that we have protocols in place to build an equitable and representative Board of Directors
These are important steps, but they have not always come easily. In fact, many of these choices have been spurred by difficult conversations with stakeholders who care deeply about equity and challenge us to be accountable to our commitments. We embrace these sometimes difficult conversations and believe that meeting these challenges helps us create an organization that is not only more equitable, but more responsive to the community we serve. We recognize that we still have important work to continue to move us forward in this pursuit. Over the next year, we intend to do the following:
- Create opportunities for ongoing stakeholder feedback, ensuring that our students and families’ voices are part of important conversation at the organization
- Finalize expectations for incoming Board members to maximize representative leadership and ensure that we are creating a culture where a myriad of contributions is valued
- Develop structures for ongoing representative leadership on the Board of Directors
- Finalize our Strategic Plan, including a plan for leadership succession that involves community stakeholders and provides tangible supports for leadership development of community stakeholders
As we continue this equity-building journey at The Arthur Project, we will continue to keep you updated on our progress. We welcome ALL stakeholders into the conversation. If you have any thoughts, feedback, or would like more details on what we have shared, please contact Executive Director, Jessica Greenawalt, at email@example.com.