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DEI Initiatives Advance Social Justice

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DEI initiatives play a vital role in advancing social justice. When organizations and youth programs provide diverse, equitable, and inclusive spaces, people thrive. And all of us can play a role in making DEI initiatives work for everyone.

Everybody wants to feel like they belong. It’s a human need. Moreover, our well-being depends on it. And this is especially important for a young person’s healthy development. Young people deserve to feel safe, welcome, and included. Ensuring inclusion and equity improves outcomes for everyone.

Certainly, youth workers and young people come from many diverse backgrounds. So, it’s important that your organization fosters a culture of belonging. That's where a DEI initiative can help.

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    YIPA’s DEI initiative

    YIPA sees youth work as social justice work. Our mission is rooted in equity.

    After the murder of George Floyd in our home state of Minnesota, we realized we needed to do more to address systemic racism. So, we launched our own DEI initiative. And we made it a priority to weave it into our operations.

    Our very first step was committing to ongoing annual training for our staff and board members as a team. We hired DEI expert Tamar Ghidalia with 3W Consulting to lead our learning.

    Next, we created our DEI vision and values. And started a DEI work group to identify all the tasks and actions we can take.

    Our board of directors has formally adopted our set of shared agreements. These help us build trust with one another. We invite everyone to speak up. Each of us is safe to make mistakes and we all learn together as we move forward.

    We use our platform, our collective voice, and our inclusive community to stand with and for all young people. Youth work is social justice work.

    Developing a DEI initiative in your organization

    There’s a lot to consider if you want to make change in your own agency or program. But change can happen on many levels. Just remember the main goal is to create equitable experiences for everyone.

    Even if you’re not a decision-maker, you can still encourage change.

    There are many ways to create, sustain, and evolve a DEI initiative. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

    • Listen to young people and invite their ideas
    • Collect data to help identify what needs to change
    • Design a strategy that aligns with the objectives and mission of your organization
    • Try different ways to drive change, like providing intercultural training, mentorship programs, and recruiting diverse candidates when hiring
    • Evaluate progress as you go
    • Be flexible and make changes to your strategy as needed

    Intercultural engagement in youth work

    YIPA’s DEI initiative is just one of many examples of what youth workers are doing around the world to create equitable spaces for young people. We invite you to dig into what your own organization is currently doing.

    Intercultural engagement is essential to youth work. We have a whole series of intercultural trainings. And these are a great way for you and your organization to gain more knowledge. At the same time, you'll build intercultural communication skills. But most importantly, you'll take action to fully serve all young people.

    To sum up, it takes all of us to build a community where everyone is welcomed. It’s about gaining awareness, developing skills, and then turning those into action. That way, we can all learn and grow together.

    About the author

    Jade Schleif is the training coordinator of the Youth Intervention Programs Association (YIPA), a non-profit association of youth-serving organizations. We're your source for exceptional, affordable, personal and professional online learning via The Professional Youth Worker.  Join us!

    To ask Jade a question or share your feedback about this blog, email jade@yipa.org.

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