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Deepening Relationships with an Intentional Approach toward Equity

By Clare Sanford, Director of Government and Community Relations, New Horizon Academy
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December 3, 2020

The YWCA Racial Justice team has partnered with New Horizon Academy through Inc.ludeTM Consulting in their journey to be a more equitable and inclusive organization. Below is their story told by Clare Sanford, director of Government and Community Relations.

New Horizon Academy began its intentional journey towards greater diversity, equity, inclusion and access (DEIA) in 2019. As a child care provider, we realized that we had the opportunity not only to make change within our company culture, but also with the children, families and many communities we serve.

Taking an Intentional Approach

As we approached the 50th year of this business, we looked across the company and took stock of both points of pride and areas where we wanted — and needed — to do better. While those points of pride included a teaching staff that reflects the diversity of the children we serve, multiple programs that offer free or subsidized educational opportunities for staff seeking advancement and more, we realized that we had never taken an intentional and comprehensive approach to issues of DEIA.

“…we didn’t know what we didn’t know, and needed outside expertise.”

We saw that our corporate office staff and our leadership positions across the company did not reflect the diversity we had in our educators, and needed to understand why so we could begin to change. Like many organizations, we hadn’t been trying NOT to provide the most welcoming and inclusive environment for all staff and families, but we didn’t know what we didn’t know, and needed outside expertise. As a former employee of YWCA Minneapolis myself, I knew and respected the work of its Racial Justice programs, and we looked to it as a place to start.

A Shared Responsibility for Change

We engaged YWCA Minneapolis with our executive leadership team to start, realizing that change and understanding must come from there — this isn’t work we expect some employees to do and not others; this is all our shared responsibility.

“The journey has been in turn uncomfortable, fascinating, frightening, invigorating, exciting and more, often all at the same time.”

The journey has been in turn uncomfortable, fascinating, frightening, invigorating, exciting and more, often all at the same time. Digging deep into our own individual biases is not easy, but taking the time to focus on this and think about how behaviors and reactions can change for the better is cathartic.

Deepening Relationships and Understanding Each Other’s Experiences

We have already learned things from each other that have deepened our relationships and understanding of each other’s experiences, and some of our team have worked together for 30+ years! YWCA staff have been helpful in drawing us out and into this work, taking the time to understand our culture and our hopes, and helping to tailor trainings and assessments to our specific team. We will use this introductory work as a foundation as we continue to move forward and engage in long-term plans to keep DEIA as a core focus of our collective efforts.

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