One Team with Many Players: Golden Gophers’ Racial Justice Journey
YWCA Minneapolis’ Racial Justice team has partnered with the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers athletic department through Inc.ludeTM Consulting in their journey to be a more equitable and inclusive organization. Below is their story told by Kelley Nelson, YWCA Minneapolis race equity consulting manager and Peyton N. Owens, III, University of Minnesota senior associate athletics director, leadership development and strategic partnerships.
Starting With Conversation
It all began with a conversation. Staff from the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers athletic department attended It’s Time to Talk: Forums on Race™ as participants for many years. Initially, one or two of our staff members attended and came back energized and inspired, and invited others to attend the next event. When the Golden Gophers team formalized our Championing Diversity plan, I immediately thought of YWCA Minneapolis as a strategic partner. Impressed with how many others were convened from so many different places to have these key conversations about race and racism at It’s Time to Talk, I thought, if YWCA Minneapolis could do that and have an impact in 90 minutes, what is possible in deep, collaborative partnership?
Impressed with how many others were convened from so many different places to have these key conversations about race and racism at It’s Time to Talk, I thought, if YWCA Minneapolis could do that and have an impact in 90 minutes, what is possible in deep, collaborative partnership?
Along the Racial Justice Journey
Our collective journey began in summer 2020 with the senior leadership team taking the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) to understand how individuals on the team understood and experienced culture. What is the baseline measure for collective and individual cultural competency? How do we create a roadmap for becoming diversity champions as one team with many players?
Together we have:
- Become champions of diversity and inclusion
- Provided education, awareness and action
- Ensured talent acquisition and retention
- Fostered outreach and service
Willing to Show Up and Learn
In partnership, we developed a flexible plan that includes individual goal-setting and accountability coupled with a series of group learning opportunities as 2-hour virtual workshops. The Golden Gopher Athletics Department have been willing to check and adjust as the work unfolds, being responsive to the needs of all participants.
Given the open line of communication and trusted relationships we have established, when participants hit some challenging roadblocks in grappling with difficult concepts, the Golden Gophers trusted YWCA Minneapolis’ playbook and have been consistently willing to show up, unlearn and re-learn. When there were pain points, Golden Gophers made the decision to move forward with the work recognizing that with change comes with discomfort. YWCA Minneapolis facilitators do not blame or shame participants; they invite learning and vulnerability while holding accountability to our stated goals and vision.
Given the open line of communication and trusted relationships we have established, when participants hit some challenging roadblocks in grappling with difficult concepts, the Golden Gophers trusted YWCA Minneapolis’ playbook and have been consistently willing to show up, unlearn and re-learn.
A Transformative Process
While the initial work has been performed, it is now transformative. Athletic director Mark Coyle consistently attends all learning engagements and has modeled how to shift perspective and lead while learning. He regularly shares “aha” moments he has with the team, and commits to ensuring the entire staff of Golden Gophers athletics will engage in this learning process together even as time is at a premium and scheduling can be a challenge.
When asked to share what helps make working with YWCA Minneapolis a positive and meaningful experience, Peyton smiles and says it is the custom fit; this is not an “off the rack” solution. The trust and relationships we have built over time have created an unbreakable bond where knowledge and skills are developed leading to action. Our partnership has come full circle as Golden Gophers staff are now trained racial justice facilitators and It’s Time to Talk sponsors. That is transformation, reinvesting their time and talents into the organization that sparked this work.
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