A Self-Examination: Diversity, Equity*, and Inclusion

The street protests over the last number of weeks have brought a new urgency to what our country must do to address racial inequality and justice. Various initiatives have sparked across the country, sometimes with careful planning and perspective, and at other times in the heat of a long-overdue moment.

Crowds confront historic public symbols, the role and actions of the police, demand racial justice, and fair treatment, and civic leaders, cities, and states look at new ways to govern public spaces and institutions. This has caused us at Interface to do our own reflecting – what is our role in addressing racism and inequity in Ventura County and across the state? What are we doing well, and what more should we be doing? The intensity of the protests may be converting into quieter, but equally important, civic actions and next steps for communities, and yet the fundamental problems remain. Now it’s our turn at the local level to take this dialogue to some practical next steps in supporting real and sustained changes for communities of color we are engaged to serve. Over the last few weeks, we’ve been conducting focused conversations initiated by our Board of Directors, with our Leadership Advisory Council, and in various staff and management forums. In our self-reflections, we have come to understand areas where we feel we are “walking the walk,” areas where we should do more, and areas yet to explore.

What is already in place at Interface?

Interface has long been committed to equity and to supporting the marginalized voices of our neighbors through our many programs. We’ve done this through our unique mission to address violence, victimization, trauma, the inability to access resources, and through many partnerships dedicated to bolster similar efforts across our county and through our 211 work across the state.

We have a stated value of “Integrity” which we define as: “Interface builds credibility and trust in the community by aligning its mission, programs, people and results.”

Can we say we have Integrity when it comes to the fight for equity and racial justice?

Our mission is to “Strengthen children, families, and community to be safe, healthy and thriving.” This is a mission for all peoples, for all races, genders, every sexual orientation, and national origin. This mission is aligned with our programs, which are serving upwards of 68% non-white clients and decreasing the over-representation of communities of color in the foster care system, in our local jails, as students struggling with mental health issues, as toddlers disadvantaged before Kindergarten and as victims of interpersonal violence or human trafficking. These programs are aligned with our people, who as a staff are bi-lingual and bi-cultural at a rate of approximately 65% of our staff. And lastly, we are building a comprehensive results-based evaluation system so we can show our current outcomes by the numbers for each self-identified population we are serving. This is how we are living our stated value of “Integrity.” But there is much more work to be done…

After these initial conversations over the last month with our volunteer leaders and internal leadership at Interface, we’ve identified some important next steps to address inequities and racial discrimination through our program work and our place as a leading local nonprofit in Ventura County:

  • Review our Mission, Vision, and Values statements to consider our commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion and efforts against discrimination a stated objective, not only an implied one – statements that will guide our internal thoughts and actions and signal to our community the importance of equity and racial justice in our work
  • Create different levels of engagement for our staff, clients and community partners to express their voice on Interface’s priorities, programs and initiatives which will include an on-going focus on equity, inclusiveness, and access
  • Review each of our programs and plan to address areas where we can operationalize our commitment to equity and inclusiveness
  • Continue to identify, recruit and engage committed staff and volunteer leaders who represent the communities of color we serve and who believe in our desire to lead by example at all levels of our organization
  • Actively seek new opportunities to bring funding to Ventura County to address equity and racial justice through Interface’s comprehensive and integrated services and partnerships

We know that we are one of many organizations laboring to find actionable solutions to support the voices and the opportunities for communities of color. Our pledge is that we hear that call, and we will continue to take action.

*Equity: The guarantee of fair treatment, access, opportunity, and advancement while at the same time striving to identify and eliminate barriers that have prevented the full participation of some groups. The principle of equity acknowledges that there are historically underserved and underrepresented populations and that fairness regarding these unbalanced conditions is needed to assist the appropriate provision.

 

With respect and compassion,

Erik Sternad
Executive Director

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2020-07-16T19:07:28+00:00
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