Equity. Inclusion. Diversity. If you’ve even mildly been paying attention in 2020, these are just a few words you’ve probably heard. They’ve appeared in news headlines, corporate mission statements, even at the presidential debates. But as often as you’ve heard these words and words like them in 2020, do you know what they really mean?
Taking the time to educate yourself isn’t hard, but we’ll admit, between work, errands, family responsibilities, chores—sometimes it’s easy to fall a little short. But organizations like United Way are providing easy opportunities for you to stay active, stay informed, and stay accountable.
United Way Worldwide—originally United Way of America when formed in 1887—is a nonprofit organization that is committed to serving communities across the globe with a focus on three core values: education, income, and health. With over 1,000 offices across the United States—one being right here in Des Moines—and a reach far beyond its founding country’s borders, United Way continues to focus on “the building blocks for a good quality of life and a strong community” by promoting volunteerism, advocacy opportunities, and educational resources for the greater good.
Having had the opportunity to work with and support United Way of Central Iowa’s 211 project this past spring, many of us at We Write Code were familiar with United Way’s work and community efforts. However, none of us had actively participated in any of their educational programs. So when we became aware of their 21-Day Equity Challenge starting October 5th, we jumped on board.
Each morning, Challenge participants open their inboxes to find their daily challenge. Within the email, United Way supplies three to five resources to review, ranging from scholarly articles, TedTalks, expert blog posts, quizzes, videos, podcasts, and even spoken word poetry. Each day breaks down a particular topic, such as Understanding Bias, Cultural Competence, and Diversity & Inclusion in the Workplace, taking you step by step through the materials.
In order for Challenge participants to better sort through the provided resources, a supplementary document containing a series of questions for personal reflection, unpacking new information, and taking notes for future contemplation is also provided daily. Taking anywhere from 15-60 minutes (some of us are serious note takers here at We Write Code), the Challenge is an excellent break during the work day to do a little bit of a different sort of work that, honestly, doesn’t feel that much like work.
“I look forward to opening my inbox every day and seeing the Equity Challenge email waiting for me.” Lauren Matysik, a We Write Code employee who has worked in the nonprofit sector as well as the tech world, appreciates how accessible United Way has made equity engagement for businesses and its employees to participate.
“When I worked in the nonprofit world, we had these kinds of talks regularly, since it was “part of our job”. But like We Write Code, more and more businesses are realizing its part of their job too—both as an organization and as a member of the community. I’m thankful We Write Code leadership acknowledges that it’s a valuable use of their employees’ time to engage with materials like this, and will ultimately improve the workplace and culture. It’s an excellent way to kick off my day, turn on my brain, and challenge myself differently than I do with my usual work.”
With these resources, reflective questions, and talking points, the course provides an excellent opportunity for employers to have thoughtful, informative conversations with employees while allowing them opportunities to guide discussions in ways relevant to their workplace, as well as encouraging open communication between employees.
Didn’t participate in the Equity Challenge, but interested in pushing yourself out of your comfort zone? Check out the Challenge calendar on their website, with all the content from the month-long event. Or sign up for the 8th Annual Inclusion Summit hosted by the Greater Des Moines Partnership November 10th. We’ll “see” you all there!