Discussion Forum Notes: February 10, 2011: Barriers to Service


On February 10, 2011, The Denver Foundation's Inclusiveness Project hosted a discussion forum on the topic of "Barriers to Service." The session was led by members of the Inclusiveness Collaborative, a group of Metro Denver nonprofit organizations interested in intentionally building inclusiveness within their organizations. This was the first in a series of six discussion forums. The Inclusiveness Collaborative grew out of The Denver Foundation's first learning community, which began in 2006 with a cohort of eleven participating organizations.

Thirty people were in attendance, representing the following organizations: Colorado Alliance for Environmental Education, Colorado Symphony, Colorado Youth at Risk, Denver Center for Crime Victims, Doctors Care, Earthforce, Family Resource Center, Girls Inc., Howard Dental Center, Open Media Foundation, Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, Project PAVE, Project WISE, Rocky Mountain HDC, Victim Offender Reconciliation Program Going Home, and WINGS Corporation.

Presenters were: Lonnie McCabe (IC member and volunteer and staff at Stories on Stage); Mike Johnson (IC member and executive director of Project PAVE); Kyla Bradford (IC member and staff at Denver Center for Crime Victims); Joyce Alms-Ramford (IC member and executive director of Rocky Mountain Housing Development Corporation); Tawyna Russell (IC member and staff at Rocky Mountain Housing Development Corporation).

The session focused on the social and cultural barriers that nonprofit clients might face in seeking and utilizing the services of the nonprofits. (Other categories of barriers were mentioned briefly: i.e., economic, geographical, and administrative.)

Staff from Denver Center for Crime Victims and Rocky Mountain Housing Development Corporation reviewed their experiences and practices in understanding the potential social and cultural barriers their clients might have and in attempting to eliminate those barriers. Presenters acknowledged that every client comes with some barrier. Both agencies attempt to match their clients' preferences as to from whom they receive services (e.g., a Muslim woman preferring a woman household repair person).

Here are some examples of the barriers that were discussed:

  • lack of transportation
  • limited financial assistance
  • having to repeat information/stories
  • confusion and frustration
  • fear of reporting
  • running into dead ends
  • school interaction
  • level of education
  • ability to communicate ideas
  • personal cultural sensitivity

Brief group discussion focused on the barriers attendees believe their clients face. There was also discussion on the value of being willing to have (and actually having) "hard" discussions (e.g., confronting conflicts, not ignoring them). "Straight talk, in a loving way, is incredibly valuable."

FYI, the Denver Center for Crime Victims has a language translation/interpreting service that utilizes more than two hundred vendors for forty-plus languages. DCCV provides translation/interpretation services to its clients and can be contracted with to provide those services to area nonprofits. NPOs were encouraged to put in a line item for translation/interpretation services in their grant requests, if that is a valuable service to them.


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