Discussion Forum Notes: November 10, 2011: Sustaining Inclusiveness Work and Adapting Roles


On November 10, 2011, The Denver Foundation's Inclusiveness Project hosted a discussion forum on the topic of "Sustaining Inclusiveness Work." The session was organized by members of the Inclusiveness Collaborative, a group of Metro Denver nonprofit organizations interested in intentionally building inclusiveness within their organizations. This was the sixth and last in a series of discussion forums for 2011. The Inclusiveness Collaborative grew out of The Denver Foundation's first learning community, which began in 2006 with a cohort of eleven participating organizations.

Over fifty people were in attendance, representing the following organizations: Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Boulder County AIDS, Butterfly Pavilion, Child Advocates (CASA), Colorado Alliance for Environmental Education, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Colorado Traumatic Brain Injury Program, Doctors Care, Earthforce, El Centro Su Teatro, Environmental Learning for Kids, GrowHaus, Habitat for Humanity, Mental Health America of Colorado, Open Media Foundation, Partnership for Colorado Families and Children, Project PAVE, Project WISE, Rocky Mountain Housing Development Corporation (RMHDC), Sand Creek Regional Greenway, Wings Foundation.

Presenters included representatives from the Inclusiveness Collaborative speaking about their own organization's sustaining work on inclusiveness: Lonnie McCabe from Stories on Stage; Karen Terry from Aurora Mental Health Center; Mike Johnson from Project PAVE; and Lori Cohn from Rocky Mountain Youth Clinics. Lauren Casteel of The Denver Foundation spoke about that organization's sustaining work on inclusiveness.

Below are highlights of the presentations and the Q/A that followed:

Leadership is key: executive director, board support and/or mandate.

Invest in trainings, conferences, and other learning opportunities (e.g., book clubs, movie clubs). The work is ongoing and personal and requires sufficient opportunities to learn and process and engage.

Conduct organizational assessment initially and repeat over time to stay current with needs. Use a third party if possible.

Weave inclusiveness into everything you do. It is not "additional work," it is THE work and needs to be incorporated into all strategic plans, sustainability plans, and policies.

Advocate within professional circles and networks so that other organizations pick up on the importance of inclusiveness work and can use your organization as a resource for how to do that work.

Develop employees from among the people you serve. Their perspective is crucial to the success of your organization. Project PAVE example: Currently, there are fifteen youth on our payroll, 80 percent of whom are people of color. Fifty percent of them indicate that they are interested in the nonprofit arena for future work pursuits.

Institute feedback mechanisms for clients to tell you their perspectives.

Use and revise your inclusiveness blueprint.

Continue to gather important demographic data.

Consider programming that advances your mission and connects with communities of color, engaging in back-and-forth communication.

Be collaborative.

Invest in leadership development (time, dollars, and training). Encourage people to work on personal, professional, and organizational goals.

Dedicate staff time for inclusiveness work and fun.

Institute continual evaluation and reflection.

Engage with those who disagree.

Remember the importance and impact of disruption. Disruption yields change. Change is incremental and cumulative.

Support and attend events within communities that you aren't yet connected to and bring people with you.

Stop using "code." Identify the actual issues of inclusiveness; talk about them; measure them; take them apart. It's not just about following the law.

Recommended Resources


Timeline of TDF's internal inclusiveness initiative.doc50.5 KB
TDF Inclusiveness Blueprint FINAL 2011.pdf394.73 KB
Overview of TDF's internal inclusiveness initiative - 2008 July - FINAL.doc66.5 KB