As Americans, we can probably note in detail, many moments in history where we have stood in our tracks and witnessed outward and blatant inequities taking place. Seeing it affect those we love, whether inadvertently due to our own implicit biases and privilege, or at the hands of others - those moments taught us that there is a bigger system at work continually widening the disparities for marginalized populations.
As human service professionals, we have witnessed, on a daily basis, the inequities exist for our neighbors – in all areas of their lives. Where unless we are hyper focused on diverse, equitable and inclusive policies and practices, it is likely we all have internal procedures that continue to perpetuate these cycles of inequity. This is why our organization, United Partners for Human Services (UPHS), initiated steps in the Summer of 2020 to assist in strengthening the internal infrastructure of the human services sector by creating a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Taskforce that spent the last nine months developing this guidebook and toolkit that supports DEI within an individual organization and our collective network.
As a guiding principle of this work, the UPHS board adopted the position that “If your human service work isn’t anti-racist, it isn’t human service work.” This position serves as the foundation and baseline for everything we do and the understanding its intersection through our strategic priorities, initiatives and activities. Additionally, within our current/future strategic plan this statement will guide the activities within each category to center how we approach and address inequities.
In tandem with this position, the UPHS Board established its Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee co-chaired by M. Miaisha Mitchell (Greater Frenchtown Revitalization Council) and Jocelyne Fliger, MSW (Elder Care Services, Inc.) focused on developing tools and resources that intentionally foster systems change within our sector that supports the following:
• Improve the equity within how our members serve their clients,
• Improve the equity within how our members treat
• Advocate for others (community-at-large, donors,
networks, etc.) to understand their own biases that
leads to equity becoming the new norm.
Our guidebook and toolkit, established by UPHS and its Taskforce, is for our UPHS members (individual organizations) to assist in assessing where they are in operationalizing DEI in their organizations, as well as providing access to resources and tools to plan and implement DEI in their organizations. While understanding this journey and the result will look differently for each UPHS member agency.
As a byproduct of this work, UPHS (as an organization and systems change leader for our sector) will benefit and be able to implement and advocate for a focus on DEI. UPHS is committed to DEI and implementing it throughout the very foundation of our initiatives, while simultaneously providing support and resources to our members, and holding them accountable to being invested in DEI work.