United Way of Story County (UWSC) has one mission; improving the health, education, and financial stability of EVERY person in our community. Not some people, not most people; ALL people. We envision a world where all individuals and families achieve their human potential.
As an organization, we have always believed in inclusion no matter the difference. During recent months, we’ve been more focused on what that means and how we show it. In order to achieve our vision of all individuals and families achieving their human potential, we must take on the challenges our neighbors face based on their diversity. We need to work together to create a community that embraces equity and inclusion. We must work together to build inclusive organizations and communities to pursue more equitable outcomes.
Working in the arena of community impact and data interpretation, we continuously see disproportionate outcomes based on race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, etc. According to the county health rankings from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, there is a lower life expectancy for black adults in Story County. Our LGBTQ+ youth and adults face mental health challenges at a higher rate than the rest of the population (data source: National Alliance on Mental Illness). Students of color, students with disabilities (IEP’s), students utilizing free or reduced lunch, and English language learners are all disproportionately represented in those not reading proficiently at the end of third grade (data source: Iowa Department of Education).
How do we ensure that we are moving the needle forward in programs that are combating this inequity? UWSC is piloting an equity project with a few of our current partner agencies. Ames Community Preschool Center (ACPC), Assault Care Center Extending Shelter & Support (ACCESS), and YSS are working with us to collect data on their programs through the lens of equitable improvement. Analyzing program measures will assure that we are supporting those who need assistance and are working to contest the current systemic barriers that race, gender, sexual orientation, and other identities allude to.
Aside from technical data, UWSC is committing to broaden our equity initiatives across the board. Beginning with our diversity statement, the UWSC board of directors will expand the statement to cover inclusion, and equity language. While diversity alone means a “presence of difference”, inclusion goes further to valuing those that are different. Equity brings it all together reiterating our mission, that everyone have access to opportunity.
Further action items include the creation of a new equity committee/task force, committing UWSC, and encouraging our partners, to partake in equitable practices and experiences. UWSC, along with other ASSET funders is hoping to provide equity-focused trainings to executives and key staff within our partner organizations to elevate the understanding and acceptance of diversity, inclusion, and equity.
As we further our focus on this topic, we are urging our partners and collaborators to follow our example. Diversity, inclusion, and equity are at the cornerstone of issues that are effecting our community. If we all equip ourselves with as much knowledge as we can about those that are different from us, we can move towards a more equitable future.