Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: The YNPN Path to Success

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: The YNPN Path to Success

The YNPN National Board recently gathered in New York to spend a few days thinking big and going deep on our vision for the network. In this post, board member Kim Walker discusses insights from the retreat on YNPN's diversity, equity, and inclusion strategy.

How do you create success? Not revenue or profits - the success that we crave as nonprofit leaders. The success that means we've solved a problem, improved lives, created a better world?

Fortunately, I've gotten to work on a social issue on which we've made significant progress: homelessness. Despite the recession and rising housing costs, homelessness is decreasing: there were 11% fewer homeless people in 2014 than there were in 2007 (more data here). Here's what I've learned about success from my day job:

1. You need big goals. The federal government has set a timeline for ending - that's right, ending - homelessness, which you can read more about here.  And you know what? It's working (see above).

2. You need good partners. Much of the progress we've made on homelessness can be credited to partnerships and new collaborations between Administration staff, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and the other agencies that participate in the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH).

3. You need to create the right environment. The Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing (HEARTH) Act, passed in 2009, requires communities to adopt proven best practices in ending homelessness, and also shifted the field away from focusing on activities to measuring our progress using data and outcomes.

4. You need to measure your performance. See above. Outcomes! Data! Way important. Homelessness providers use a Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) to keep track of their progress, and they report that data to HUD and to Congress each year, who holds them accountable for it.

5. You need to be open to change. As a current student of organization development and a consultant, I love change. But whether you love it or not, it's going to happen. Success means that you can embrace it, roll with it, and respect it. In homelessness that means being willing to adapt new evidence-base practices, work with new partners, and collect data in new ways.

So how does this relate to the YNPN National Board? In many ways, but there's one goal in particular where we're reaching for success: becoming a more equitable, diverse, and inclusive organization that leads a more equitable, diverse, and inclusive sector.

This is what we spent all of Day 1 of our latest (and my first ever!) National Board retreat working on. It turns out we're taking some cues from the success of homelessness:

1. A big goal: to create a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable YNPN and  social sector. No big, right? Everyone already loves diversity, of all kinds; understands what these concepts mean; believes in inclusivity; and is working toward equity.Well...no, unfortunately not. But that's why this is such a great BHAG (Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal) - because we're not there yet. But we know that we can be.

2.  Partners: our chapter members, plus some! We've already been working with you, our chapter members, and getting your feedback on how we can create a more diverse/inclusive/equitable YNPN and social sector. At our retreat, we added to our team by including two great consultants, and you can bet that our network of mentors and partners will be increasing as our new EDI Board Committee comes to life.

3. Environment: YNPN and the U.S. - Our board retreats, and our chapter meetings, are great environments for generating new ideas - brilliant people in amazing spaces, having the time and the mandate to do something good. Some may say that the larger enviroment is more difficult - the wealth gap seems to be increasing, the U.S. feels as divisive along different boundaries as ever, etc. But we've seen huge gains on issues like marriage equality that just a few years ago seemed impossible. Maybe this environment is conducive to change after all.

4. Performance measure(rs) - NationBuilder and Elana! We're planning on building metrics into our new chapter OS, NationBuilder that allow us to track EDI in all of its forms. The data will keep us honest about how well our EDI initiatives are working.

5. Openness to change - Here's where we have an edge - YNPN thrives on change. Our youthful energy keeps us restless, looking at how we can grow, advance, do better, be better.

We think we're on the path to success to shaping a stronger organization -  an organization that can be at the forefront of not just welcoming people from a variety of backgrounds with a diversity of experiences, but ensuring our leadership and our sector reflect that diversity and are built on the concepts of inclusivity and equity. We hope you believe in our success as well, and continue to be our partners, our data collectors, our change managers. Especially when you're talking about diversity, equity, and inclusion, success for YNPN means success for all.

Kim-Walker_YNPNBoard-266x300Kim Walker is a devoted non-profiteer currently living in Ann Arbor, MI. In her professional life, she serves as a Senior Program Manager at CSH, a national non-profit organization devoted to housing society’s most vulnerable individuals, including people experiencing homelessness. Kim’s expertise lies in providing training and technical assistance on best practices related to ending homelessness and developing excellent supportive housing to communities across the country. Prior to her work at CSH, she served in a similar role at the National Alliance to End Homelessness for four years. She also served as an AmeriCorps member in Philadelphia. She received her Master’s of Urban Planning from UCLA in 2009 and is currently pursuing a Master’s in Organization Development at Bowling Green State University. She’s a proud alum of the College of William & Mary and a native of the amazing Cleveland, OH.

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