United Way Quad Cities Boosts Illinois-Iowa Equity Issues

An eight-point set of recommendations for facilitating racial, gender, sexual and other forms of equity within the footprint of the United Way Quad Cities was the result of a forum hosted by the Bettendorf, Iowa nonprofit.

The points include action items for individuals, communities, government and corporate stakeholders. Each point was generated from input by more than 400 people who live in the five cities – East Moline, Moline and Rock Island in northwest Illinois, and Bettendorf and Davenport in southeastern Iowa – United Way Quad Cities serves. The forum was facilitated by Dallas-based CoSpero Consulting.

The eight points, and the recommendations for each of them, include:

* Strengthening families and supporting parents’ roles. This includes launching awareness and access campaigns for social services; expanding life skill navigator and mentor programs; investing in programs that help parents support students academically; developing advisory boards that give parents greater voice in education and family-serving institutions; bridging the digital divide in schools and improving access to early education in low-income and single-parent households.

* Empowering the next generation. Suggestions include giving youth more voice through creating councils, leadership opportunities and summits; offering more cross-cultural and peer-to-peer mentoring opportunities; supporting education and job aspirations by expanding access to college tours, career opportunities and internships and increasing feedback from young people on key issues.

* Modernizing public policy through policy changes that support philanthropic partners. Participants called for improving access to affordable housing, including examining how land trusts are leveraged; facilitating direct involvement of community members in neighborhood development issues; exploring equity-based school funding models; creating a standard minimum wage in Illinois and Iowa; providing more opportunities for common policies and efforts between Illinois and Iowa and expanding predatory lending protections.

* Codifying all social efforts regarding equity and diversity around a unified manifesto. Potential actions include continued, action-oriented dialog with civic organizations, faith-based institutions, nonprofits, regional governments and school districts; setting public equity goals for community sectors; developing comprehensive strategic plans for regional philanthropy; coordinating early literacy efforts; creating a publicly available progress dashboard and drafting a community manifesto extolling the value of equity and diversity within the Quad Cities.

* Reimaging workforce culture, including improving resources for minority-owned businesses. Suggestions include changing recruitment strategies to engage more diverse communities; identifying leaders and influencers to aid with hiring outreach; reviewing job qualifications and interview procedures for implicit bias; promoting workplace diversity and hiring practices; simplifying processes for engaging minority- and women-owned vendors and highlighting stories of entrepreneurs of color throughout the media.

* Diversifying positions of influence. Potential actions include touting board service opportunities across networks that serve underrepresented populations; creating more networks and affinity groups for these populations; actively recruiting next-generation leaders from these populations and developing elected leadership training pipelines for people of color.

* Educating and equipping the community, which includes making systemic changes by recognizing systemic inequities while making diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) training widespread. Steps include creating and funding across all sectors; developing and sharing DEI toolkits online; deploying implicit bias, restorative justice and cultural trauma training to business leaders, law enforcement and teachers; sensitizing leaders’ understanding of power structures and the differences between equality and equity and ensuring academic settings employ accurate and inclusive history.

* Incentivizing corporate engagement, including creating innovative approaches to public-private partnerships. Possible actions include expanding the use of career centers through partnerships between businesses and schools; scaling college career and military readiness resources across 10th through 12th grade students; developing apprenticeship and internship programs; increasing access to trade programs through scholarships and hiring of multi-lingual instructors; researching government incentives for higher-wage jobs; advocating for employer-subsidized child care and creating pathways for increased corporate engagement in education.