Like minded, equity centered leaders. These five words encompass the core of the Bridges to Readiness team during our journey together to develop a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) framework. As a consultant, I often find that the number one factor which stagnates a team’s progress pertaining to DEI work is not quality of ideas, organizational processes, or even background knowledge about DEI content; It is a lack of like mindedness amongst the individuals charged with the task. As I reflect on my time working with Bridges to Readiness, I am most proud of the unwavering commitment that the team exemplified to every step of the process. From initial brainstorming, to editing and workshopping ideas, to developing the final product – Bridges to Readiness' leadership remained steadfast in their commitment to centering students, families, BTR employees, and other community members who cross paths with the organization throughout the development process of this framework.
Our 90 day journey together resulted in Bridges to Readiness confidently having an equity centered mission and vision statement as well as a DEI framework that will serve as a road map for how the organization will uplift relationships with external constituents (students, caregivers, tutors, and community members), continue to produce rigorous and culturally responsive curriculum and pedagogy standards for scholars, and support and celebrate the well being and success of the internal BTR community. The development of this framework required many hours of collaboration and multiple iterations of what we thought at one time or another was ‘it’. Our collaboration contained a healthy amount of ‘push and pull’ to get to our final framework that is exemplified today; in reflecting on these pushes and pulls with the team, I am reminded that creating systems and structures truly aligned to values of diversity, equity, and inclusion require some of the deepest levels of reflection that leaders will ever have. One must always center impact over intention; in doing so words, phrases, and whole concepts will often be shifted in order to best support those who will be most impacted by the systems we create.
Although our journey has ended for the time being, the leadership team and I mutually agreed that this is just the tip of the iceberg for DEI at Bridges to Readiness. Creating a detailed scope and sequence and action plan to address specific subcomponents of each DEI framework pillar is top of mind as a next step. In the midst of this continual planning, the call is clear for this team on how to create a more equitable space for all of those they serve. One must remember, though, that our work in DEI is ever changing; the specifics of our “call” may shift as a result. Bridges to Readiness – as well as other organizations who prioritize people centered success – must consistently monitor and evaluate progress in order to remain aligned with the needs of those we serve.
I urge schools and partner organizations, specifically, to connect with BTR leaders who were a part of the DEI framework development process to learn how they may be able to adopt the framework in their daily work. From culturally responsive curriculum to inclusive communication practices, Bridges to Readiness’ DEI framework encompasses various aspects of DEI that we all can use as inspiration to support for students, caregivers, and other constituents.
I am confident that this organization’s DEI focus should serve as an example for how other like minded spaces should support their constituents.