Throughout Social Current’s decades of partnering with social sector leaders to advance equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI), we have seen support for this work ebb and flow. However, we believe we are at a critical moment for this work. Last year’s Supreme Court decision on affirmative action was a significant blow to EDI efforts, with thousands of EDI executives leaving or losing their jobs. Today, we continue to face ever-increasing polarization and preemptive efforts to roll back EDI policies.

Phyllis Richards and Jerica Broeckling, who provide Social Current’s EDI training and facilitation services, recently published an article on this topic in Nonprofit Business Advisor. In it, they outline why, despite ongoing challenges, we cannot afford to turn our backs on EDI. Additionally, they outline three truths they have seen emerge from Social Current’s work with organizations around the country:

“The end goal of this growth is shifting of mindsets, which we believe is the deepest level of change that needs to be achieved for this work to be successful. People who think differently about the work will have different expectations, different goals, and ultimately different practices,” they say in the article.

At Social Current, we believe advancing equity is a journey, not a sprint. Organizations should look to embed EDI in many areas – from staff engagement to service delivery – and maintain steady progress toward durable change.

Read the article, “Why We Can’t Afford to Turn Our Backs on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion” online. The full text is available through August.

Training and Support for Your Journey

Social Current is offering a variety of trainings for supervisors and staff leading EDI initiatives. Learn more and register online.

For tailored assistance in EDI, we offer customizable consulting services.

Advancing equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) is an ongoing journey that requires continuous learning and dialogue among all staff. Through our work, we know that organizations are the most effective in advancing EDI when they build an organizational culture that deeply embeds these precepts at multiple levels. That’s why we are offering a variety of opportunities to meet the needs of staff with varying responsibilities and current knowledge of EDI concepts.

Our slate of upcoming virtual learning opportunities provides solutions for:

Learn more and register for upcoming sessions. Social Current Impact Partners and organizations that have achieved COA Accreditation receive a discounted rate.

EDI Essentials for Supervisors

Supervisors play a key role in supporting and retaining staff, engaging diverse teams, and fostering a sense of belonging, so it’s important to make sure they are equipped with the right knowledge and tools. Being an effective supervisor requires specific skills that are often unaddressed and underdeveloped.

Using equity, diversity, and inclusion principles as the foundation, this virtual learning series will help supervisors support and engage their team members’ varied views, experiences, and capabilities.

These sessions are offered throughout the year to provide supervisors with continual learning, networking, and support. Register for individual sessions or save by purchasing the entire series.

Translating EDI Practice Into Action

Successfully leading EDI initiatives requires a deep understanding of the common challenges that affect organizational culture, as well as practices that build bridges and create a stronger community. This virtual learning series is designed for staff who are leading their organizations’ EDI efforts and want to grow their understanding and application of key EDI concepts. Participants will be able to better address complex workplace dynamics and craft meaningful strategies for growth.

These sessions are designed for staff who are new to leading EDI initiatives, or as a refresher course for those looking to revamp or relaunch an EDI initiative. Register for single sessions or save by purchasing the entire series.

Advancing Equity Workshop: Fundamentals to Support Your Journey

During this three-part virtual workshop, participants will learn and engage in a safe environment, where they can ask questions and share reflections with their peers. Using Social Current’s three-prong approach to EDI (Person, Organization and Systems), the presenters will encourage participants to develop a deeper personal EDI journey, to build an inclusive work culture, and to become more aware of the systems that impact us all.

Participants will explore their relationships with EDI in a safe environment and increase understanding of how to build an equitable and inclusive workplace culture and foster psychological safety. In addition, they will explore the phases of organizational growth in EDI and learn about the essential components of a successful EDI plan. Participants will gain the foundation they need to create their own EDI plan.

Learn more and register for this three-part workshop. The July session will be held July 9, July 16, and July 25. The November session will be held Nov. 6, 13, and 20.

Customized Consulting

Social Current also offers support and training through our EDI consulting. Our services build on decades of work with nonprofit organizations and knowledge about what makes EDI efforts successful. Learn more and contact us to get started.

We have long been aware of the impact of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) on our long-term health and well-being. Because toxic stress from ACEs can change brain development and how the body responds to stress, their occurrence in childhood has a direct correlation to increases in substance abuse, mental illnesses, and poor health outcomes.

The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) recently published a new study that puts a staggering dollar figure on that impact. Researchers found that ACEs cost our nation $14.1 trillion annually because of related adult health conditions, including direct medical spending and lost productivity.

However, the study is limited, in that it doesn’t identify the disparities in the number of ACEs impacting children and families of color, and the exponentially higher costs for this segment of our population. In fact, a recent Child Trends report indicates that 61% of Black children in the U.S. have experienced at least one ACE, as compared with 40% of white children and 23% of Asian children.

Researchers have long identified ACEs based on the Felitti scale, which identifies 10 items under two categories:

What’s missing is the impact of generational and historical trauma, especially racism.

Impact of Generational Trauma and Systemic Racism

Racism has a direct and measurable impact on children’s health. More families of color live in poverty than white families, which can lead to food insecurity, lack of safe housing, and reduced access to health care and education. All of these increase chronic stress in children and can have long-term health consequences, with African Americans at a higher risk for heart disease, stroke, cancer, asthma, influenza, diabetes, and HIV/AIDS. This disproportionality also is evident in incarceration rates, child welfare system involvement, and educational outcomes for African American youth, and disparities are often linked to systemic biases.

Research backs this up. A study from Princeton University sociologist Devah Pager showed that young Black men with similar education and no criminal record were much less likely to be offered a job than similar white men. It went on to show that white men with criminal records had an equal or better chance of being hired than Black men with no record. We see the same biases in housing discrimination, child separation rates in child welfare, and more.

There has been some progress in expanding the ACEs scale to reflect the toxic stress that bias and racism impart on children. For example, the team at RYSE Youth Center in Oakland expanded the original ACEs pyramid from the CDC, adding layers of collective and multigenerational thinking, layers of historical, cultural, and social context, to highlight the deeper roots of trauma and explore why these traumatic experiences occur in the first place. The CDC has since adopted the more complete picture offered by this pyramid.

For those of us who work in health and human services, it is critical that we expand our understanding of trauma and adversity beyond the 10 ACEs questions, and work to integrate both trauma-informed and antiracist efforts across the systems we support.

Embracing a Trauma-Informed Approach

One example can be found in Zero to Three’s Safe Babies Court Team™ (SBCT) approach, which focuses on minimizing trauma and its impact on early development by improving how the courts, child welfare agencies, and related child-serving organizations come together to partner with families to support their young children. This approach recognizes that some families experience great stress while raising their children due to environmental conditions—community violence, systemic racism, trauma, or health issues—that make it difficult to provide safety and stability. The Safe Babies Court Team approach does not promote a “one-size-fits-all” solution to the challenges faced by families within the child welfare system or by the system itself. By addressing the needs of each family, through housing, work opportunities, job training, transportation, substance use counseling, and more, Safe Babies Courts are showing that their children are reaching permanency three times faster than infants and toddlers in the general foster care population. Almost two-thirds of babies and toddlers are reunified or find permanent homes with members of their families.

This approach calls for practitioners to ensure all equity efforts include knowledge and practices that embed brain science concepts, including understanding the areas of our nervous system that are activated when we discuss, experience, or perpetrate racism, and how that activation creates barriers for connection.

A core concept of the trauma-informed approach is, “healing happens in relationships.” The development of safe, stable, and nurturing relationships can help build greater resilience in individuals. In its July 2021 policy statement, the Academy of Pediatrics emphasized the need to shift from toxic stress to building relational health. As Dr. Andrew Garner with the American Academy of Pediatrics notes: “The concept of drawing on positive relationships as a shield against the toxic stress caused by adverse experiences has never been more relevant. Over the past few years, we’ve experienced a socially isolating pandemic and reckoned with centuries of structural racism. We must take steps to help kids form close, healthy, and nurturing bonds, whether it is within family, school, or community.”

Policymakers have a role to play as well, by promoting concrete, economic supports and family strengthening policies, such as expanded family medical leave, child tax credits, access to safe and affordable housing, access to early childhood education and mental health services, and more. Research from Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago has demonstrated that connecting families to a well-resourced, community-driven prevention system can meaningfully address the root causes of adverse experiences, including racism, child abuse and neglect and trauma. 

Despite the terrible cost of ACEs, both in economic dollars and lifelong negative impacts, the latest research has demonstrated the potential for safe, stable, and nurturing relationships to act as a protective buffer against the harm of toxic stress on children. When we expand our view of ACEs to include the impact of generational racism, and lift up community efforts focused on building relationships and an understanding that our diversity as a nation is our strength, we have a better roadmap to addressing disparities and incorporating trauma-informed approaches that can help provide all children with a foundation for building resilience that leads to safer, healthier outcomes throughout their life.

It is Brain Awareness Week, a global campaign to share the impact of brain science on our everyday lives, and an opportunity to explore how brain science concepts impact our trauma-informed and equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI)-focused work. We know we cannot be trauma-informed without being antiracist. But our efforts at this intersection remain siloed. Within human services organizations, this work is often defined and carried out by separate trauma-informed and antiracist committees and can be hampered by limited understanding of how to integrate the two at the individual and organizational levels.

At the intersection of EDI and brain science we wrestle with trauma-informed concepts, such as power differentials, psychological safety, difficult conversations, implicit bias, vulnerability, and healing. With a stronger understanding of brain science, we strengthen our capacities for mindfulness and cultural humility, develop our own racial identity, boost our self-regulation skills and compassion for self and others, and advance a healing journey that includes our whole body.

Translating Knowledge into Action

One opportunity for deep impact is rooting all EDI work in a foundation of basic brain science concepts. The brain impacts our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors during every second of our day. Our brains are designed to keep us safe, constantly monitoring our surroundings and putting up “fight or flight” barriers when we experience things that are new or different. Yet, we are also social beings, craving connection and belonging. The brain’s primary function of keeping us safe can sometimes conflict with our human need to connect. This conflict impacts our EDI efforts, our ability to bridge differences, and our efforts to heal from trauma, especially the trauma of white supremacy. With a deeper understanding of basic brain science concepts, we become more aware of opportunities and strategies to quiet our brain’s safety function so we can connect, integrate our trauma-informed and equity initiatives, and advance our personal and organizational EDI efforts.

Resmaa Menakem, therapist, trauma specialist, and author of My Grandmother’s Hands and The Quaking of America, teaches that healing from centuries of racial trauma for all bodies requires an embodied approach, one that recognizes the interconnectedness of mind, body, and spirit. Today, white supremacy is our operating system—it’s the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the foods we eat. It’s embedded in our institutions and social contracts. Most of all, though, white supremacy lives in our bodies, which is why Menakem uses the term, “white-body supremacy.”

Menakem teaches that white body supremacy, “and all the claims, accusations, excuses, and dodges that surround it — are a trauma response … and we need to heal from it by starting with our bodies.” Robin DiAngelo, author of White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism notes, “White Supremacy is not rational, and we don’t heal it with our intellect alone.”

So, what does this mean for our EDI and trauma-informed efforts? Here are two strategies that incorporate these concepts and get us thinking about making changes in our daily practices.

Regulate, Regulate, Regulate
Regulation is the basic strategy for calming the defensive and reactive parts of our brain so that we can access the more receptive, open, learning parts. Focused breathing, taking a short walk, listening to music, using a standing desk are all ways to keep our mind clear and focused. There are dozens of regulation strategies to use in the work setting, both for large groups and individuals.

Dr. Bruce Perry’s sequence of engagement – regulate, relate, reason – is a simple practice for effective communication that starts with regulation. The steps work in this order:

  1. Regulate: First, ensure we are calm and centered before we start talking. You and your colleagues can use regulation strategies that work for you.
  2. Relate: Next, connect human to human. Ask a colleague, “What are you looking forward to?” “What are you worried about?” “What are you thinking about today?”
  3. Reason: Finally, move to the content of the conversation – to do lists, a pending project, or complex equity dynamics in a work relationship.

When we do this at every meeting, supervision session, and human interaction, especially the hard ones we avoid, we have greater success in our communications. We move closer to achieving the EDI and trauma-informed outcomes we strive for—candid conversations, individual and organizational accountability, and inclusive environments.

Somatic and Embodied Practices

Somatic means related to the body. Embodied signifies feeling at home and safe in our body, an increased ability to be in our body in the present moment and to feel all its sensations. Somatic embodied practices build our awareness of our brain’s safety functions and help us to quiet those strong impulses, which strengthens our ability to connect and belong.

It turns out that somatic, embodied practices are critically important in our EDI work. Resmaa Menakem’s Somatic Abolitionism teaches us that, “Race has its unique charge, texture, weight, and speed. The ability to hold and work with these energies isn’t inborn. It needs to be acquired through effort and practice.” Somatic abolitionism is living, embodied antiracist practice and cultural building—a way of being in the world.
Menakem suggests healing from white body supremacy starts with the practice of five anchors:

  1. Settle the body
  2. Notice the sensations without reacting
  3. Accept the discomfort and sit with it
  4. Remain present and experience the uncertainty
  5. Safely discharge any energy that remains

Menakem teaches that we can strengthen our muscles for practicing these five anchors through repetition of cultural somatic practices including grounding, orientation, movement, touch and pause.

Using somatic and embodied practices are not an overnight fix. Healing from white supremacy, for all bodies, is a lifelong journey. But understanding that healing starts by focusing on our bodies puts us on a new path to exploring our EDI work and integrating it with our trauma-informed efforts.

The needs of human services staff and complexities of our work require us to embrace new ways of being at work. Embedding brain science concepts into our daily interactions could have many benefits. The good news is there are countless ways, as individuals and organizations, to prioritize brain-friendly and healing practices. When we do this, we will help settle our bodies and brains, bridge differences, increase connection, improve equity and accountability, and truly integrate our trauma-informed and equity-focused efforts to reach the outcomes we are so hungry to achieve. The biggest challenge may be taking the first step to get started.

Next Steps in Applying Brain Science to Your EDI Efforts

To learn more about the brain and how it advances our equity efforts, join our upcoming learning series – Hardwired for Fear and Connection: The Intersection of Brain Science and Equity – which starts March 19. In this three-part series we will focus on the intersection of brain science and EDI and its application for our daily work. We will build shared understanding of foundational brain friendly and EDI concepts and consider how our daily EDI efforts are interrupted by our key brain functions often outside of our consciousness. Additionally, we will share concrete strategies for increasing self-awareness, quieting our lower brains, having difficult conversations, understanding power differentials, and increasing felt safety in our work setting, and advancing somatic-embodied approaches.

Other ways that Social Current can help with our EDI and trauma-informed journeys:

Organizations will be most effective in advancing their equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) journey when they build an organizational culture that deeply embeds these precepts at multiple levels. That’s why Social Current focuses on solutions for organizational change and excellence and uses a person–organization–system approach to advancing equity, opportunity, and impact.

Black History Month offers an opportunity to share some of our staff’s recent favorite resources for organizational change and leadership that can improve, not inhibit, the potential of BIPOC staff at community-based organizations. See the resource list below with information and data; guidance, tools, and templates; and topic collections with more resources exclusively for Impact Partners in the Social Current network.

Check out additional Social Current opportunities that help community-based organizations commit to authentic and sustainable EDI work that helps all people to thrive, too:


Information and Data

Where Employees Think Companies’ EDI Efforts Are Failing (Harvard Business Review) Two recent surveys from Gallup reveal stark differences in how well employees and HR leaders say their organizations are doing when it comes to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.

Race to Lead Revisited: Obstacles and Opportunities in Addressing the Nonprofit Racial Leadership Gap (Building Movement Project) New insights to the groundbreaking survey and report that presented findings from a 2019 survey of more than 5,000 nonprofit staff on their experiences of race and leadership.

The Psychological Safety of Black Employees (WorkingWell Daily) How organizations can create safer workplaces for Black employees.

The Currency of Human Resources Is Trust (Stanford Social Innovation Review) HR management, if not done through an explicit lens of racial and gender justice, perpetuates structural biases. That said, HR professionals are in an optimal position, through formal and informal roles and practices, to begin to dismantle systemic racial and gender barriers.

Guidance, Tools, and Templates

Harvard Implicit Association Test (Project Implicit) This test looks at the connections between concepts to determine a person’s unconscious biases. The results are often surprising, but our hidden biases are powerful.

Race Equity Cycle Pulse Check (Equity in the Center) Learn how an organization rates on transforming organizational culture, practice, and process to narrow (and eventually eliminate) race-based disparities in measurable outcomes (composition, compensation, promotion, retention, staff engagement, staff performance, etc.).

Black History Month at Work – Important or Tokenistic? (EW Group) How the best organizations engage with Black History Month, the challenges from BHM, and suggested activities during BHM.

Five Questions for Every Organization During Black History Month (Forbes Equity Quotient) Questions that every organization should ask itself to be more inclusive of the Black community in their year-round operations.

Empowering Black Women In The Workplace (Forbes) Part of uplifting Black women is acknowledging harmful tropes and actively working to see them as individuals, not walking stereotypes.

Leadership Development Programs Need an Upgrade: Five Ways to Advance Racial Equity (The Center for Effective Philanthropy) Promoting, retaining, and supporting BIPOC leadership within nonprofits is critical for driving systemic change. Funders can consider how they might tailor and incorporate these into their own approaches to supporting leadership.

Impact Partner Exclusive

Organizations that are Social Current Impact Partners have access to these library resource collections in the Knowledge and Insights Center. To access these collections, log in to the Hub or create an account. Learn more about Impact Partnerships online.

Commitment to Advancing Equity Collection: This collection helps community-based organizations tackle issues that cause and sustain inequity and authentically and collaboratively reduce the social, economic, political, and cultural exclusion of underrepresented and marginalized communities.

Health and Mental Well-Being: This collection focuses on the health and mental well-being of children, youth, and adults—including the optimization of formal and informal supports, asset-building, and resilience at the individual and community levels—and what systemic change is necessary to ensure all people can achieve their full potential.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Jan. 15, 2024, is an annual observance to honor the life and legacy of the prominent civil rights leader. There are a variety of ways to recognize the holiday, including personal reflection, education, service projects, and advocacy.

“At Social Current, we say that equity is a journey, which always reminds me of the Martin Luther King Jr. quote, ‘If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward,’” says Romero Davis, director of practice excellence at Social Current. “It’s a reminder of the principles of equity, justice, and the ongoing pursuit of a better, more inclusive society that Martin Luther King Jr. advocated for throughout his life.”

The King Center has given this year the theme, It Starts with Me: Shifting the Cultural Climate through the Study and Practice of Kingiang Nonviolence. According to the center, nonviolence is a love-centered way of thinking, speaking, acting, and engaging that leads to personal, cultural, and societal transformation. For nonviolent social change, it recommends six steps: Information Gathering, Education, Personal Commitment, Negotiation, Direct Action, and Reconciliation. It describes Reconciliation as, “Through reasoned compromise, both sides resolve the injustice with a plan of action. Each act of reconciliation is one step close to the ‘Beloved Community.’”

Social Current is offering a new healing-centered virtual learning series, starting March 19, that will delve into the intersection of brain science and equity. By understanding the brain science related to bias and racism, we can be better prepared to have increased self-awareness, engage productively in difficult conversations, and create environments that support belonging for all people.

“Our framework for advancing equity prioritizes healing at three levels—individual, organization, and system. Racism harms all of us and requires us to work from the inside-out,” says Kelly Martin, director of practice excellence at Social Current. By focusing first on individual healing and growth, we are supporting others in their ability to engage in productive, sustainable antiracism efforts within their organizations, as well as within their communities and systems.”

Social Current also will be recognizing the National Day of Racial Healing by encouraging our network organizations to participate, and by focusing our monthly antiracist employee resource group discussion on the topic of racial healing. The National Day of Racial Healing, created by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and celebrated the Tuesday following Martin Luther King Jr. Day, provides an opportunity for individuals, communities, and organizations to join together in acknowledging the values we share as people, build trust in one other, develop authentic relationships and inspire collective action to heal from the effects of racism.

At Social Current, we have seen the power of using equity, diversity, and inclusion to engage an organization’s full strength and range of views, experiences, and abilities. Undraye Howard, vice president at Social Current, recently discussed this in an article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, What Strong Organizations Know about DEI.

We believe in embedding equity in organizations to encourage healthy dialogue, sense of belonging, and adaptive leadership skills. “Organizations who grasp (the benefits of advancing equity) will ultimately show impact in their bottom line, organizational goals, and mission,” says Undraye in the article. “The equity journey is for the long haul but taking that first step should be the priority for all organizations who seek to uphold the values upon which our nation was founded.”

Learn more about Social Current’s work to support organizations through consulting and learning.

The Center for Juvenile Justice Reform at Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy, in partnership with Social Current and Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), has launched a new organizational diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEI) certification that aims to help youth and family-serving organizations approach their DEI efforts with intention and ensure that equity is deeply embedded in their culture, reflected throughout their policies and practices, and can endure through leadership and administrative changes. The DEI certification leverages Social Current’s organizational assessment tools, DEI trainings and consultation, and standards of practice.  

Set to begin May 20, this 12-month certification will include online trainings, peer learning, individual and group coaching, and guidance on a capstone project. The capstone project will include individuals served in its design and implementation and demonstrate the organization’s implementation of the DEI principles covered in training, coaching sessions, and Social Current’s DEI standards of practice. The certification will culminate with an in-person convening at Georgetown University, where the capstone projects will be presented.

Certification objectives:

Each organization must commit at least two staff to engaging in the certification process that will include coaching and training over a 12-month period. The cost for this certification is $19,000 per organization, which can be paid in two installments. The certification will be valid for two-years after completion of the program.

You can learn more about the DEI certification and schedule online, or join us for an upcoming informational webinar:

To start the registration process, please click here. Applications are due March 29, 2024, and participation will be confirmed by April 19, 2024.

If you have any questions, please contact Undraye Howard, vice president of equity, diversity, inclusion, and engagement at Social Current.

On June 15, the U.S. Supreme Court voted 7-2 to uphold the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). Social Current applauds the ruling in the Haaland v. Brackeen case because ICWA is regarded as the “gold standard” in child welfare by experts in the field, creating much-needed reform on practices that separated Native children from their families.

“The Indian Child Welfare Act is consistent with best practice and child welfare’s shift towards strengthening families and promoting family preservation,” said Social Current President and CEO Jody Levison-Johnson. “By prioritizing the placement of children within their families, communities, or Tribal Nations, we also prioritize stability and the opportunity to maintain continuity in schools, health care, and community participation. Today’s Supreme Court decision affirms this and ensures that we carry forward the practices and policies that we know create better outcomes for children.”

Related Resources

For more information about ICWA and the Supreme Court case, watch our on-demand webinar featuring Jody Levison-Johnson and Sarah Kastelic (Alutiiq), executive director of the National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA).

2023 will mark the third year Juneteenth is recognized as a federal holiday, and an increasing amount of employers are including it on their holiday calendars. According to a new report from the International Foundation of Employee Benefits Plan, 30% of private employers are offering Juneteenth as a paid holiday to their employees, up from just 8% in 2020.

In addition to honoring Juneteenth as a paid holiday, organizations can recognize it with dedicated time for education and connection. Some resources with ideas and inspiration include:

Although recognizing Juneteenth is one step toward promoting equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI), organizations should look to create an EDI-enriched organizational culture in meaningful and strategic ways as well.

“It is good to see that more organizations are now closing their offices for Juneteenth, but it’s not enough. To truly move the needle, leaders should be assessing their organizations and looking for how they can support their employees and communities in more substantive ways that meaningfully address inequities,” said Undraye Howard, vice president of equity, diversity, inclusion, and engagement at Social Current.

Comprehensively addressing EDI is a powerful strategy for increasing belonging and is inextricably linked to foundational pillars of workforce resilience, including psychological safety, creating space for difficult conversations, and increasing brain science awareness.

However, if an organization doesn’t have a plan or a multilevel commitment from staff, efforts can fall short and negatively impact staff engagement and morale. In a recent report released by WebMD Health Services on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging: Uncovering What Employees are Offered, Want and Need, 62% of workers surveyed say Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging (DEI&B) programs aren’t effective, and nearly half (46%) say the programs had failed them personally.

To help equity efforts gain momentum and have lasting impact, Social Current recommends that organizations address it at the individual, organization, and systems levels. In addition, it is critical to engage all staff as important in this work, but also create measurable goals and clear accountability.

Effective Strategies for Advancing Equity and Workforce Resilience

Given that most organizations are feeling the strain of shrinking resources, increasing costs and demands for services, and significant workforce challenges, concurrently addressing equity and workforce resilience is strategic and increases the potential for impact. Organizations must partner with staff and prioritize advancing equity as core to how they look to advance workforce resilience.

“Nurturing a positive and supportive culture that aligns with our values does not happen overnight. Learning and building capacity around the concepts and interconnected strategies for EDI and workforce resilience, developing individualized plans, and putting plans into action and course correcting along the way is the surest way to make progress toward their goals,” said Karen Johnson, director of the Social Current Change in Mind Institute. “This work requires us to be innovative, curious, and courageous, but it is doable, and our workforce is worth the investment.”

Free Resources from Social Current

How organizations can help their staff to support their coworkers of color:

In-Depth Training and Networking Opportunities

Advancing equity takes sustained commitment from leaders and organizations and at the same time, needs to begin somewhere. This Juneteenth, affirm your commitment to your workforce and advancing EDI.

As societal and political forces escalate to limit access to and exercise of the ballot, eliminate the teaching of Black history, and work to push us back into the 1890s, we can only rely on our capacity to resist. The enactment of HR 40, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, the Breathe Act, and the closure of the racial wealth gap is not the end. They too will require us to mobilize our resources, human and material, and fight for “freedom, justice, and equality”; “self-determination”, and/or “social transformation.” (ASALH, 2023)

This year’s theme for Black History Month—Black Resistance—recognizes the increasingly bold public efforts to minimize or reverse the hard-fought rights and assets of African Americans in a culture that continually upholds the tenets of white supremacy. Whether at the ballot box, in the classroom, at the bank, in the grocery store, or at a health clinic, Black and Brown people incessantly face the interconnected, intersecting inequalities intentionally baked into systems and structures for no other reason than to exploit, curtail, and devastate their families.

As evidenced in the extensive and disparate effect of the three-year pandemic on Black and other communities of color, health and well-being remain some of the starkest indicators of how society values BIPOC children, youth, and adults. But through resistance and resilience, many communities have effectively found incremental ways to improve the social determinants of health, such as embracing ancestral traditions and healing modalities through a decolonization of thought and practice. Another way to break down barriers to medical and mental health resources is through reinforcement of federal protections and guidance to service providers.

Health and Well-Being Civil Rights

Nearly 60 years ago, the U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) was created to desegregate hospitals shortly after the passage of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and creation of the Medicare program. OCR has deep roots in enforcing federal civil rights laws that ensure nondiscrimination based on race, color, and national origin. Recent priorities of OCR in enforcing federal civil rights laws that ensure nondiscrimination include revised policy rules with the Affordable Care Act, newer service guidance with vaccine equity and access to telehealth, and promotion of reproductive health care.

Strengthening Nondiscrimination in Health Care

OCR issued a proposed rule revising Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, which is one of the federal government’s most powerful tools to ensure nondiscriminatory access to health care.

“Strengthening Section 1557 supports our ongoing efforts to provide high-quality, affordable health care and to drive health equity for all people served by our programs,” said Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure. “This work will help eliminate avoidable differences in health outcomes experienced by those who are underserved and provide the care and support that people need to thrive” (HHS, 2022).

Additional Resource: Civil Rights for Providers of Health Care and Human Services

Ensuring Vaccine Equity

Vaccine equity is when everyone has fair and just access to COVID-19 vaccination. But there are many social, geographic, political, economic, and environmental factors that create challenges to vaccination access and acceptance, and that often affect racial and ethnic minority groups. In light of this, OCR issued guidance to providers about their obligations under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act and Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act to ensure non-discrimination in administering COVID-19 vaccination programs.

Additional Resource: Best Practices in Equitable Vaccine Administration

Ensuring Equal Access to Telehealth

OCR, with the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, issued guidance on nondiscrimination in using telehealth. It provides information to health care providers about their service obligations and practical tips about how to provide accessible telehealth.

Additional Resource: Health Equity in Telehealth

Promoting Reproductive Health Care

After the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision overruling Roe v. Wade came out, HHS launched Recognizing the high maternal mortality rate of Black women and how the Dobbs decision exacerbates these inequities and disparities, OCR issued multiple guidance documents so that health care providers understand their obligations and patients understand the protections of federal laws.

Additional Resources: Reproductive Health Care Rights and Social Current’s statement on the overruling on Roe v. Wade.

“If you’re an African-American… your risks of dying in childbirth are three to four times higher than if you’re white…. It’s not tied to income. It’s not tied to education…. It’s something about the lived experience of being African-American,” says Dr. Neel Shah, assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and obstetrician/gynecologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. (ABC News, 2018)

Civil Rights Laws Are Necessary, but Not Sufficient

Despite gains from decades of legislation and policy rules to reduce discrimination and increase access to services and resources, it’s clear that health care for racial and ethnic minorities remains separate and unequal in the United States.

Health policy and legal experts acknowledge the challenges to reducing discrimination and health inequity through existing civil rights laws and consider whether enforcing more of the existing civil rights legislation could help overcome these challenges. A common conclusion is that stronger enforcement (e.g., through executive orders to strengthen enforcement of the laws and congressional action to allow private individuals to bring lawsuits against providers who might have engaged in discrimination) would improve minority health care. But this approach is limited in what it can achieve, mainly due to the challenges for underserved communities to access enough financial and legal resources required. Rather, complementary approaches outside the legal arena, such as quality improvement efforts and direct transfers of money to minority-serving providers (pay-for-performance initiatives) might prove to be more effective.

Commitment to Health and Well-Being Practice and Policy

Social Current’s commitment to a healthy and equitable society is evident in our social sector partnerships focused on bridging historical barriers and persistent challenges with contemporary solutions and best practices to end racism, inequity, and poverty. This commitment recognizes BIPOC families as the experts in what is important to realizing their full potential, as well as the importance of cross-sector approaches to advancing equity, partnering with purpose, and building on successes in improving health equity and the social determinants of health.

Here are some ways to join our work on equity, diversity, and inclusion today: 

  1. Participate in workshops, learning collaboratives, and consulting services  
  2. Connect with peers and industry experts with SPARK Exchanges  
  3. Enroll in learning opportunities on building community health and well-being 
  4. Subscribe to policy and advocacy updates 
  5. Get health equity research and resources from the Knowledge and Insights Center