In June of 2020, building on the work begun by our inclusive excellence team in 2019 and propelled by the civil unrest following the murders of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and too many others, we recognized the central role that equity plays in personalized, competency-based learning environments and the necessity to strengthen our skills in promoting anti-oppressive practices, contributing to systemic reform and fostering equity, inclusivity and cultural responsiveness. Having elevated the conversation to our leadership and Board, we are in the process of fully integrating strategies, resources and the internal and external supports needed to redefine the scope of work to fully meet initial aspirations.
“As an organization, we’re trying to model some of the changes in power structure and decision-making that are inherent to this shift in pursuing equity,” said Julianna Charles Brown, KnowledgeWorks director of systems transformation. “When we ask our partners to rethink those traditional structures of power and shift decision-making to communities, students and families, we’ll know what that feels like. We want to be transparent about what works, what doesn’t and what’s challenging so we can be good partners as we encourage others to engage in this work, too.”
Our intent now is to ensure that the way we function as an organization aligns to what we believe to be right.
Rasheda Cromwell, senior program manager of impact and improvement with KnowledgeWorks, has been a part of the working group to identify priorities and next steps for the organization.
“As someone who cares about undoing historical legacies, words like diversity, equity and inclusion aren’t meant to be thrown around lightly,” said Cromwell. “I joined the work with mixed emotions: excitement, skepticism and even a little fear. I worried that my opinions of equity and inclusion would be misrepresented as the opinions of all our minority employees. But the honesty and frankness of our approach to the work, of getting it right rather than just saying the words, helped me to let my guard down, bring my full authentic self and engage thoughtfully in the process.”
This work is ongoing. It is hard. It is urgent. It is overdue. We know we will make missteps, meet barriers and engage in meaningful learning on this journey, and we are holding ourselves accountable to moving forward with intention.
“As an organization with a national platform, we have a responsibility to engage in the work of dismantling white supremacy and all forms of discrimination that have been the foundation upon which system inequities have been built and sustained,” said Colmon Elridge, director of strategy for KnowledgeWorks. “We are building a workplace that centers our values of justice, equity, diversity and inclusion, while contributing to our external mission towards a systemic shift that ensures an equitable delivery of education – and an equitable opportunity to succeed and thrive – for educators and learners.”