by Anne Arias
“We are led by our members and support them to be led by the people they serve.”
Since May 2021, with the launch of our new Equity & Engagement Program Committee, which is a member-led Committee whose goal is to guide YDEKC’s programs in support of member well-being and racial equity, we’ve been identifying ways to be more closely led by our members. In October, we launched a program survey to gather input to guide programmatic decisions for the upcoming year. We’re reporting back with what we learned and how we’re incorporating our members’ feedback into our calendar of member engagement and learning opportunities for 2022. Our fifty-one respondents to the program survey were diverse in the type of positions within their organizations, length of time in their current role, and length of time in the youth development field. Of those who shared their demographic information, approximately half of the respondents identified as Black, Indigenous, or a Person of Color. In early 2021, we launched a new program called Leadership Discussion Groups, to enable leaders in our network to build relationships with one another and share experiences and expertise related to key leadership topics. Via a survey of program participants, we received an overwhelming amount of positive feedback from participants. “It felt like a place of solidarity, empathy, and networking. I appreciated having a space to talk through challenges and problems with trusted colleagues,” shared one Leadership Discussion Group Participant.
At the same time, through conversations with members, we heard some leaders of color asking for a variation – leadership groups where leaders share affinity by race. In our Program Survey, 82% of respondents expressed interest in a monthly self-facilitated cross-racial discussion group. When we compared the overall response to the responses from people of color, we noticed a distinction – while 85% of POC respondents reported they were somewhat or very likely to participate in a POC-only group, 75% of POC respondents reported they were somewhat or very likely to participate in a cross-racial group.
As we prepare to launch Round 2 of Leadership Discussion Groups in February (applications are due February 11, so sign up now!), we’re excited to share that we are asking applicants for their interest in specific groups based on demographic makeup (cross-racial, leaders of color, Black leaders, and/or white caucus) in addition to their leadership role and when they are available to meet. When it comes to low-barrier opportunities, we already host monthly drop-in activities (97% of program respondents somewhat likely or likely to participate) and some 30-minute live or recorded virtual presentations (93% somewhat likely or likely), but we were excited to see that 86% of respondents were interested in a Youth Development leadership recognition program. Our Equity & Engagement Program Committee weighed in on this initial proposal at our January 2022 meeting and gave us the green light to move forward. Stay posted for an announcement about a program that will enable us to come together as a field to celebrate the people in our midst who inspire us to keep doing the work!
Prior to the pandemic, social and emotional learning for young people in a “whole child whole day” context had been a focus of our work. As we’ve shifted our focus towards the well-being of the people who work with youth, that change was affirmed by the program survey. When it came to one-time events or longer-term cohort opportunities, “social and emotional skill development and well-being within organizations” was one of the content areas most people were interested in.
With that, and understanding how burnout and pandemic fatigue are stretching many people to their limits, we are partnering with the UW Center for Child & Family Well-being to launch a Resilience Cohort for Professionals Serving Youth & Families. Several years ago, our colleagues at our member organization, the Boys & Girls Clubs of King County, hosted a similar program and described how participants were still using the tools and practices years later. We hope this cohort provides people in our sector with an opportunity to practice mindfulness and self-compassion while learning practices to navigate stress and conflict that can be shared with youth and families. Registration closes on March 2!
As for how we were doing already, here are a few appreciations from program survey respondents:
- “Thank you for the incredible work, support, and advocacy you provide for youth and staff!”
- “So, so appreciative of YDEKC’s thoughtfulness, presence, and offerings. I trust that whatever you all come up with will be helpful for members and young people.”
- “I’d love more opportunities to get hands-on in my learning and build things with a purpose in collaboration with colleagues. I think that kind of thing could really energize my professional development experience. Thank you for all you do!!!”
As we plan for our 2022 Thriving Leaders series and as opportunities emerge for new programs, we will incorporate additional feedback from this program survey and our program and event evaluations to design opportunities for our members to connect, engage, act, and lead. Check out upcoming events on our calendar and sign up for our monthly newsletters.