Aiding Youth-Serving Organizations in Pursuing Racial Equity

Posted May 26, 2020
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Blog howyouthservinggroupscanembrace 2020

Orga­ni­za­tions look­ing to iden­ti­fy and address pro­gram­mat­ic bar­ri­ers that are hold­ing back young peo­ple of col­or have a new resource on hand, cour­tesy of the research non­prof­it Child Trends.

The paper, fund­ed by the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion, is geared toward pro­grams serv­ing young peo­ple and young adults. For orga­ni­za­tions already apply­ing pos­i­tive youth devel­op­ment strate­gies, it rec­om­mends adding a racial equi­ty lens to mit­i­gate hur­dles faced by peo­ple of color.

Many orga­ni­za­tions, includ­ing work­force devel­op­ment groups and edu­ca­tion­al insti­tu­tions, employ pos­i­tive youth devel­op­ment strate­gies to help young peo­ple forge mean­ing­ful rela­tion­ships; find safe spaces; strength­en their aca­d­e­m­ic and tech­ni­cal skills; and access oppor­tu­ni­ties to succeed.

Alli­son Ger­ber, a senior asso­ciate with the Casey Foun­da­tion, notes that young peo­ple of col­or face some of the biggest bar­ri­ers to suc­cess. Lay­er on the cur­rent pub­lic health emer­gency and an eco­nom­ic cri­sis, and the road to adult­hood gets even rock­i­er. As the coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic cre­ates even larg­er gaps between white com­mu­ni­ties and com­mu­ni­ties of col­or, it’s even more impor­tant for youth-serv­ing orga­ni­za­tions to pay close atten­tion to how they are help­ing those most in need,” says Gerber.

To ensure that youth-serv­ing orga­ni­za­tions are account­ing for equi­ty, the pub­li­ca­tion — Embed­ding a Racial Equi­ty Per­spec­tive in the Pos­i­tive Youth Devel­op­ment Approach — rec­om­mends that these orga­ni­za­tions should:

  • Com­pare out­comes across race. Orga­ni­za­tions should deter­mine whether their pro­grams recruit for and devel­op young people’s suc­cess equal­ly. If cer­tain racial and eth­nic groups are left behind, they should work to cor­rect any rec­og­nized disparities.
  • Train employ­ees to spot bar­ri­ers. Staff should become well-versed in iden­ti­fy­ing cul­tur­al norms that can be exclu­sion­ary as well as struc­tur­al hur­dles and bias­es — includ­ing their own — that hold back peo­ple of color.
  • Ele­vate youth voic­es. Lead­er­ship teams should be diverse and rep­re­sen­ta­tive of youth of col­or. Orga­ni­za­tions should explore spe­cif­ic struc­tures — like youth advi­so­ry coun­cils — to engage young peo­ple of col­or in the deci­sion-mak­ing process.
  • Fol­low the data. Orga­ni­za­tions should track both par­tic­i­pant demo­graph­ics and out­comes to deter­mine whether inter­ven­tions are need­ed to ensure that all racial and eth­nic groups are succeeding.

The paper also takes a quick look at Gen­er­a­tion Work™ a Casey-sup­port­ed ini­tia­tive focused on con­nect­ing more young adults with mean­ing­ful employ­ment. This review explores how the initiative’s par­tic­i­pat­ing part­ners are embed­ding a racial equi­ty lens in their work — includ­ing by diver­si­fy­ing their staff and train­ing them to rec­og­nize racial disparities.

We’re pleased to see our Gen­er­a­tion Work part­ners embrac­ing racial equi­ty and ensur­ing that they are tak­ing into account the needs of young peo­ple of col­or,” Ger­ber says. We hope this con­tin­ues, even as the glob­al pan­dem­ic alters these pro­grams and the ways part­ners are work­ing with young people.”

Learn more about how to embed racial equi­ty with­in an organization

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