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Increasing Diversity and Inclusion in CTEP

July 8, 2018

By Camilla Dreasher, CTEP AmeriCorps member at PCs for People

This year myself and three other CTEP AmeriCorps members began a project to attract a more diverse group of people to join our AmeriCorps program, and to make CTEP an a more inclusive environment. At the beginning of the year, our CTEP supervisors Lisa Peterson-de la Cueva and Joel Krogstad came to us with a problem. They noticed CTEP cohorts had become gradually less diverse over time, and that they needed help dismantling structures within AmeriCorps and CTEP that keep some people from doing national service, or feeling comfortable in CTEP once they do. They have been working to change these structures, but asked us for help developing a plan to improve CTEP’s diversity and make it more reflective of the communities we serve.

We knew from research and personal experience that having a diverse cohort is important for CTEP to achieve its mission. Students learn best from teachers they can relate to, and a culture of inclusivity empowers members of all backgrounds to perform their best and innovate to help their students succeed. Our group quickly realized what a big job we were taking on. Our current CTEP cohort contains only 14% people of color; compared to 31% 5 years ago, and fewer people are applying to AmeriCorps in general. In better news, this cohort has a large proportion of LGBTQ members, with 35% of members identifying as non-straight and 7% as gender non-conforming. Unfortunately, we don’t have gender and sexuality information from past cohorts. Because of these surveys, we decided we wanted to focus our efforts on increasing CTEP’s racial diversity.

To do this, we looked at diversity initiatives at other organizations to find a model that would be both effective, and serve the specific needs of an AmeriCorps program where members often stay for only a single year before moving on. We found a 7 step guide to achieving diversity and inclusion in the workplace[1] and created a three year plan based on that framework:

Year 0: That’s us! Establish diversity framework, identity strengths & weaknesses of diversity in CTEP, recruit for advisory board, and establish baseline statistics to use in future evaluation.
Year 1: Prioritize and rollout inclusion trainings for 2018-2019 year, Establish long-term advisory board to guide us on our diversity and inclusion efforts.
Year 2: Implement recruiting strategies and actions outlined by advisory board that will build community partnerships and eventual recruitment pipelines at local organizations. 
Year 3: Evaluate effectiveness of diversity and inclusion initiatives across CTEP and SPNN, redefining goals as is necessary.

This may sound like a linear, tidy process, but it is not. In order to make this successful we want to inlcude stakeholders from across the CTEP community. We started by assembling a group of interested AmeriCorps alumni who provided feedback on their experiences of diversity in CTEP and AmeriCorps in general. We’ve had two meetings so far and we’re planning to hold a third in early August. The people who attended prompted us to reorganize the way we recruit CTEP members by recruiting at job fairs and events targeted at people of color and to involve more people of color in the hiring process. We’ve also begun rearranging our bi-monthly professional development trainings (corps days) to emphasize inclusivity.

We have the beginning of a  framework for moving forward and continuing our diversity and inclusion work into the future. CTEP and SPNN management have shown a strong commitment to continuing this work and two members of the civic engagement group have committed to a second year of CTEP and plan on continuing the project. It is a long road to shift institutional structures and culture, but we are excited and  confident that this commitment will create a better and more impactful CTEP for both future members and our communities.

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Civic Engagement Project Title: Increasing Diversity and Inclusion in CTEP
Project Members: Anna Norcutt-Preuss, Camilla Dreasher, Kayla Syrocki, Sophia Hare
Project Partners: CTEP, CTEP Alumni

Each year our 35 CTEP AmeriCorps members choose community action projects that make a contribution to bridging the digital divide. The CTEP civic engagement projects are often cited by CTEP AmeriCorps members, staff, supervisors, and community supporters as one of the most unique and energizing parts of the program. This is one of the 2018 civic engagement projects.