Build a bigger tent

Chuck Current | Executive Director, The Des Moines Social Club

The Idea: Create inclusive spaces where people can see folks who look like them, who are welcoming, and who are safe and free of any micro-inequities, intended or not.

Des Moines has the unique opportunity, due to the confluence of so many different cultures, ethnicities and peoples, to build a bigger “tent” for all. Both nonprofit and for-profit organizations need to create spaces where people can see folks who look like them, who are welcoming, and who are safe and free of any micro-inequities, intended or not.

Before organizations look outward for programming opportunities, however, they need to look inward to make sure the core of the organization is meeting inclusive goals. This can be accomplished through implementation of the thoughts below.

Nonprofit organizations, festival committees and social advocates need to make sure that they create, adhere to and advance a social mission around inclusiveness. All policies require review on an annual basis (e.g., hiring, programming, artist selection, etc.) in order to eradicate bias and discrimination in practice.

Internship policies need to be reviewed and all nonpaid opportunities need to be eliminated. All employment opportunities need to be equal. Unpaid internships reduce the pool of students who can participate. The finances needed organizationally to make this happen can be a huge undertaking, but there is help and interest available to fund these needs.

Organizations need to pay a livable wage to all employees. No longer can organizations hide behind the fact that we have tight budgets. Individuals need to be paid the value of their contributions at a livable level of compensation with benefits and opportunities for development that are equal to the overall marketplace.

I understand that staff will not make as much as they could in the market, but neither should they be subjected to a life of ramen noodles for making a decision to serve the greater good. Expanding livable wage opportunities allows organizations to broaden their search for talented staff.

With livable wage positions open, we need to broaden the way we recruit. Although popular web-based posting sites are easy and open your position to many candidates, they do not necessarily open your opportunity up to diverse candidates.

Use and expand your networks and post positions in nontraditional ways. The goal should be to slow down the process in order to make sure we take the time to reflect interest in our bigger communities.

Boards need to diversify. Organizations need to be open to different skill sets and dynamics. They also need to be able to recruit differently and get away from C-suite members who may or may not be passionate about the mission of the organization. Emerging leaders can be key to the vibrancy and diversity of an organization’s board, outreach and mission.

Organizations also need to remove any barriers to participate in programming that can create discrimination. Scholarships can be made available to expand offerings to greater audiences. Price of entry should not impose restrictions on who can participate.

When your organization evolves to a point that programming changes can be made, every detail should be reviewed from every angle possible. Is a spoken event hearing-impaired enabled? How do people participate in dance classes from around the world? How do you make educators and participants feel welcome?

These all serve as aspirational goals for us all. Even though we are proud of the progress we’ve made at the Des Moines Social Club, we have much work to do. I believe that by being intentional in our actions to build a bigger tent, we can provide a welcome and nurturing environment for all of Des Moines, which makes us all greater in the end. >