Intentional work to address organizational change around diversity and inclusion began in Dubuque in 2006 with an organizational assessment, report and recommendations, and capacity building. This was carried out with the help of an outside consultant, using an intercultural communication approach. Scenario based workshops using adult learning principles were implemented with all government workers, focusing on cultural communication and conflict styles in order to reduce some of the personal defensiveness and establish a common language. This training is still given to all government employees and many members of the community have gone through the training and become ambassadors in the community.
Work inside the organization has been supplemented by work in the community with the creation of Inclusive Dubuque in 2013, described further below. Currently, the equity focus of Inclusive Dubuque is both internal (within the City organization) and external (within other institutions). The understanding of the need to focus on equity in Dubuque stemmed from issues of disparate impact discrimination in housing as well as workforce development concerns affecting employees.
Inclusive Dubuque is a community network of leaders committed to supporting an equitable and inclusive culture to meet the economic and cultural needs of a diverse community. It is comprised of faith, labor, education, non-profit, and government leaders. The vision is a community where all individuals feel respected, valued, and engaged. Inclusive Dubuque network partners have funded roles at the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque, which serves as a hub for data and communication. By creating a Community Equity Profile, stakeholders will begin to understand more about our diverse population not only around race, but also gender, socioeconomic status, religion, and more.
The Equity Profile will provide a snapshot of how diverse populations are affected by societal systems in Dubuque. The particular focus areas include economic well being, housing, health, education, neighborhood safety, transportation, and arts and culture. The research for the Equity Profile is being completed in 2015 and includes quantitative population level data, community surveys, community dialogue sessions to share experiences, and meetings with focus area specialists.
Stakeholder Involvement Timeline:
- 2010 – Business leaders came together with government, the Chamber of Commerce, and others with concerns about how employees were feeling treated in the community. The group began to research potential best practices to raise awareness and influence community inclusion.
- 2012 – A consultant was hired to help create a shared vision amongst leadership, which included 250 surveys of city employees, community members and other stakeholders, as well as a half day dialogue session as part of the Chamber of Commerce Diversity Summit.
- 2013 – Inclusive Dubuque was formally launched.
- 2015- Inclusive Dubuque Network partners begin working on the equity profile to identify areas of strength and opportunity, helping the community set priorities and take action.
Educators from local institutions of higher education, including University of Dubuque, Loras College, Clarke University, Northeast Iowa Community College, Iowa State University, and University of Wisconsin- Platteville, have proven to be an asset in everything from assisting with data analysis to establishing a shared language around issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Educators have also assisted in developing and implementing educational sessions with community partners.
Transparency has played an important role in gaining support for Inclusive Dubuque and will continue to be important with future strategies. Ensuring that the effort is clearly understood by stakeholders has been a difficult task for the leaders of Inclusive Dubuque. Kelly Larson, the Human Rights Director at the City of Dubuque, described general support for the Inclusive Dubuque vision accompanied by people questioning the strategies, outcomes, and implementation choices while struggling to identify where they can play a role.
Ensuring that Inclusive Dubuque is clearly understood is not the only challenge that leaders face. Motivating others to act quickly while simultaneously accepting this is long term work has been a major challenge. The urgency of the matter can make it difficult to explain to community partners that the results and outcomes will not be immediate. It requires a balance between taking action immediately to make some change, and recognizing the end goal of equity may take many years to achieve. Success also requires a willingness to accept that strategies used in the past or implemented now may not work tomorrow, and the process requires adjustment and change in order to be effective.
Finally, another challenge that Dubuque faces, and that other jurisdictions can learn from is making sure that achieving equity is understood as a shared, institutional responsibility, not solely an issue of individual behavior. Larson says that it is challenging for Inclusive Dubuque to move stakeholders beyond defensiveness or individual blame and towards the need to accept this as a systemic problem that can be addressed with learning, organizational changes that support behavior change, and community effort. Too often, these issues have been approached as “bad people” problems that others believe cannot be addressed. While there are some individuals whose behaviors perpetuate equity problems if not addressed, there must also be changes to the system in order to reach equity. It is no longer sufficient to treat civil and human rights as case by case situations of bad intent of one individual directed towards another individual. The larger inequities exist in every institution of society and affect every person in one way or another and structural and systemic work is required to address these concerns.
Directions in Moving Forward.
With a complete Equity Profile being created in 2015 there are many steps Inclusive Dubuque and the City of Dubuque need to take in order to start seeing measurable success.
- Inside the City organization there is a lot of work still to be done. The diversity of the employees working at the City of Dubuque is not reflective of the city’s demographics. As employees retire and new staff members are brought in, there will be a focus on recruiting a diverse pool of qualified applicants. A recruitment team is focused on ways to bring in the best applicants that will work toward achieving equitable access to City services and will be representative of the city’s population. Another team is focused on creating department level plans to address equitable access to City services.
- In the community, Inclusive Dubuque will establish an equity baseline and continue collecting data in Dubuque. This includes the continual updating of demographics of the population to ensure that strategies implemented are bettering the lives of all community members in Dubuque. In the end, to reach equity in Dubuque, Inclusive Dubuque must be equitable as well. Existing initiatives, such as the Campaign for Grade Level Reading and Re-Engage Dubuque, will be evaluated and leveraged to ensure that progress is being made and people across demographic groups are being reached, particularly with the support of the Dubuque My Brother’s Keeper Network
- Inclusive Dubuque will continue to develop and implement strategies that strengthen and support the network, including community dialogues, one-on-one meetings, developing partnerships, presentations, coordination of peer-learning opportunities and social media.
- Inclusive Dubuque and the community as a whole will use the Equity Profile to identify Dubuque’s strengths and opportunities, establish priorities, and take action in the following focus areas:
- Economic well-being
- Safe neighborhoods
- Arts and culture