Checking our biases: lessons learned from staff training

“Best Starts for Kids will seek to contribute to systemic and structural solutions as it continues to partner with communities to develop and implement programs that work for them.” – Excerpt from Best Starts Implementation Plan

King County released the first Request for Proposal to provide homelessness prevention services under the Youth and Family Homelessness Prevention Initiative—a go-first strategy under Best Starts for Kids. Now that the application period has closed, the next step is to select community organizations to carry out this work. But before the review process begins, King County is taking deliberate steps to limit the impact of bias and promote equitable opportunities for community organizations that apply for funds.

Training for staff
Most recently, we trained the community members and staff who are reviewing and scoring the applications for the homelessness prevention services.  The Nonprofit Assistance Center Executive Director, Sarah Tran, provided the training to help all reviewers recognize their own biases and look for the range of strengths that different community organizations bring to the table as they review applications.

Sarah Tran, Nonprofit Assistance Center Executive Director

Central to this training was ensuring applications are scored based on community need and the ability for the organization to provide the services to the community rather than solely on whether the application is “written well”.

Below are the highlights of the active discussion with the training participants:

  • Western cultures favor an immediate problem-solution presentation while non-Western cultures tend to utilize storytelling and a more holistic presentation of the issue.
  • Some organizations made up of staff from communities of color may be less likely to call attention to their skills and assets –it’s seen as bragging.
  • Many community based organizations often try to do it all and that’s not all bad. They don’t specialize in any one issue because their communities come to them with multiple issues. Organizations may value a more all-encompassing approach to health and social services and this does not mean a lack of strategy or leadership ability.
  • Communities of color/community based organizations are often seen as lacking data capacity when they are actually experts in reaching and collecting honest information from their community where no one else could.
  • Ethnic-based community based organizations not only have bilingual capabilities but bi-cultural ability as many of their staff come from similar backgrounds and are able to have empathy as well.
  • People already come to grassroots community based organizations because they trust them. These groups bring strengths in recruiting participants for their programs.
  • Lack of mastery of English writing skills does not equate to a lack of competence, skill, or experience.

King County is committed to continuing these types of training and to exploring new ways to break down barriers and broaden our approach to partnering with community organizations.

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