Communities are rapidly changing — right here in our county and all across the nation. Societal attitudes are evolving. The median age of the population is increasing. Latinx and Asian communities are growing. Newcomers are settling in communities of all sizes. Individuals of different races, abilities, faiths, gender identities, and sexual orientations are making their voices heard.
Nationally and locally, we see disparities and inequities across educational, health and other social outcomes. We also see a sad trend: communities are becoming more polarized and divided.
Meanwhile, around the world, technology is shrinking distances among people, places, and organizations, ensuring that no event is isolated. What happens halfway around the world affects us all.
What does this mean for us, right here in Snohomish County?
It means we have some work to do. We need to step into leadership in a different way.
For three years, Leadership Snohomish County has taken a stand for equity. In 2016, LSC integrated a full-day curriculum on race equity and inclusion as part of the Signature and Young Professionals programs. In 2017, LSC launched its first Step Up: Moving Racial Equity Forward conference. In 2018, LSC organized an interactive event to collaborate on the community’s vision for Snohomish County’s next 20 years: Summit 2038.
Now, starting May 10, LSC will launch its first Leadership for Racial Equity Cohort to strengthen the capacity of multi-sector leaders to work towards transformational and sustainable systemic change within their organizations and institutions.
Dr. Kimberlee Armstrong is executive director of Equity and Public Relations for Edmonds School District, the largest school district in Snohomish County. We asked for her thoughts about the new cohort.
“Countywide work on inclusiveness is the right work, and this is the right time,” she said. “It is absolutely imperative that we have agencies like Leadership Snohomish County alongside us as key partners in enhancing and improving the way students experience school and their growing diverse communities.”
Participants will meet once a month for a full day of intensive executive learning. It will be a dynamic process to:
— Build the capacity of leaders to effectively and sustainably work to drive institutional change in their organizations/institutions to ensure racial equity.
— Learn the skills necessary to dismantle institutional and structural racism in their organization/institutions.
— Develop a network of equity guardians with a shared analysis to advance racial equity for systems change in Snohomish County by creating a shared value system with measurable outcomes.
— Cross-pollinate ideas and develop intentional practices to thrive as leaders for racial equity: manage personal vulnerabilities, care for and honor our personal well-being, and sustain our courageous spirit.
Community advocate Louis Harris said, “We are emerging from a time where people were segregated, and degraded, opportunities were withheld, and people were intentionally made to feel less than.” Harris, who serves on local boards for the NAACP, Snohomish County Young Democrats, and Snohomish County Black Heritage Committee, works for Washington State DSHS and is running for Snohomish County Council
“It’s important for our institutions to implement inclusive and restorative policies to make the future brighter for everyone,” Harris continued.
“We hear that the community is ready to embrace this initiative,” said Kathy Coffey, LSC’s Executive Director. “We’re ready to partner and put in the work.”
It’s critical that we acknowledge the times we are in. It is vital that we intentionally adopt equitable and inclusive practices. It’s how we — in all sectors — will remain relevant to, and inclusive of, our rapidly changing communities. We look forward to getting started with this new way of stepping into leadership with this community.
The Leadership for Racial Equity cohort is a five-month certification program for up to 25 Snohomish County professionals. It has been co-designed by racial equity expert Bernardo Ruiz, co-founder and principal consultant of the Racing to Equity Consulting Group, and Tami Farber, LSC’s new senior director for Equity Training and Development. Cost per person is $2,800. To apply or for more information, please visit www.leadershipsc.org or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.