City of Burlington, Vermont City of Burlington, Vermont

CEDO / City Hall Room 32
802-865-7144 / cedofd@burlingtonvt.gov
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We All Belong Program Impacts

“The We All Belong trainings have been extremely valuable for our staff and Board of Directors. Participating has certainly raised our awareness as an organization about the critical need to become more culturally competent in order to better serve our community. It requires leadership and systems being put in place so the change isn’t dependent on one or two people within the organization but becomes embedded in the organization’s standard operations.” 
–Martha Maksym, Executive Director, United Way of Chittenden County

In 2010 we initiated a pilot program to support organizations engaged in change efforts to create more welcoming and equitable organizations. Over two years, we provided 50 hours of professional development to 70 leaders representing 11 organizations, schools and city departments.  We All Belong partners with CQ Strategies, a highly skilled consultant team delivering coaching and training to participants.

We All Belong participating agencies have made broad and lasting improvements such as:

  • improved community relations
  • how to effectively communicate across cultures
  • strengthened relationships among staff
  • heightened employee morale
  • implemented practices to recruit and retain diverse staff
  • clearer strategies to achieve mission and goals
  • creation of a diversity strategic plan
  • inclusive customer service standards
  • more diverse and engaged Board of Directors

Here is what Organization Leaders are saying…

“The things I got out of the trainings were really tangible. The opportunity to discuss these issues and get to know colleagues in other parts of the city were really what galvanized this process for me. I learned a lot.” 
–Barbara Shatara, Outreach Librarian, Fletcher Free Library

“The We All Belong Program has brought a new level of inclusion, outreach ability, cultural competence and participant diversity to the programs of the VNA Family Room.”
–Samantha Stevens, Co-Director, VNA Family Room

“One of the resources through We All Belong that I appreciated most this year was the effort to build a strong network among participating organizations. As a tiny organization, we’ve been able to connect and collaborate with other entities that share a commitment to cultural competency. Efforts to continue to build this network go a long way toward strengthening our work, in part because we are able to draw upon a cast of not-always-obvious allies.”
-Rebecca Gurney, Executive Director, YWCA Vermont

Learn more from participants about their experience with the We All Belong Program. Take a look at this TV spot on CCTV that gives a brief description about the program and impacts shared by two participating agencies. Length: 17 minutes. Guests: Phelan Fretz from ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center, Dan Balón from the Burlington School District. http://www.cctv.org/watch-tv/programs/we-all-belong-initiative

Direct Impact

The training received in the WAB Program has broad and long-lasting impact on its participants and agencies. On a personal level, WAB alums report:

“I have an increased awareness of my own biases and more consciously check and challenge my assumptions.”

“I have gained a greater understanding of the importance of cultural competency in a workplace and how diversity impacts organizational success.  Personally, I have learned that the old way of thinking – that we are all the same – is not as beneficial to me as an individual or those around me as understanding and celebrating that we are not all the same.”

“I am branching out beyond my own comfort zone by understanding that this work has a sense of urgency that I have not recognized before.”

“An overall comfort has settled in with being uncomfortable in conversations about race and diversity.  I have also come to own both my privilege and responsibility to do this work.”

The We All Belong curriculum develops awareness, skills and knowledge to work across differences on a personal, interpersonal and systemic level. A sample of systems-level changes implemented by participating agencies this year are:

  • ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center added Cultural Responsiveness to their annual staff performance evaluations.
  • The City of Burlington's Human Resources Department is implementing a new, online diversity training program too all 600+ staff.
  • The Visiting Nurse Association reduced barriers to hiring Personal Care Attendants (PCA) who have limited English skills. They are training PCA's in clients' homes instead of in a classroom where higher English proficiency was needed.
  • South Burlington School District assembled is in the nascent stages of their equity work. The AmeriCorps member is conducting a climate and culture assessment interviewing staff across the district to inform a strategic plan.
  • HOPE Works education staff survey participants prior to giving a workshop to ascertain if anyone has limited English skills and make plans to support student participation.
  • Vermont Energy Investment Corporation introduced new processes to reduce bias in their hiring.
  • The Burlington School District launched a Diversity Alliance Council to facilitate collaboration and resource sharing between the School District and community members.