Step Up: Equity Matters

Creating safe work spaces
Step Up: Equity Matters
Step Up: Equity Matters Step Up: Equity Matters Step Up: Equity Matters

Conversations about race can be difficult to start, especially in a job setting. The four organizers of Step Up: Equity Matters have developed a way for employers to address equity in the workplace by teaching them how to create a “safe space” in which to talk about the issues and solutions. Described as a “movement for change,” Step Up: Equity Matters is a series of workshops focused on helping businesses increase the diversity in their workforce at all levels of staffing and helping them create a company culture that embraces inclusiveness in the workplace.

Step Up: Equity Matters

The group got its start in July 2014 with its first event, and came together in October 2014 to expand the idea and create the series of 2015 workshops.Its program has evolved to include a book club and “coffee conversations,” which came about from participants’ feedback. “We feel like it’s our job to listen to what people are struggling with” and help them find solutions, says Sara Alvarado, one of the organizers.

The four workshops this year have covered topics including inner biases, company culture and practicing difficult conversations. The group collaborates with other local organizations, such as the YWCA, which concentrates on social justice issues and has a mission to eliminate racism.

“We are making sure that we’re connecting with other groups that are doing similar work because they’ve been doing it and we’re not going to say that we’re doing it better than they do,” says Amy Kesling, whose employer, Sustain Dane, acts as the fiscal agent for the movement. The team itself represents a variety of viewpoints, and each brings something unique to the project.

“We are all coming from very different backgrounds–not just races, but also work styles, personalities, education. Yet when we’re working together on these workshops, we can bring it to life in a way that represents all of our voices,” says planning team member Tania Ibarra. Haywood Simmons, the fourth team member, agrees. “I think it’s magically and dynamically evolving. It’s intentional,” he says.

Each workshop begins with reading a pledge that all participants agree to and sign. The last line is: “I pledge to step up today and every day for a better world.”

What is social innovation?

According to Stanford University’s Social Innovation Review, social innovation is a “novel solution to a social problem that is more effective, efficient, sustainable or just than existing solutions” and benefits primarily society as a whole rather than private individuals.

It includes these elements:

Increasing employment, productivity and economic growth

Justice, fairness, environmental preservation, improved health, arts and culture and better education

A social innovation:

Can be a product, production process or technology (much like innovation in general), but it can also be a principle, an idea, a piece of legislation, a social movement, an intervention or some combination of them.

Recognizes the fundamental role of cross-sector dynamics: exchanging ideas and values, shifting roles and relationships and blending public, philanthropic and private resources. Innovation blossoms where the sectors converge.

Can’t be understood, let alone solved, without involving the nonprofit, public and private sectors.

The M List
Madison Magazine‘s M List is a who’s who of organizations and individuals who are having an impact on our local culture and economy. In its third year, the M List recognizes those making strides in the area of social innovation. Last year’s list of innovators were in the food industry. The original M List, in 2013, honored the technology sector. The 2014 M List honored “Foodtastic” entrepreneurs and innovators.

Return to The M List 2015: Social Innovation here.