Ensure clear expectations for action following every conference or meeting with community stakeholders, and in every collaboration. Develop action items at the end of each meeting, or within 24-48 hours afterward. This will ensure talk is followed by action. Follow-up builds trust.
Advocate with State or Territory agencies and partners to help all see value of this work. Support their efforts in this area and be a resource where needed. Invite members of diverse communities to key meetings and broker introductions with State or Territory personnel, to benefit both State or Territory agencies and community organizations.
Ensure that community partners are true partners, and not just people to turn to when advice is needed on certain issues, or a letter of support is needed for a grant application. Invite partners to give input on all organizational activities via roles on Board of Directors, advisory groups, and other means.
Be aware of body language that conveys respect and affirmatively engages in the culture of the person or community you are partnering with. Eye contact, smiling, handshakes, and the like differ across cultures.
Remember the importance of celebrations as a tool of partnership and collaboration, so that initiatives and successes are not only publicized but people can also gather to celebrate, preferably with food involved. Breaking bread together enhances cross-cultural dialogue. It is another form of gathering around a table.
Develop partnerships with community-based organizations in ways that enhance the resources and activities of those organizations, and build trust. Broaden and diversify Councils and SIGs. Expand eligibility to individuals outside AUCD network to gain increasingly diverse perspectives and partnerships. Develop collaborative relationships (including grantmaking opportunities) with Office of Minority Health, CDC, HHS and other government agencies and administrations tasked with addressing resiliencies and disparities, diversity, inclusion and cultural and linguistic competence. Identify common goals, and work collaboratively toward them, using findings from network research and demonstration projects.
Identify external organizations with common goals; form collaborative partnerships to enhance each other's work toward common goals.
Provide various ways for community members to give feedback and suggestions.
After a trusting relationship is established and with permission, advocate with community-based organizations. Offer to join with them in their advocacy and grant-writing efforts, introduce them to key folks, etc. Offer training to build capacity in grantwriting and/or advocacy to build capacity and inform policymakers of their needs.
After relationships are established, create opportunities to educate community organizations on the purpose of UCEDD/LEND programs and available services and supports in a manner that responds to the needs and values of those communities. These conversations can arise organically out of an effort to learn and be educated.
Provide resources on translation, interpretation and cultural brokering to the direct support professional community and people with disabilities. Develop relationships with diverse organizations serving diverse cultural and faith communities who have State or Territory affiliates to broker relationships with UCEDD/LEND programs at both national and State or Territory levels. Faith communities serve as the key community center in many minority and immigrant communities. Increase partnerships with organizations representing families, as well as disability and/or health professionals from disadvantaged and underrepresented backgrounds to access expertise, leverage resources, and maximize reach.
Broaden and diversify Board of Directors. Expand eligibility to individuals outside the AUCD network to gain increasingly diverse perspectives and partnerships. Ensure Board hears from diverse members of AUCD who might not already be involved in AUCD’s Councils, SIGs, and other membership groups and activities. Specifically encourage folks from marginalized backgrounds to join the Board of Directors, Councils, and SIGs through in-person outreach. Acknowledge that people are being invited to a table that has already been set, and there is a desire to set a new table. Spend time in communities, listening and building relationships. Identify the trusted leaders within the community (formal and informal leaders by position or influence), and identify future leaders as well. Remain engaged even when funding opportunities are absent or have ended.
Create relationships outside of traditional partners, including criminal justice, military, arts, civic, civil rights, refugee, community planning/action, ethnic-specific Chambers of Commerce, health, mental health, outreach clinics, ethnic-specific advocacy groups, sororities and fraternities, ethnic-specific professional associations, social justice organizations, immigrant rights organizations, and other groups tasked with serving diverse communities. Networking with cross-silo cultural and linguistic competence initiatives connects to others who may serve as resources for AIDD/AUCD/UCEDD/LEND work, helps other “mainstream” human services see the ways cultural and linguistic competence issues play out in disability services, and helps those mainstream organizations recognize the ways that disability is also a diversity and inclusion issue.
Bring in experts from diverse community/advocacy groups, or send staff to unique conferences, to help inform team in areas where further awareness is needed. Additionally, invite these experts to join your committee on diversity, inclusion, and cultural and linguistic competence.
Participate in activities and events with diverse organizations and communities to build rapport and meet them on their turf. This shows respect and humility. Expand your “collective intelligence” and cultivate a cross-influence and -action relationship with community leaders from diverse cultural groups.
Learn about the historical trauma suffered by community groups. Know about unethical research conducted with state and national and international groups. Build/rebuild trust with communities. Be aware that universities/ hospitals/ governments have been responsible for unethical research and experimentation with underrepresented groups so relationships may need rebuilding. Learning about trauma experiences can be difficult, traumatizing, or re-traumatizing. Build self-care and safe spaces into these learning opportunities.
Be aware of the important tension and balance between identifying with a community and labeling people within a community. Attend carefully to language used within communities, as these are cues to values and priorities.
Support bridge-building between advocacy groups where intersectionality exists. For example, self-advocacy groups for people with intellectual disability and LGBT advocacy groups may prove worthy partners in support of people who experience both identities. Work with the State Department and embassies to invite disability leaders from other countries to participate in AUCD annual conference.
Offer interactive live streaming of major AUCD conference and Disability Policy Seminar events, encouraging participation by others who are unable to attend in person. Create partnerships with other projects, committees, and departments (including cultural studies and language departments) within the University addressing diversity, inclusion, and cultural and linguistic competence
Engage in a community needs assessment process to identify gaps your program could fill and see which groups are not accessing your services.
Reach out to recipients of NIDILRR field-initiated grants addressing diversity and inclusion for information and potential partnership. Develop listening sessions within direct support professional (DSP) community, as DSPs are increasingly from many minority and ethnic communities, to identify what they may need, what gifts they bring to their roles, and their advice related to collaborating with the cultural communities they represent. A direct support staff person may be a leader within a particular community or know who the leaders are, as well as have knowledge about how/if disability is discussed and addressed.
Reach out to recipients of National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) field-initiated grants addressing diversity and inclusion for information and potential partnership.
Contact people personally, using as much connection as possible (ex: in-person preferred over phone, Skype preferred over email, physical presence at community meetings rather than a survey link) to enhance relationships. Be aware that physical accessibility or chemical sensitivity may impact someone’s ability to be physically present, so be sure to check in with people about the best way to communicate and/or be present with them, and honor their choices.
Create products reflecting the content of community meetings and conversations; disseminate broadly within the community so people see their voices and contributions making an impact.
Reduce cost of annual conference so it is affordable to a broader range of interested people who may not have university or grant funding to participate. Consider providing income-based sliding scale or scholarships for individuals, reduced rates for staff from non-profit agencies, separate meal costs in registration and provide meal tickets for those able to purchase hotel meals with registration, support the cost of accessible and general transportation, and create other opportunities for financial assistance. Look carefully at how advocacy and advisory groups are used. Ask whether they are being used to fulfill a federal requirement for input? Truly listen to priorities of advocacy groups and advisory members (including but not limited to self-advocacy groups and the Consumer Advisory Councils (CACs)), and work those priorities into Center/Program projects in a collaborative manner.
Join the Regional Health Equity Council.
Reputation matters. People you connect with will tell others about their experiences, good or bad. Interact with a humble mindset and a desire to learn, rather than as an expert who will tell others how to do things. Admit what is unknown about a culture or language and ask for assistance. Listen. Learn. Make no assumptions.