Our DEI journey: 2016-2021
As was true for many organizations across the country, the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2014 and national protests after the police murder of George Floyd in 2020 pushed us at the Camden Coalition to reflect on our organization’s relationship to equity and justice. In 2021, we began work on a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) statement that both acknowledged our role in perpetuating systemic inequities and laid out a clear commitment to pursuing justice through our work in Camden, in New Jersey, and across the country. The DEI statement was spearheaded by our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee, with input from Camden Coalition staff and leadership. The statement is now published on our website and can be read here.
The Camden Coalition’s formal DEI work began in 2016, in recognition of the fact that our lens of centering the needs of the most marginalized through complex care did not always extend to our internal practices. That summer, we convened a staff-wide retreat at which we adopted diversity and inclusion as a core value, which we defined collectively as:
The Camden Coalition seeks to create a safe and equitable environment where everyone can contribute one’s authentic self. As such, we:
- Honor the inherent value of every individual’s unique story, experience, and perspective
- Recognize the inequalities of power, privilege, and prejudice that shape our current systems
- Address exclusionary and unjust practices
We also formed a staff-led Diversity and Inclusion (now Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) working group and steering committee. This group facilitated policy changes including removing mandatory drug screening for new hires, began the practice of monthly cultural celebrations, created spaces for reflection and mutual support around traumatic current events like police brutality and mass shootings, brought in external trainers to train staff in facilitation and bias, and in 2020 piloted a DEI discussion series called TableTalks.
Current initiatives of the DEI working group include developing a mentorship program for staff of color, an internal resource library on DEI topics, and weaving DEI into departmental workflows and initiatives. Because advancing equity is one of the five pillars of our 2022-2025 strategic plan, each department will have measurable goals to ensure that the work we do is connected to advancing health equity.
Thus far, the majority of our diversity, equity, and inclusion work and conversations have focused on racial and economic justice, but we are committed to applying our DEI lens to understanding and addressing marginalization and oppression in all its forms. In January, staff received training on gender and sexual diversity, and how to support queer and trans patients and colleagues. We strive to act in explicit solidarity with all people who have been harmed by white supremacy, discrimination, and stigma.
At the Camden Coalition, our goal is that diversity, equity, and inclusion are embedded in both our internal practices and our externally-facing work — and that we move away from seeing the two as separate or mutually exclusive. To that end, we recently moved our community engagement and human resources teams under the same director: Victor Murray, our Senior Director of Community Engagement & Capacity Building.
“We don’t always think of staff as an extension of the community,” says Victor. “We want to bring the same level of intensity, support, and engagement we’ve brought to our community-facing work into the walls of the organization.”
Ultimately, we hope to be a role model in Camden and across the country for practices that center equity, inclusion, and justice. Here are some ways we are working toward that goal:
- In 2018, we completed an internal audit of our pay structure and made adjustments to ensure pay equity across the organization.
- We pay community health workers, LPNs, and other frontline staff well above local market rate in order to fairly compensate them for the value of their work.
- Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we have emphasized flexibility and work-life balance for our staff, letting people flex hours as needed to deal with COVID-related complications. No staff were furloughed and no one lost pay due to the pandemic.
- We offer generous benefits to all staff regardless of hours worked, including above average paid time off and $2,000 toward mental healthcare and $1,000 toward physical healthcare annually for each employee and their family.
- Our care team members, who travel extensively to meet with patients, also receive money as needed for car repairs and maintenance.
- We prioritize professional development and provide tuition reimbursement and annual professional development stipends, as well as offering organization-wide trainings in topics suggested by our staff.
- We have implemented structured conversations around racism and social justice facilitated by external subject matter experts and staff in a variety of safe spaces. Learn more about our DEI TableTalks Initiative.
- In 2022 we will be launching a mentorship program for staff of color.
- We have convened a Community Advisory Committee (CAC) since 2014, and their leaders have had dedicated seats on our Board of Trustees since 2015. The CAC is made up of graduated program participants and other community members.
- Our National Center runs a National Consumer Scholar program to ensure that consumer and caregiver advocates from across the country are involved in shaping the field of complex care and are able to bring lessons back to their local communities. Consumer leaders also serve on our National Advisory Committee.
- Both CAC members and National Consumer Scholar alumni have the opportunity to participate in Amplify, our consumer voices bureau, which allows local and national organizations to compensate our consumer experts for their input and perspectives.
- During the COVID pandemic, we trained CAC members and local youth leaders as Community and Youth Ambassadors and compensated them for sharing accurate information on vaccines, testing, and more with their neighbors.
- To remove potential bias in program enrollment, we select clients based on typical rule-out criteria and look for those with the most complex needs, including adverse social conditions.
- Our Camden Coalition Health Information Exchange enables under-resourced community organizations to securely access relevant healthcare information for their patients and clients at minimal or no cost.
- Our My Resource Pal platform allows South Jersey residents and providers to easily locate and refer clients to social services and other resources.
- Our data team advocates for consistent collection of race and ethnicity data among NJ government agencies and major local health systems in order to better measure, track, and address health disparities, and to understand the unique experiences of smaller populations.
- We train our partners in thoughtful and intentional community engagement as well as patient empowerment.
- We ensure that community and consumer expertise is highlighted in our conferences, regional convenings, webinars, and more.
- We look to uplift leaders from BIPOC and other marginalized communities as speakers and presenters in all of our convenings.
- We convene regional partners around how we can collaborate to promote equity in Camden.
- We ensure that consumers and low-paid frontline workers at other organizations are financially able to access our conferences and other convenings.