Cultural Alliance of York County Equity Action Plan
Beginning in 2017, the Cultural Alliance of York County has been in the process of creating and implementing an Equity Action Plan with the guidance of local expert trainers, and participation in the Confronting Racism Coalition.
Thanks to the guidance of Dr. Monea Abdul-Majeed, in 2021 we completed a Racial Equity Audit of our organization down to its roots and created our Equity Action Plan which will be the bedrock of our strategic direction over the next three years. Read our Equity Action Plan below.
A Definition of Equity
Equity is defined as “the state, quality or ideal of being just, impartial and fair.” The concept of equity is synonymous with fairness and justice. It is helpful to think of equity as not simply a desired state of affairs or a lofty value. To be achieved and sustained, equity needs to be thought of as a structural and systemic concept.
Equity involves trying to understand and give people what they need to enjoy full, healthy lives. Equality, in contrast, aims to ensure that everyone gets the same things in order to enjoy full, healthy lives. Like equity, equality aims to promote fairness and justice, but it can only work if everyone starts from the same place and needs the same things.
Equity Action Plan:
Embedding Equity into the New Funding Model of the Cultural Alliance
Advancing equity can sometimes seem daunting and often leaves many wondering how and where to start. Our proposed goals and action items below can help to provide a clear frame for undertaking this important work.
- In 1999 the Cultural Alliance was founded by a group of philanthropists, led by Art Glatfelter, who were interested in finding a more effective way to fund arts and culture organizations in York County. The Cultural Alliance was created as a United Arts Fund to raise an annual campaign, supported by these philanthropists, and distribute dollars to a number of arts and culture related non-profits in the county.
- In 2017, the board of directors embarked on a 3 year Design Thinking process to uncover the impact we were having on the community/where we might do better, as well as re-imagine the original funding model to allow it to be more flexible and better serve our arts and culture organizations.
- In 2018, national news coverage of racially-motivated discrimination events led to the formation of a confronting racism task force made up of community leaders, non-profit organizations, and concerned citizens. The Cultural Alliance joined the Confronting Racism task force and is committed to working to eliminate racism in our community. Working on this task force caused the Cultural Alliance to look inward at our own leadership and organizational practices to identify how we incorporate equity and inclusion.
- To identify what we were actively doing, and where we were as an organization, we utilized the Equity Organization Assessment Tool from the Annie E. Casey Foundation (found below under "Resources")
- Though Americans for the Arts strongly encouraged all members to adopt their Statement on Cultural Equity at this time period, our Board of Directors made the decision to not adopt any statement before doing the work to change our organizational structure and embed equity into all of our practices.
- As we worked through 2019 to re-model our organization and continued our work on the Confronting Racism committee, we worked to form a cohort of organizations and the newly-formed Ideas Center of the York JCC and YWCA to secure the expertise to guide us through this work using local trainers.
- Together, we crafted our first Equity Action Plan, and dedicated resources in our 2020 budget to fund our training. We engaged the Ideas Center to begin training our Equity team on February 25, 2020. In the summer of 2020, with community leaders Melissa Plotkin, Carla Christopher and Dr. Monea Abdul-Majeed, we held our first, full-board, racial equity training to begin diving into our organizations history, uncover our personal biases, and understand the work that was ahead of us.
Equity Plan Goal 1: Build a Fully-Integrated Equity Lens into our Model Tiers
As the Cultural Alliance works to change its model and implement new policies in alignment with our tiers of funding
support, we can use the following action items to ensure more racially equitable outcomes.
Action Items & Timeline
December, 2018-June, 2019
Ensure that representatives of all community groups and racial backgrounds are part of empathy interviews, ideation sessions, and prototyping of the four tiers. This range of voices will produce the richest discussion possible for achieving desired results.
June, 2019-November, 2019
Present finalized model detail to affinity groups during the “Road Show 2.0” sustainability modeling stage throughout
the community to know how the model and its procedures will be perceived by each group, and that they are culturally
December, 2019-June, 2020
Perform a cultural equity audit on funding criteria, applications, and procedures as they are created to ensure they don’t
worsen existing disparities or produce other unintended consequences.
Progress and Outcomes
In looking at who the Cultural Alliance has traditionally funded, we have been able to distinguish our shortcomings in the accessibility and racial equity of the funding we provide. Our work to understand our role in perpetuating a system of inequity that exists in the funding world has fueled our motivation to bring the lens of diversity and equity into every step of our remodeling process. We have worked to build connections into racially diverse communities which we have traditionally not reached. We have done this through enrolling community liasons to put us in touch with other artists and organizers that we did not previously know, and inviting them to our discussions and reviews.
As we are rolling out new paths to funding through 2020 and into 2021, we are continually seeking feedback from artists and organizations who: applied for funding and received it, applied and did not receive funding, and organizations who chose not to apply, to determine what roads blocks exist that we may not yet understand. We are also deliberately ensuring that our community panelists who review applications are diverse in expertise as well as cultural and ethnic background. These panelists are also asked to provide feedback on our application and review process, which is then incorporated as we are able to do so.
Exceptional nonprofit boards recognize that equity is essential to an organization’s success. They see the correlation
between mission, strategy, and board composition and understand that establishing an inclusive organization starts with
establishing a diverse and inclusive board. In the 21st century, the strength of an organization will be
measured by how well these issues are embedded in their everyday way of doing business.
Equity Goal 2: Build Equity into Our Organization
Action Items & Timeline
January, 2020-July, 2020
Perform a cultural equity audit of our organization policies and procedures and develop an action guide for governing
and operating the Cultural Alliance as an inclusive organization.
February, 2020-August, 2020
Assist the board governance committee in creating a board recruitment matrix highlighting skills/assets needed in
current Board of Directors and the equity/sustainability goals of the organization to identify ideal candidates for board
September, 2020-July, 2021
Engage the Cultural Alliance board in staff training to increase understanding of the diverse communities we serve.
Progress and Outcomes
- An Equity team of board members was put together to lead this work on our full board level with the help of our DEI consultants. This team met with consultants in February 2020 to begin the work of recognizing and dismantling their own biases as well as those that exist within our organization.
- Due to the Covid 19 pandemic, some of the plans regarding our equity audit have been pushed back as we waited for our facilitators to become available to train us in completing this effort.
- A full board gathering is scheduled for June 24th to begin work with the entire board alongside our team of consultants to address racial bias and increasingly specific goals for our diversity, equity and inclusion work.
September 2020 Update:
- As our Equity Team continues to work with our experts, the full board has begun the process of reviewing the history of our organization, including the creation of an organizational power map (below)
- A power map is an important visual tool that reveals the sources of influence and power within an organization. Once the power map is created, the organization can conduct audits on each source of power to ensure equitable practices are in place.
January 2021 Update:
- Our board has contracted Dr. Monea Abdul-Majeed to be our guide in the next portion of this work, including an extensive audit of the CAYC's core policies and procedures, direct anti-racism training with our board, as well as board and staff affiliated with our partner organizations.
- In July of 2021 this stage of the work will conclude with an updated strategic equity plan for our organization.
In 2021 the Cultural Alliance contracted Dr. Monea Abdul-Majeed to complete an Equity Audit, and help us create an Equity Action plan for the next 3 years. This process took place in 4 phases: Assess, Educate, Empower, and Act.
A survey was sent to those connected to the Cultural Alliance including the board and staff, solicitors, donors, partner organizations, and grant applicants (both who did and did not receive funding)
- 62 completed (48 White, 11 BIPOC, 3 skipped race/ethnicity question)
- Everyone included in sample.
Interviews were additionally conducted to gain more in-depth information from a sample of people who interact with the Cultural Alliance.
- 3 BIPOC Voices
- Goal was 3-4. I asked 4 and 3 accepted the invitation.
- Selected: Leadership team and snowball sampling
Dr. Monea Abdul-Jaheed provided an audit of Cultural Alliance artifacts such as branding, website, social media, email campaign, and customer interface
Findings of the Survey and Audit:
- CAYC equity work isn’t known to all respondents to the survey, or presumably to the general public.
- There was felt to be a lack of transparency in the traditional CAYC allocations process.
- Social media would benefit from more voices and faces, more educational posting (versus information dispersement)
Based on the results of the Equity Audit, Dr. Monea Abdul-Majeed provided a list of recommendations and bold goals to be implemented. Below is the Equity Action Plan adopted by the Cultural Alliance.
- Update Handbook (complete)
- Holidays (staff can take paid leave for religious holidays, other than Christmas)
- Paid leave to attend protest
- Bereavement Leave (death of a pet, miscarriage, etc.)
- Parental leave (includes fathers)
- The use of pronouns
- Define “art” and “culture”
- Pictures of Board Members on the website (complete)
- Simplify grant application (complete)
- Examine logo
- Internal Training (complete)
- Implicit Bias training for Board, Staff, and Grant Recipients
- Cultural Competency Training for Board, Staff, and Grant Recipients
- Systemic Racism (including history of CA and York)
- Operationalize “arts” and “culture” (in process)
- Expand these definitions to include more art expressions and cultural expressions
- Get feedback on changes to grant applications (complete)
- Board/Staff Retreats
- Research “Ambassador programs” and network with other organizations that have such a program
- Brainstorm an initial list of ambassadors (complete)
- Hire 1 Staff member of color (or intern) (in process)
- Development of “Full-Time Artist” Program (pilot)
- This program provides training opportunities for artist on topics such as
entrepreneurship, making a living as an artist, legal advice, patent advice, and thought
- This program provides training opportunities for artist on topics such as
Based on the action plan above, as well as the feedback received from the audit, the Cultural Alliance engaged with a group of York artists who are diverse in their cultural background and artistic mediums, to get additional feedback on the Artist Professional Development Grant program. This group also helped to co-create a new pilot program involving paid community Navigators who would be able to build connections with additional artistic and community groups. Navigators will help guide creatives through the grant process, as well as provide connections with additional business, educational and professional development resources.
The goals and objectives for year 2 of the Equity Action Plan are to build upon the foundations laid in 2021 and 2022.
- Development of “Full-Time Artist” Program (full program)
- Board/Staff/Community Gathering
- Courageous Conversations
- Restorative Justice Training
- Impact Call with the Community to give updates on Racial Equity work and how funds
were/are allocated with the board presiding.
- Pilot Ambassador Program
- Identify 3-4 Coaches for Artist
- Monthly Equity Newsletter
- Partner with artist organizations in Baltimore, D.C., Harrisburg, Lancaster, Philadelphia, and other surrounding areas
- Hire additional staff of color (total of 2)
- Use expanded definitions of “art” and “culture” to plan 2 community events.
- 50% of Staff are BIPOC
- Evaluate “Full Time Artist” program to understand it's success and impact.
- Develop Cultural Alliance of York Equity Curriculum
○ Required for staff, board, and grant recipients
- Complete a new Racial Equity Assessment to track growth and impact
- Launch Full Ambassador Program
- Master Classes on different art forms
To strengthen our skills in the practice of equity and intercultural competency at a transofrmational level, we will need experts to provide deep learning at both the individual and organizational levels.
We have dedicated resources to contract three local professionals who have been directly engaged in and providing training in this work for the duration of 2020, and into February of 2021. They are:
Rev. Carla Christopher-Associate Pastor of Faith Formation and Outreach at Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd
Poet-Activist and Reverend Carla Christopher, is a former Poet Laureate of York, Pennsylvania (2011 – 2013) and was the 2014 Arts and Cultural Community Liaison for the City of York. Carla studied psychology, education, and creative writing at Columbia University in the City of New York and spent years as an educator and case manager in domestic violence shelters, state prison systems, and school districts before connecting her belief in the power of the written and spoken word with her passion for activism. She is a frequent teacher, speaker, and workshop leader on diversity and cultural competancy.
Melissa Plotkin, local inclusion and diversity specialist
Melissa directed the I.D.E.A.S. Center for the York JCC for two years in addition to leading the JCC’s Diversity department for seven of its 25 year span. She managed the Center, a central hub for diversity and inclusion information, training and resources. While at the JCC, Melissa also coordinated the strategic planning process, benchmarking and conducted public relations for the agency.
Melissa completed the Foundation and Applied Skills Workshop for the Cultural Bridges to Justice Racial Justice Institute. She co-facilitates Leadership for Diverse Schools (a collaboration with Leadership York), a yearlong course for teachers, school staff, administrators and board members.
Melissa continues to serve on several school district’s Diversity committees, is a member of the Leadership York Board of Directors, the YWCA Racial Justice committee and was the former President of the York Suburban Communities That Care. She has a history of active engagement in the greater York community.
Dr. Monea Abdul-Majeed
Dr. Monea Abdul-Majeed has over 15 years of experience in organizational leadership, statistical analysis, training, project management, and professorship. She received her bachelor’s degree in sociology and politics from Washington and Lee University in 2004. In 2010, she earned her doctoral degree in Sociology and Political Science from Howard University, where her concentration was Social Inequality (Race, Gender, and Ethnicity) and Urban Sociology. Abdul-Majeed was a federal government employee at the U.S. Census Bureau from 2001-2016. During her tenure there, she worked in many different areas including Ancestry and Ethnicity, Workforce Development, Job Rotation, Organizational Climate, Poverty and Health Insurance Estimates, and Risk Management.
We could not have made progress in this work without the guidance of Dr. Monea Abdul-Majeed. Dr. Monea has over 15 years of experience in organizational leadership, statistical analysis, training, project management, and professorship. It was our privilege to work with her this past year as she created safe spaces for honest conversation and feedback.
You can find more about Dr. Monea T. Abdul-Majeed on her website: