A couple of weeks ago, I was honored to attend the Neighborhood Funders Group (NFG) in Oakland, California, to speak about the work we are doing in Dubuque to advance equity and inclusion. NFG’s mission is to build capacity in philanthropy to advance social justice and community change.
Throughout the conference, I was struck by the fact that most of the conversations about equity have an urban or big-city context. While Dubuque may seem urban as compared to most of Iowa, and shares some of the benefits and challenges of an urban city, it most certainly is not urban compared to the cities we always hear about on the news. So I was proud to share the story of Inclusive Dubuque, which is really the story of a rural community’s commitment to equity and inclusion.
Our city’s journey begins like many other small Midwest cities and towns: a mostly white community experiencing rapidly changing demographics and discovering the need to attract its future workforce in a global economy. Our journey differs from many others, though, because Dubuque has taken a proactive approach to creating an equitable and inclusive community. Partners came to the table at a time when it was not comfortable to talk about this type of work.
Our community formed a network with representation from many different sectors, with folks from all kinds of backgrounds, called Inclusive Dubuque. Network members have aligned around a set of principles and defined what diversity, equity and inclusion means to our community. We have studied the way equity plays out in Dubuque and listened to residents to learn when and where they felt included, and when they didn’t. We have started to take steps to make change, address the challenges, and advance equity and inclusion.
Our city’s journey is just beginning and there are many challenges ahead. We have started to put in place the support, the safe spaces, the facts, and the commitment to make change in the systems that serve our community. We have begun to build our capacity to advance justice and social equity, and I am grateful to be a part of a community that is willing to take a proactive approach to this important work.