Our journey is ongoing
Over the last decade, we’ve deepened our commitment to dismantling patterns of racism and injustice in our educational systems. We’ve also looked internally – at what it means to our staff, our organizational policies, and our processes – to truly center anti-racism in all of our work.
We’ve had some successes, and some messy moments too! We continue to learn and grow with each other. We hope you’ll reach out to ask questions and to join us in this collective effort to build a more hopeful, just and equitable world.
Continually Re-Committing to Equity & Student Success
Our early focus on education inequity has expanded over time, to not only support better outcomes for students, but also to challenge the systemic barriers that lead to racial disparities in the first place.
Blue Engine was founded to advance educational equity. We focused on academic acceleration with the goal of ensuring students graduate from high school with the skills necessary to do well in college and complete postsecondary degrees.
We wrote a “Multicultural Worldview” statement articulating our commitment to understanding why equity work is important and to raising our individual and collective consciousness.
We learned that focusing our work on threshold outcomes only (e.g., college readiness) resulted in some students – usually ones who were already marginalized – being left behind. We were unintentionally perpetuating the very inequalities we sought to address.
We revised our north star of impact to focus on academic gains for all students. We realized that by not actively working to dismantle these unjust systems, we were complicit in maintaining the status quo. So we refreshed our core values to include an explicit commitment to disrupting the root causes of inequity.
We updated our model to help teaching teams expand access for all students, and ensure equity in their classrooms. Specifically, we helped teachers design for students on the margins, including those who live at the intersection of race, socioeconomic status and learning and thinking difference.
We concluded our original AmeriCorps program model, and shifted to focus exclusively on supporting existing teaching teams (e.g., co-teachers). This decision was based in our belief that classrooms are already filled with potential – both student and teacher – and our commitment to dismantling structures that perpetuate inequities.
Looking Inside: Staff and Internal Systems
We continue to do our own work, so that we can more effectively drive change in the world.
Despite our stated commitment to diversity, the majority of our staff was White.
We changed recruitment policies and processes to ensure diverse finalist pools and a competency-based selection process.
Staff surveys showed lower staff perception of inclusion based on an organizational culture lacking transparency.
We began using Promise 54’s Staff Experience Survey to assess current state, monitor progress, and set goals for our DEI initiatives. This is now an annual process to ensure ongoing reflection.
The newly formed leadership team committed to developing and implementing systems and structures that support an increasingly transparent, inclusive, and equitable organizational culture. Staff survey results showed significant improvement in all areas.
Promise 54 featured Blue Engine in a case study that highlights our progress towards building an equitable and inclusive organization.
Blue Engine staff traveled to Montgomery, Alabama to visit The Legacy Museum and The National Memorial for Peace and Justice. The experience was profound and powerful, and served to reinforce our commitment to equity and the role we must all play in disrupting deeply entrenched systems of oppression.
Our talent team conducted our first equity audit, to ensure the same opportunities are available for staff members of color. These audits are now conducted annually ahead of talent decisions, and the findings are transparently shared out.
A working group of staff members developed a three-year DEI goal focused on inclusive decision making that includes multiple stakeholders, particularly those most impacted by those decisions.
We articulated a new revenue model that, over time, will decrease our significant reliance on philanthropy and, instead, rely on funding from the school communities in which we work (i.e., districts, state education departments).
Elevating our Bedrock Value in our work with partners
There’s no such thing as being quietly anti-racist! As we gained clarity on our vision and approach to systemic change and built an equitable and inclusive organization, we’ve begun to embed our beliefs and values into our communications and work with others.
We added a section to our proposals and partner pitches, as well as our onboarding and training materials, about our bedrock value, so that our partners know exactly what we stand for.
We launched Conversations Beyond the Performative, a set of deeply personal, honest conversations with members of our Blue Engine community about their experiences with race, privilege, and power.
We continued to grapple with how to elevate our bedrock DEI value with existing and new partners, acknowledging both the support staff needs in building their capacity to interrupt bias and behaviors as well as the power dynamics that we must learn how to acknowledge and navigate.