Cultural Diversity Resources

Report date
March 2016

What has been most instrumental to your progress?

The establishment of the Multicultural Alliance (MA) of partnership among three nonprofits with Cultural Diversity Resources (CDR) was vital and instrumental to making progress for ownership, continuity, accountability, and sustainability. This partnership was a result of regular interactions, meetings and training where all community partners learned more about the cultures, issues, needs and challenges encountered by its ethnically diverse clients. Partners were increasing not only their awareness and understanding of the role and benefits of collaborative efforts, they also had direct experiences in sharing and learning from one another, working together to problem solve and making joint decisions to develop and implement activities (e.g. using bilingual educators to conduct English classes for individuals with limited English proficiency during weekends, using college and community volunteers to assist with after-school tutoring, sewing and knitting). At the same time, through ongoing communication and connections, the partners were building trust trust and relationships for teamwork towards positive changes.
The co-sharing of facilities, financial and human resources among the four nonprofit partners resulted in measureable and tangible outcomes which increased efficiency, effectiveness and productivity in programs and services to meet increased clients’ needs. The Alliance partners have accessibility to more facilities in Fargo and Moorhead for meetings, training and activities, shared staff expertise and volunteers, office resources (e.g. supplies, fax and copier) and received financial support to further enhance and increase sustainability of the work of four community partners. The natural evolution and inclusion of only four nonprofits (out of ten nonprofits) in this Alliance at the early stage of the Community Innovation project was helpful to making progress with partners with collaboration readiness. These four partners demonstrated readiness for partnership through their openness and flexibility to ideas and change, active participation, showed support and responsibility to follow through with their tasks.
All partners have different strengths and challenges based on their history, financial and human resources. CDR has 22 years of service while its three partners are smaller and newer nonprofits with fewer resources but they have leaders and volunteers with language and cultural competencies to connect and serve growing numbers of New Americans and minorities. They are accessible, open to provide transportation, social support and other resources through their ethnic communities. Consequently, MA partnership made progress by tapping into those strengths.

Key lessons learned

With its 22 years of nonprofit experience, CDR can assist its ‘younger’ Alliance partners to recruit, train and retain its leaders, board and volunteers who provide important direct services and resources for their communities without language and cultural barriers. However, they need knowledge and skills on many aspects of nonprofit management and fund development which helps to compete with other nonprofits for funding and community support to further its mission. CDR will organize training workshops on these nonprofit issues to prepare the ethnically diverse leaders and volunteers to better serve its clients and to sustain its work for the long haul.
Multicultural Alliance partnership requires ongoing sharing, learning, and connecting among its members. Collaboration success factors involve persistence, hard work, flexibility, trust, openness to ideas and change. One organization joined and then left MA since it was interested to remain independent. Other nonprofits were more interested in doing their own programs rather than collaborating on common projects. This may be viewed as failure but it is best to include only nonprofits who demonstrated collaboration readiness.
Second key lesson learned is to include funding for Multicultural Alliance (MA) members in the collaboration to provide motivation, good staffing and resources for our community partners. Collaboration success includes the sharing of information, resources and funding so that there is reliable and good staffing to accomplish SMART (specific, measureable, attainable, realistic and timely) goals which may not be feasible with total reliance on volunteers. MA was resourceful in the co-sharing of facilities for meetings, training and activities as well as sharing staffing, volunteers and resources (e.g. office supplies, printing ) which both empower the MA members and increased efficiency and productivity.
Since time, efforts and resources were focused on capacity building, education and training on collaboration attitude and skills and relationship building among MA members, the original plan for community forums to include funders and other community stakeholders were not feasible until the Alliance partners were established themselves with specific work plans and SMART goals.
The motivation and enthusiasm of the nonprofit leaders and their clients to empower themselves to move towards social and economic self-sufficiency. Teamwork is creative through group synergy. Social entrepreneurship projects such as community gardening and sewing were put forward by the clients from Alliance members at New American Development Agency and Bridgepointe Community Association. Sewing classes started on a small scale a few months ago and planning for a community garden is in place to start in spring 2016. It is hoped that the vegetables and its cooked byproducts could raise some funds from sale at farmer’s markets and other approved location.
Working with several community partners creates group synergy and creative ideas. This leads to the exploration of special events fundraising in serving lunch or dinner with samples of ethnic food items or snacks prepared by ethnic cooks from diverse countries. Revenue from the sale is reinvested into nonprofits’ programs and services which is another way to diversify funding to sustain the work of Alliance members. CDR’s director is attending training sessions to explore social entrepreneurship or small business ventures.

Reflections on the community innovation process

All aspects of the community innovation process model is useful to follow as a general guide - identify need, increase collective understanding of the issue, generate ideas, and implement solutions – resulting in effective, equitable and sustainable solutions to meet community needs. Our Community Innovation project was to “foster capacity building and partnerships among cross-cultural community stakeholders to eliminate racial and socio-economic disparities.

It was vital to be inclusive to involve leaders and clients from ethnically diverse nonprofits or groups and key community stakeholders to share and identify the issues, needs and challenges. One major goal was to foster collaboration among these ethnic nonprofits to work together on common projects/activities to minimize duplication and maximize the usage of limited resources for collective impact. Hence, it was important to educate our participants on the role and benefits of collaboration and what it involves (e.g. joint problem-solving, decision making and shared accountability).

Progress toward an innovation

One important breakthrough in addressing our community need is training, mentoring and empowering more community leaders and volunteers with no cultural, language and racial barriers to serve their community members in need. CDR works with traditional agencies who request bilingual interpreters to help their social workers, case workers etc. who are working with increasing numbers of refugees or new Americans with limited English proficiency. It will great for theze agencies to hire qualified staff who are also bilingual or to partner with Multicultural Alliance (MA) members to use their bilingual staff and volunteers to serve these LEP individuals.
The reallocation of funding from one full time community liaison for CDR to having community liaisons/connectors for the community partners serve the goals of the Community Innovation project better. Tapping into bilingual community workers is effective, equitable and sustainable to meet the needs of growing numbers of clients with limited English proficiency. CDR’s Community Resource Manager helps to increase the project’s publicity with the inclusion of Alliance members and their

What it will take to reach an innovation?

Not all aspects of the innovation were achieved and additional work would require planning for collaborative efforts in future grant application and fundraising so that MA partners can develop a budget to meet the needs of partners. Funding would mean that staffing can be hired to support and work with all Alliance members and volunteers. Work will continue to improve common projects together while adding more community partners and their clients to share and collaborate to increase efficiency and productivity. More work is needed to invite other key community stakeholders, local funders and potential individual and corporate contributors to learn more about our innovative project as well as fostering partnerships and contracts to meet community needs. A formal mentorship program will be developed to allow professionals to provide guidance and coaching to leaders, board members and volunteers to learn about best practices in nonprofit management and community service fostering a culture of growth and leadership. MA will seek subcontracting with University of MN and University of ND Extension to work on SNAP-Ed, youth and family programs to meet community needs.

What's next?

CDR has applied to continue Community Innovation Project considered to be in Phase 1 to continue into Phase 2 which will strengthen the leadership and community building with innovative ideas such as : (1) leadership, volunteer and community organizing, training and mentorship to increase and strengthen the community’s social and human capital, (2) mobilize community partners to collaborate through various opportunities and activities to increase learning, and living working skills through women’s activities ( e.g. health, food and nutrition classes) and youth activities (e.g. 4-H and soccer) and, (3) social entrepreneurship in community gardening, sewing and special fundraising events.

Key activities implemented to foster leadership and growth include: training and mentorship of more ethnic leaders and volunteers to serve thus reducing cultural and language barriers; establish steering committee to oversee common goals, activities and work plans to minimize duplication, increase efficiency and productivity; form taskforces on community gardening and sewing to achieve social and economic self-sufficiency; establish fund development committee for joint grant applications.

If you could do it all over again...

Knowledge and training on ‘Wilder Collaboration Success Factors’ to use as a guide about what factors will influence or determine collaboration success. Have each community partner, involved in the Community Innovation Project; complete a self-assessment of their organization which will increase their awareness and understanding about the do’s and don’ts on collaboration and what needs to be done for success.

Secure and allocate funding to be shared with a number of community partners for at least three years. This will give us more time, energy and resources to do a variety of things: (1) strategic planning to incorporate Alliance members’ common vision, mission and goals and, (2) joint grant application and implement fundraising efforts to sustain the Community Innovation project for the long haul.

One last thought

Having a staff person with expertise on website and using all forms of social media (e.g. Face book, Twitter, Instagram etc.) are valuable for publicity and interaction among innovation project partners and the general public.
It will be great if Bush Foundation will consider establishing a ‘Community Innovation & Collaboration Advisory Council ‘ with expertise and consultants to develop a framework, policy, resources and sustainable development goals to assist small and new nonprofits who provide direct services to their ethnically diverse and low income communities. Contracts could be given to ‘established’ nonprofits with expertise and resources to serve as a trainer, mentor and coach for these small nonprofits who can be empowered to learn and serve their ethnic and low income clients directly with more efficiency and productivity. Through this Community Innovation Project, Cultural Diversity Resources is gradually serving the role as a trainer, mentor and coach for ethnic leaders, staff and volunteers from smaller and new ethnic-based organizations to meet the needs of the increased population with racial, social and economic disparities.