Equity Commitment » Young Audiences of Oregon & SW Washington

Equity Commitment

Young Audiences has long held equity as a core value of our organization, and in our 2013 strategic plan we elevated equity to an organizational priority, recognizing that in order to maximize our impact, we must focus our resources on the communities with the greatest need. Since then we have worked to clarify our understanding of, focus on, and deepen our commitment to equity in every aspect of the work we do.

From 2017 to 2018 Young Audiences participated in the Racial Equity in the Arts Self-Assessment Learning Circle, facilitated by Arts Workers for Equity. As part of this learning circle, we conducted a self-assessment using the 2014 tool created by the Coalition of Communities of Color. This led us to make an explicit commitment to establish a written policy and measurable actions in service of greater equity in the field of arts education and across every level of our organization.

Leading this initiative at Young Audiences is our Equity Committee. It comprises both staff and board members, with the intent to expand in the future to include other community members; to learn more about joining the Young Audiences Equity Committee, please contact us at youngaudiences@ya-or.org.

The committee’s current goals are outlined below:

  1. Create an equity definition. It was necessary to create a definition of the term “equity” that we could agree on as an organization in order to develop a shared vision of what we are working toward. We looked at examples from other arts organizations, as well as social service and social justice organizations, drawing inspiration (and in some cases, language) from their work, while crafting our own words as well.

    We have completed this definition and include it here:

    Equity is the quality of fairness in treatment, access and opportunity that acknowledges and consistently strives to eliminate the barriers historically faced by underserved, underrepresented and disadvantaged groups. Equity is achieved when everyone gets what they need to be successful.

    Thank you to Americans for the Arts, Grantmakers in the Arts, and the Regional Arts and Culture Council, whose definitions of equity greatly informed our own.

  2. Create an equity statement. This will communicate our aims and values with regard to equity, and direct our actions going forward.

    This is currently what the Equity Committee is working on. It is an important step and we are giving it significant care and consideration.

    The committee has completed a working draft, and we are in the process of inviting stakeholders from our community to review the statement and offer feedback and suggestions; if you are interested in being a part of this review process, please contact us at youngaudiences@ya-or.org. These stakeholders may ultimately include teaching artists, students and families, educators, community leaders, culturally specific organizations and others. We will revise the statement based on the feedback we receive in these discussions, and present a final draft to staff and community members before final approval by the Board of Directors and publication of the statement.

    The committee has decided to direct our current focus to racial equity, and we have completed an additional statement about this decision that will also be reviewed in our community stakeholder discussions.

  3. Create an equity policy. Once we have our equity statement, we will create a longer written policy about equity in our organization. This will be our official code of conduct regarding equity issues and procedures, a statement of our intention and how we will hold ourselves accountable.
  4. Create an equity plan. Based on our equity policy, we will make a detailed, step-by-step plan of measurable actions we will take within a specific time period to improve and maintain equity in our programs, internal infrastructure, and general service to our community.
  5. These important major steps are what the Equity Committee is currently focused on achieving, and they deserve the committee’s dedicated attention. Alongside this process, our staff and board are also planning and implementing new equity-focused programs and practices, as well as continuing those we have already put in motion, and assessing our established programming through an equity lens. We are in dialogue with members of our community about how we can better support their diverse needs and goals, and we are working to build relationships and collaborations with justice-driven groups and organizations in the region.

    We recognize that equity is not just a one-time project, nor is it an isolated practice. Working toward equity requires us to integrate this lens into every aspect of what we do as an organization, and to make an ongoing commitment to our equity work. We are determined to meet these challenges, and we appreciate the continued support and involvement of our community as we undertake this journey together.

    To inquire about Young Audiences’ equity work or Equity Committee, please contact us at youngaudiences@ya-or.org.

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