Multicultural Action Center Highlights of 2010
The NAMI National Board of Directors approved the creation of a Diversity and Inclusion Work Group in late 2009 to assist NAMI in sustaining our commitment to the standard practices in diversity, inclusion and nondiscrimination as outlined in NAMI’s Standards of Excellence. Members of the group were appointed in early 2010 and met for the first time in February at the NAMI Leadership Conference held in Baltimore.
The Diversity and Inclusion Work Group represents a cross section of diverse perspectives among NAMI members—individuals living with mental illness and their family members, NAMI state organization or local affiliate staff and volunteers, racial/ethnic groups, sexual/gender minorities, veterans, urban and suburban areas and rural and frontier communities. With this broad range of perspectives, work group members came together throughout the year for open and continuous dialogue to provide guidance and input to the NAMI board.
This guidance began by establishing operating procedures and definitions of diversity, inclusion and cultural competence, the main terms of the group’s work.* A similarly broad definition of diversity was soon after applied to NAMI’s bylaws as a proposed expansion of terms on membership non-discrimination and was approved during NAMI’s national convention, made effective in July.
The group then addressed its charge to recommend policies, procedures and programs to ensure priority of diversity and inclusion for the organization. Work throughout the year focused on creating a baseline evaluation of NAMI’s diversity and inclusion efforts to date by identifying challenges faced by NAMI state organizations and local affiliates to specifically address and current strengths and existing best practices to build upon. A draft report on these themes was submitted to the NAMI board for review and will be addressed in the coming year.
*Definitions of diversity, inclusion and cultural competence adopted by the NAMI Diversity and Inclusion Work Group:
Diversity refers to many demographic dimensions, including, but not limited to race/ethnicity, age, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, disability, education, religion/faith, national/ geographic origin, socio-economic status, language and lived experiences as they relate to the whole person. Diversity encompasses understanding, respecting, embracing, preserving and celebrating experiences, skills and perspectives that are different from our own.
Inclusion: Diverse communities are meaningfully engaged in an organization. An inclusive organization is a safe, trusting environment in which everyone feels they belong and have an equally empowering, impactful and positive experience.
Cultural Competence: is “a set of congruent behaviors, attitudes, and policies that come together in a system, agency, or among professionals and enables that system, agency, or those professionals to work effectively in cross-cultural situations” (Cross et al., 1989; Isaacs & Benjamin, 1991). Cultural competence is the ability to adapt practices/programs to fit the cultural contexts of diverse groups.