There was a great post on LinkedIn recently which asked some important questions with respect to the spate of corporate declarations that #BlackLivesMatter following protests of racial inequality this past week. The post, by Laura Silva of Global Tech and Ops,  which can be seen in its entirety here , calls on organizations to do more than just make statements of solidarity and support.  Do the actual work, she says, and “show the receipts“.

While not all of the questions she asks are relevant to our small STEM education and workforce-skills focused nonprofit – like those pertaining to political donations and immigration assistance programs, for instance – many of them are important to ask and consider, especially with respect to growth down the road, when our young nonprofit has matured and our current board has moved on.  We want the Foundation for Community Driven Innovation to have a healthy and inclusive culture that remains long after we’re gone.

Good Questions

So we restated the questions a bit and have put them before our current board to consider and address where needed at our next board meeting and over the course of the rest of the year.    They’re good questions:

  • What does our Executive Leadership Team and company board look like?
  • What do our policies against micro-aggressions look like?
  • What are our diversity guidelines and advancement policies?
  • What are our hiring numbers related to Black people and people of color and our retention results?
  • What does our funding for affinity groups look like?
  • What kind of  community outreach do we engage in?
  • What do our accessibility efforts and guidelines look like?
  • Do we have family paid leave guidelines and child care assistance?
  • Do we have health care plans and mental health assistance programs?

This is a great exercise that gives us an opportunity to both recognize and continue what we’re doing well, and to honestly evaluate areas we can improve upon and make needed changes.

Our Board of Directors & Hiring/Recruitment Policies

Most of Board of Directors

We’ve been working to diversify our small Board of Directors for the last couple of years, and while we have generous representation by women, as we seek to expand the board to seven members we’re trying to be intentional in our goal to establish a board that looks more like the community we serve, and can add some new skill sets and resources to our efforts at AMRoC Fab Lab in Uptown Tampa.

Our bylaws and board policies are clear in our goals of nondiscrimination and diversification of the Board of Directors.  All BoD members agree to the FCDI Code of Conduct and Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion, which has been in place since our founding and guides all of our internal and external interactions and programs.

Affinity Groups 

SHPE students work with our youth robotics students

Some of our awesome community partners – from Prodigy Arts, Bits4Bots and Grow to Greatness Ventures

Most of our Community Partners hail from the University area, where we do the bulk of our work, and include University of South Florida student groups like the National Society of Black Engineers, and the Society of Professional Hispanic Engineers; minority owned companies like eSmart Recycling, and Bits4Bots, LLC; cultural organizations like the Caribbean American National Development Organization and community health agencies like Pioneer Medical Foundation .  We specifically seek to work with organizations and businesses that are at the heart of the community we serve, and who truly represent that community at the most fundamental level.

Community Outreach

ASE-G1 Automotive Repair Certification Test Prep course, with U.S. Auto Training

Our outreach and investments in diversity and racial equity programs are good and getting better.  We’re prioritizing for University area youth, families and individuals in all of our programs, like our automotive repair certification test prep classes, and our recently launched  Equity in Entrepreneurship program at AMRoC Fab Lab, which incorporates an amazing team of mentors from local minority owned businesses and programs.  This month we also kick off community partnership displays in our front window area, starting with CANDO, who is putting together a Caribbean Heritage Month display for us. Each month, we’ll celebrate a different national awareness event , with a focus on STEM and innovation.

One of our ASE-G1 grads

Our First Fridays at the Fab Lab have always been engaging and inclusive.  Our June Virtual First Friday at the Fab Lab is focused on Diversity in STEM Education, and is hosted by Pasco County Agents for Change.  We’re also working with the USF College of Engineering on a summer Women in Engineering program for high school students, and have expanded our in house youth robotics programs to include the VEX teams, which will be part of the FCDI family of STEM education programs, providing more opportunities for area youth to be involved.  Additionally, we now have a  FIRST Americorps VISTA based at AMRoC Fab Lab, specifically engaged in helping bring FIRST programs to the most underserved parts of our community.

Almost all of these projects and programs were not instituted because of recent events, but have been an intentional part of who we are and what we do, and will continue to be, and for which I think it’s important to raise visibility and community engagement.

Corporate Policies and Procedures

Celebrating together with Uptown Tampa friends

Since our board is small, and our paid staff smaller  – the majority of FCDI support comes from volunteers –  we’ve been slow to establish policies and procedures around family leave, child care, and health care. However,these are things all companies should have codified, and we’re reinspired to complete our FCDI Board Manual by the end of the year, with these items and other essentials clearly articulated.

We hope our board and our constituents feel good about the scope of the work we do, with the modest staff and budget we have, and it is our hope that the FCDI Board of Directors will more deeply consider the questions above and ways we might improve in areas where we fall short.

Because however good we are, we can always be better.

Thanks to Ms. Silva for inspiring some healthy self-examination. We hope other businesses and organizations will join in to show their receipts. There’s no more important time than now and no more important occasion to rise to than the one currently before us.