Episode 15: The Value of Partnership

We’re back in the studio with the Community Collaborative series’ fifteenth episode, where our hosts are joined by some of Arizona’s inspirational change-makers and leaders. In this week’s episode, we continue the conversation surrounding diversity and inclusion efforts being made throughout the state in local businesses, communities, and beyond. 

Specifically, in this episode, we dive into the value of partnership in creating a more significant impact for long-lasting empowerment. There’s no doubt that our lives have shifted over the past year, but the conversation in this episode proves it is still possible to achieve progress with the right actions. As always, these conversations serve both as inspirational and educational, reminding us that change is possible if we come together. 

Community Collaborative co-host/producer and Black Chamber of Arizona CEO Robin Reed is back with co-host/producer and Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce CEO Monica Villalobos to guide today’s conversation. The conversation focuses on how long-lasting and impactful change is possible through action and coming together. The good news is that no more than ever younger generations want, and “demand” change and have set a high bar for diversity and inclusion efforts and expectations (2:22). 

In this episode, Reed and Villalobos are joined by not one but two featured guests who help explain how we can help meet those high expectations. Listen as they touch upon essential topics with Shawn Pearson, the Zion Institute founder, and Sean Connolly, Assistant Chief at the Phoenix Police Department and its Community Engagement and Organizational Development Division. Together, they exemplify how powerful partnerships can be on a mission for change. They share how they forged a powerful, solutions-based partnership to impact and empower our local community.

Additionally, the week includes memorable conversations with two of our local partners. Jackie Hunter, Sr. Director of diversity and inclusion and talent pipeline at Banner Health, leads the discussion on the importance of diversifying the talent pipeline and how increasing representation greatly impacts feelings of connection. Additionally, Jason Paprocki, Chief Operating Officer at Arizona Federal Credit Union, returns to share his insight regarding the power of coming together to make a change.

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Pearson joins the conversation to share how her work with the Zion Institute has helped strengthen the local community in South Phoenix, specifically with the school-to-prison pipeline. She explains how it all began with intentionality and a leap of faith by implementing a community resource rescue in the form of childcare for minority and struggling populations (18:24). 

She discusses how this initiative shined a light on the disparities minority children face in an education system that stereotypes them into the “school-to-prison pipeline” due to “lack of cultural competence.” Pearson and the Institute have been working to battle systematic shortcomings by supporting both children and families as a way to better prepare future generations for success (18:58).

It’s about supporting the network around the child, Pearson stresses. She calls for the need for more guidance and resources to make the change for future generations. With more direction and resources, the gaps between communities can begin to shrink and steer more children toward success and away from incarceration (19:40). 

Pearson describes how partnering with the Phoenix Police Department allowed for a more solution-based approach (20:14).  She further explains how this partnership highlighted the need not only for top-down buy-in at an organization but from individuals who are actively part of the community “to [help] humanize both sides”  (21:24). These “shared values initiatives” can help get younger generations involved in changing these systems. 

Chief Connolly jumps in to express the importance of relationships between the community and community leaders, like law enforcement. “We have to be a reflection of our community as we serve,” he says, explaining that “answers are in the community”  (22:35). Once leaders understand the importance of these relationships and partnerships, change will start taking root. 

“There’s [a] tremendous amount of work to do,” he states, emphasizing the need for leaders to lean into community relationships (24:22). He exemplifies the power in these relationships and how they can build toward solutions by outlining the power and impact his work with Pearson and the Zion Institute has been. 

Connolly details how the handling of recent events, like the death of George Flloyd, further solidifies the need for “transparent conversations” and collaborations (25:36). Pearson agrees for this need for commitment between these partnerships, noting the need to showcase a “commitment” to the solution-oriented initiatives and partnerships as a way to model for others in the community. “Integrity matters,” she says, “because it doesn’t change until we can change the generations after us” (27:00).

The panel concludes by both Pearson and Connolly sharing tangible wins from their relationship to highlight the power of joining forces to make a change. “We can’t choose our color or culture, but we do choose our character,” she points out. “Humanization” is a big part of it, Connolly expresses (29:50).

The Power Of Belonging

Hunter kicks off the conversation with an emphasis on the power of the hiring pipeline when it comes to promoting diversity. “Representation matters,” she reminds us, emphasizing that diversity goes beyond race. More so, diversity must be considered all across the board within any company (4:36). 

There is a need for more diversity, especially in the realm of healthcare. Thankfully, there “has been more light shown on [the issues of lack of diversity]” this year, she says. Hunter shares her own experience with lack of diversity and how that has inspired her to push for more diverse representation for all (6:05). 

There is a lot of data out there regarding the power of diversity when breaking barriers and increasing feelings of connection. Hunter highlights how much awareness of this data and the implications of diversity and representation play a role in that relational aspect of any situation, whether it be between a boss and employee or provider and patient (8:43). 

There’s also a piece of education and awareness when it comes to decreasing the diversity gap. “It’s important to make sure we educate ourselves,” Hunter points out, explaining how education can allow you to advocate for other, perhaps more vulnerable, members of the community with these issues (10:38). She uses the recent COVID-19 vaccine as a powerful example of what this educational component means for communities today. 

Villalobos echoes Hunter’s thoughts on the importance of advocating for yourself and others, emphasizing how feeling comfortable and connected in a situation can open the door for more forms of advocacy (11:48). 

Reed shares a staggering statistic regarding the disparities in health care for African American communities, showcasing just how much lack of choice and representation impacts the individual (12:55). Diversity, or lack thereof, impacts relationships and cultures, Hunter adds (14:20).

Actions We Can All Take

Paprocki of Arizona Federal Credit Union joins us as our Rally Point Partner to express how organizations can join together to increase their impact on diversity, equity, and inclusion (16:35). He shares the following reminders for how you can take steps toward that collaboration in your organization and community:

  • – Reach out and connect with leaders and businesses involved in making a change to learn and share best practices in the space of diversity and inclusion. 
  • – The faster and better we can all work together, the better and stronger the community will be. 
  • – You do not have to initiate change on your own. Connecting with those with similar missions of inclusion can help all those involved learn and grow. 
  • – Connect with those you see making an impact, like the leaders and guests on this show, via LinkedIn to start the conversation and take a step toward moving the dial in the right direction.

If change is the goal we are after, we all must understand our role in getting there. This episode serves as a reminder that diversity and inclusion initiatives are bigger than any single incident, initiative, or organization. Together we can make a change.

There is a need to shift the system, Villalobos concludes, emphasizing that it starts by taking action. Reach out to your legislation, she suggests. Remember, these partnerships and ally ships aimed at the greater good for all are imperative to moving the needle forward. There is a need for transparency and shared responsibility if change is going to happen, Reed adds  (38:18). Consider what you can do to start taking action and building change-making partnerships today. 

About The Community Collaborative

Community and business leaders and individuals who want to educate themselves on diversity issues will find the series informative and educational. And anyone who wishes to get involved will have ready access to resources featured in each program.

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