Spotlight on The Mockingbird Society
The Difference Makers series highlights PayNW clients who are going above and beyond in creating diverse, inclusive, and equitable workplaces. Consider applying the ideas highlighted here to your own organization!
The Mockingbird Society is an advocacy organization that was founded to provide meaningful opportunities for youth across Washington state, focused on improving the foster care system and viewing this effort as the social justice effort that it is.
PayNW is strongly inspired by the Mockingbird Society’s work – as well as what it’s doing to lead by example in terms of equity initiatives. We reached out to Associate Director of Learning Culture, Amy Nickum and Controller, Kal Jackson to dig in further about their commitment to racial equity, how they approach diversity in hiring, and more.
Since launching with the newspaper The Mockingbird Times in 2000, The Mockingbird Society’s work has expanded to include working with foster families and child-placing agencies to improve outcomes for both foster kids and foster parents.
Given a clear link between experience in the child welfare system and homelessness, Mockingbird also began addressing issues around youth homelessness in 2013. As part of this initiative, Mockingbird works in tandem with teenagers and young adults who have experienced foster care or homelessness, advocating to change the policies, perceptions and practices that stand in the way of every young person having a safe and stable home.
“Disproportionality is really big in the foster care system, even though BIPOC people represent a small portion of the population, they are overrepresented in the foster care system,” said Amy.
Alongside its dual efforts in youth development and systems reform, one of Mockingbird’s long-term goals and current priorities is to foster inclusion internally as well.
The Mockingbird team felt it was vital to have racial equity at the core of its organization, leading its vision and mission to the degree that the organization requires a race equity statement to be hired. If the applicant does not submit a statement – about how its candidates see race equity and bring that into their work – they won’t be considered in the applicant pool.
“I want our workforce to look like the people that we serve,” Amy said. “So, that means really reaching out and finding those candidates. We don’t want to have tokenism and boxes that we just tick off – we want to be doing the work. Instilling it policy-wise makes it so it’s not just driven by one person or a committee.”
The work doesn’t stop once new team members are on-boarded with The Mockingbird Society; the organization offers various initiatives and events focused on fostering inclusion, such as its “Mockingbird Song” tool that can be used for further professional development and training, as well as a presentation from a group called the Equity Consortium focused on healing through difficult transitions.
Pay equity is also an area that the organization knows needs addressing in order to live up to its principles and lead by example.
When asked what their long-term equity goal are, Kal stated: “We are currently in the process of working on equitable pay and what that looks like. My long-term goal is to set that pay scale to be equitable across the board. It’s an uphill battle, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
This type of focus on diversity and equity—whether in terms of hiring, payment or reforming the lives of a generation of children in need—is music to our ears at PayNW and inspires us to always look at how we can be making a difference, inside or outside our organization.
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