Published November 15, 2023 | Updated November 15, 2023 | 3 minute read
New York City is home to the nation’s largest school district, NYC Public Schools, with over 1,800 schools serving over a million students. This complex institution sought August’s partnership to help its 7,000 central office employees develop their fluency and skills around diversity, equity and inclusion.
We were proud to partner with NYC Public Schools in this vital work. Operationalizing equity and inclusion is one of our core values at August, and we believed that our tangible practices and intersectional lens would provide critical support to the institution’s efforts.
The Challenge: A Lack of Diversity in the Leadership Pipeline
NYC Public Schools’s central office came to August because it was committed to cultivating greater breadth, depth, and diversity in its leadership talent pool. This was an important component of the organization's ongoing effort to realize its biggest ideas around the importance of equity and inclusion, and to reflect the vibrant diversity of its student population and the city at large.
To help reconcile this discrepancy between its biggest ideas and its daily reality, NYC Public Schools sought August’s partnership to design and facilitate a leadership development program that would expand, strengthen, and diversify its pool of leadership candidates.
Our shared goal was to create new opportunities for aspiring leaders, especially aspiring leaders of color, to build their leadership skills and qualify for more senior roles.
The Strategy: Transform Individuals to Transform the Organization
Our program was met with enthusiastic interest among NYC Public Schools employees. We received over 700 applications, from which we selected 80 aspiring leaders to participate in our 4-part course. Participants hailed from different areas and levels of the organization, which maximized the training’s ripple effect as they returned to their departments and embedded new practices within their teams.
Each three-hour session focused on developing essential DEI practices for emerging leaders. Given our group’s high cultural exposure to introductory DEI concepts in the wake of George Floyd, we designed our course to take the conversation to the next level. Each 3-hour session was constructed as a brave space for deeper examination of the concepts that underpin diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging. Participants learned to relate these concepts to their own identities in a vulnerable yet empowered way, and acquired antiracist practices they could deploy on a daily basis within their teams to activate change.
The Impact: Empowering the Next Generation of Diverse Leaders
August’s leadership training course created a space where participants felt safe to embody the personal and interpersonal challenges of equity & inclusion, and to practice language and tactics for dismantling systemic oppression within themselves and within the group dynamics they’re a part of.
These 80 aspiring managers returned to their daily work newly equipped with the skills to thrive as leaders. They are confident in regularly fostering equity, inclusion and belonging with their teams, leveraging a community of support, and effectively navigating the complexity of NYC Public Schools to get work done and achieve their goals.
One participant reported that in 35 years of working with NYC Public Schools, he had never spoken up about issues of equity and inclusion – but after participating in our leadership training program, he now felt equipped to take action when needed.
In the words of another participant:
“This time has been so grounding, productive, and transformative! From the facilitators, the organizers, the coaches and participants – we all participated in some magic!”
Pre- and post-course survey results showed a significant increase in participant confidence in managing others and interrupting inequity. Participants also reported a stronger understanding of the role of a leader in influencing a working environment that fosters diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.
August and NYC Public Schools: Fostering Inclusion Through Daily Leadership Habits
Operationalizing big ideas around equity and inclusion is one of the defining challenges of the modern workplace. August offered a practical and empowering way to navigate that challenge, by helping aspiring leaders within NYC Public Schools learn to shift their habits and mindsets in order to foster a culture of belonging.
Participants were challenged, in an appropriate and safe way, to bring their understanding of diversity, equity and inclusion to the next level. They emerged from our training with the practices, skills and vocabulary to manifest these big ideas in their daily work, moving NYC Public Schools many steps closer to its vision for diverse and inclusive leadership.