Meeting You Where You Are: Diversity in Our Values

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It doesn’t really matter where I grew up, how I grew up or how I view the world. Sure, it matters to me, because my background has shaped my life, my views and my passions. But when I work in an industry serving our community’s most fragile and often most neglected residents, my story does not matter.

What does matter is that we – myself and everyone I work with at CICOA Aging & In-Home Solutions – meet our clients where they are, regardless of where we’ve been. This means understanding THEIR culture and THEIR needs. This is easier said than done, because whether you want to admit it, we all have biases. Let’s start there and then move forward.

We’re moving forward in a very strategic and intentional way to ensure CICOA is meeting the needs of older adults, regardless of their skin color, their culture or whether they are 63 or 110. Consider this: The older adults that CICOA serves span six decades and three generations, from the Greatest Generation (born 1901-1924) to baby boomers. In addition, our aging population is becoming more diverse. According to the Administration for Community Living, the number of older adults from minority populations is expected to rise by 217 percent over the next few decades.

So how do we meet this growing, diverse need? I am excited about the changes we’ve made and the changes that are coming.

Core values

CICOA has become more intentional about incorporating diversity in our core values. That includes understanding that every individual is unique. We are committed to honoring an individual’s differences, whether it’s race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs or other ideologies.

It is about understanding each other and doing more than “tolerating” someone who is “different” from us. CICOA’s values include embracing and celebrating everyone. 

Workforce recruitment and collaboration

When I have opportunities to speak to organizations and individuals in the community, I often hear the question: “Tauhric, help us understand why our care managers don’t look like us?”

Hiring is tough right now for lots of industries, including ours. CICOA’s goal is to have a workforce that mirrors the demographics of our clients, so we’ve got to get creative and rethink how to recruit the best talent for our organization.

For example, 4 percent of the clients we serve are Hispanic, but CICOA’s team is only 1.5 percent Hispanic. To address that, we’re building relationships in the Latinx communities and collaborating with organizations that can help us recruit among that demographic.

We are working on a partnership with Martin University, a predominantly Black university, with a grant from the Lilly Foundation to offer paid internships to students pursuing careers in social services. Our goal is to bring Martin University students in as interns with the expectation that when they graduate, they will be acclimated to our mission, our values and processes, and we’ll have a job waiting for them.

This all goes back to the goal of meeting our clients where they are, and in part, that means we need to have employees who look like them and who speak their language.

Diversity in age

Diversity and inclusion are multi-faceted and go deeper than skin color. Think of age differences. As previously mentioned, the older adult population we serve spans six decades, from those in their 60s to some who are 110+ years old.

We can’t suggest that a 90-year-old client contact us via email or assume that someone who is 60 has a driver’s license. We should make no assumptions. Instead, we’ve got to be attentive listeners and ask the right questions starting with: What are your goals? What are you worried about? Tell me about your background? What does quality of life mean to you?

That’s what really matters.

CICOA President and CEO Tauhric Brown
Tauhric Brown

As President and CEO, Tauhric Brown uses his strategic vision and experience in the elderly and disability service industry to expand CICOA services and collaborative partnerships to better meet the needs of the vulnerable populations we serve. Before joining CICOA, Brown served as the chief operating officer for Senior Services, Inc. in Kalamazoo, Mich. His career started in the U.S. Army, and then he became a successful owner/operator for a multi-carrier wireless retail company. Inspired by his family and upbringing, he made the switch to the nonprofit world to fulfill his dream of improving the lives of others.

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