United Way of Southwest Michigan relaunches 21-day equity challenge

SOUTHWEST MICHIGAN — Following the success of its first 21-day Equity Challenge last September, United Way of Southwest Michigan is relaunching the interactive digital program for individuals to deepen their understanding of and willingness to confront racism, starting on Jan. 18, Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

The Equity Challenge got its start with the recent release of the Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed and Black Households Data that United Way officials said illustrates the inequities that are deeply rooted in national, state, and local systems and institutions. United Way of Washtenaw County successfully issued the Equity Challenge, engaging over 5,000 participants in January this year. The Michigan Association of United Ways adapted the challenge with the support of leaders across the Michigan United Way network, and now United Ways across the state plan to follow their lead.

For 21 days, participants receive an email “prompt” with a short reading or video or audio file. Participants are encouraged to take about 10 to 15 minutes each day considering the material in the prompt. Extra resources are provided in case they want to dig further into the day’s topic.

The daily prompts will explore many different facets of racism and how they intersect with other social and economic issues, as well as provide guidance on building a race equity culture and becoming an ally. The prompts also offer tools for the racial equity change process and ways to take action in the community.

UWSM officials said they are proud to once again give the community an opportunity to take a self-guided learning journey to learn about the history and impacts of racism and how it has shaped the lives of people in southwest Michigan while inspiring participants with resources and tools to build racial equity in their work and lives.

Like last time, people from all over southwest Michigan will participate in the Equity Challenge, coordinated by United Way of Southwest Michigan to raise awareness, shift attitudes, and change outcomes.

New this time, participants can preview the challenge with a “five-day warm-up” before committing to the challenge.

“The five-day warm-up provides insight into the full scale 21-Day Equity Challenge, and it is our hope that after the warm-up individuals and organizations will be eager to sign up to participate in the full challenge,” said Anna Murphy, president and CEO of United Way of Southwest Michigan. “As an organization, we are committed to understanding and undoing racism in our community. By taking the challenge, made up of small daily email prompts delivered each morning, we can all easily participate in this transformative effort.”

More than 800 people throughout Berrien, Cass, and Van Buren Counties signed up for the challenge last September — and 75 percent had a 100 percent completion rate.

“We are not the experts in this space, and we are not owning this work, but we want to come alongside individuals, nonprofits, and businesses in this journey of learning,” Murphy said. “We invite individuals, nonprofits, and business to join us and bring along staff, boards, and even customers.”

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