Like many organizations and communities, SSP has been taking a careful look at our internal practices, culture, and direction this year. As a historically white-led organization that works closely with marginalized groups and individuals, we know we have often unknowingly and unintentionally upheld harmful white supremacist values in our attempts to do good.
In direct acknowledgment of this and to take productive steps forward, our staff and board have developed a vision for the culture we will foster within the SSP community. This vision is wide-ranging and includes various metrics for training, restorative practices, representation in leadership, and more.
Read our full vision for diversity, equity, and inclusion at SSP:
“SSP believes people experience significant personal growth and transformation through acts of service paired with the opportunity to learn from diverse perspectives. The service experience is focused on community development, benefiting both volunteers and project beneficiaries in reciprocal and intertwined ways. By having a diverse community of participants and leaders, communities are made stronger and individuals are empowered to live out their faith as agents of change for hope.
People from all backgrounds can see themselves as a part of the SSP community; a community that is driven and formed by those who are a part of it. Our board of directors, office staff, program staff, and participants reflect a diverse array of racial, ethnic, religious, ability, age, sexual orientation, socioeconomic, and gender identities which are acknowledged and celebrated. Our programs empower participants, staff, and board members to examine their own identities while challenging their assumptions and building empathy for the experience of others.
‘By having a diverse community of participants and leaders, communities are made stronger and individuals are empowered to live out their faith as agents of change for hope.’
SSP’s programs draw on existing strengths in the communities we serve in order to build stronger, more sustainable communities for the future. Participants from various communities work together to learn new skills, serve others, and share personal stories. Each person is valued, their voice is heard and respected, and has the opportunity to contribute to SSP’s mission in their own unique way. Partner communities are represented in SSP’s participants ranging from volunteers to program staff, and leadership including the Advisory Council and Board of Directors, key decision makers who lead strategic and long range planning.
SSP seeks to create safe spaces for all people who interact with our organization. We ask for feedback frequently, believing that we as individuals and as an organization are constantly learning, growing, and evolving. When there is conflict, all members of the community are equipped with tools to communicate openly their feedback to others, trusting that their experience will be taken seriously. We have a shared language and common understanding that allows us to effectively communicate about issues of equity and inclusion, both within the organization and affecting the communities we work with.
‘SSP seeks to create safe spaces for all people who interact with our organization.’
As a testament of our commitment to making the SSP experience accessible to people from all backgrounds, we have reduced our budgetary reliance on participation fees, devoting significant resources to removing financial barriers for program participants. In the last five years, we have doubled the amount of need-based scholarships for participants, including travel funds. Programs have various entry points for newcomers, fostering an invitational environment.
All SSP leadership take ownership over the advancement of diversity, equity, and inclusion as a part of their job, and are equipped with the tools to interrupt marginalizing behavior and foster welcoming spaces for all. They are trained on an ongoing basis to examine their personal blindspots and biases, knowing that these are the barriers to an inclusive community. We know this is important because historically SSP’s leadership has been predominantly white.”
We also acknowledge with humility that as an organization made up of humans, we will not implement this perfectly. We are grateful for our supportive community, who remains at the heart of our work, as we collectively “spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”
Editor’s Note: Anyone in the SSP community is invited to share feedback on our diversity, inclusion, and equity efforts. Whether a volunteer, staff, parent, homeowner, community partner, donor, alum, board member, or connected to SSP in some other way, we’d like to hear from you. Please complete the DEI survey to share about your experience with SSP.