Community Diversity Appreciation Teams

This year the Commission launched a new program of assisting communities in starting a Community Diversity Appreciation Team. The purpose of the team is to fight discrimination before it happens, and to be ready to respond with healing action if it does happen. The Commission believes that communities who welcome and appreciate all people will reap benefits--economic benefits for business, educational benefits for children and adults, and quality of life benefits for everyone.

The team model draws on the leadership of the local community to form a working group to address the diversity issues unique to that particular community. Members of the team will usually include the mayor and other government leaders, representatives from the school district, representatives from law enforcement, business leaders, religious leaders, representatives of local advocacy groups, and other concerned citizens. The team will define their issues and form subcommittees to work on each area. Commission staff members are available to facilitate the first meeting of the team and to be a resource.

Several Iowa communities have already formed teams, including Davenport, Storm Lake, Tama-Toledo, and Denison. It is anticipated that several more will be interested in getting started after attending our workshop called "Why Every Community Needs a Diversity Team" at the Second Annual Lt. Governor's Conference on Diversity in the fall of 1995.

The team concept was an outgrowth of the work of the Commission's Hate Crimes Committee. The committee was established to respond to several instances of actual and perceived hate crimes which took place around the state. The committee responded to the incidents by offering support to victims, issuing press releases condemning the incidents, and contacting leaders in the local community to offer assistance and support. These contacts with community leaders helped change our focus to prevention rather than reaction.