Central PA's LGBT News Source
Six months ago, we introduced the LGBT Center’s new Vision, Mission, and Values and 2019-2021 Strategic Plan to our communities. This was the culmination of a year’s worth of work gathering extensive community feedback and formulating that into something compelling and cohesive, and we were proud to share it with you.
However, our work did not stop there - that was really just the beginning, because these are not just glossy pages that sit on a shelf - these are living, breathing documents that guide our work daily, and so I want to give you a peek into what that looks like at the Center.
The purpose of a strategic plan is to intentionally align our efforts and our resources towards specific goals. There are many needs within our communities, and many directions that we could have taken with this, but the four areas that we chose to focus on were what came up over and over again in the community feedback - Community Building, Racial Justice, Mental Health, and Housing.
As an LGBTQ+ movement leader shared at a conference earlier this year, we cannot do everything and we cannot meet every need - we have limited time and resources, so we are making choices all the time about what to prioritize. The key to having a strategic plan is that it becomes the guide so that the choices we’re making are strategic. That is our litmus test for whether to say yes or no to new partnerships, how to prioritize funds for existing programs, and when new programs are needed. It all must align with the plan in order to be a “yes”.
A great example of this for us is Project Silk. If you haven’t heard yet, the LGBT Center is partnering with UPMC Pinnacle, Valley Youth House, and Hamilton Health Center to open a youth drop-in space specifically for LGBTQ+ youth of color in Harrisburg, thanks to funding from the University of Pittsburgh. The Project Silk model is focused on HIV prevention and treatment in a recreational, youth-centered space with programming and wrap-around services. The priority communities for this program are queer men of color and trans women of color.
By the time the drop-in center opens, this project will have been a year in the making. In fact, we initially applied for the grant last August - the same month our Strategic Plan was approved by the Board. That is no coincidence. When this opportunity presented itself, we had our plan to guide us - and Project Silk fit perfectly with our goal and objectives around Racial Justice, building upon the strong youth programs we already had through Common Roads. So we said “yes” - and we’re excited for you to learn more as we launch this program!
Accompanying the strategic plan was our new Vision, Mission, and Values, and even before we rolled them out we were having many conversations about what it means to lead with our values. What does it mean to truly value Safety when competing safety concerns are being shared with us? How do we engage each other with Dignity & Respect while still holding people accountable? What does Intersectionality & Inclusion look like when we are selecting staff and Board members? How do we foster true Collaboration that breaks us out of a scarcity mindset to see the possibilities for partnership?
As these conversations continued, we sought to make these concepts concrete. Every Board meeting starts with a Learning Community segment to better understand different aspects of our values and how they impact our work. Every staff meeting includes discussion on how to dismantle white supremacy in our organizational culture. We turn to our values to inform Board selection, hiring processes, community partnerships, funding needs, and program priorities. In everything we do, we are constantly asking “how does this align with our values?”.
It can be difficult work, peeling back all of the layers of what we’ve been taught to start to discover a different way of doing things. Yet is it liberating, as we catch a glimpse of what might be possible if our “business as usual” is predicated on something radically different. What could happen if the most marginalized among us truly felt safe, respected, included, and collaborated with? How might that change our organizations and our communities?
As we continue to engage these questions around leading with our values and being strategic, we hope you will join us! We want to hear from you as we seek to put these intentions into action, and welcome your feedback and your participation. We are a community center, and we need everyone’s involvement in order to accomplish our goals and embody our values.
Amanda Arbour is the executive director of the LGBT Center of Central PA.