Madison McDaniel, Feedback Labs | April 5th, 2022
Strong feedback loops should promote equity and inclusion of all stakeholders, including the communities an organization intends to serve. Without adequate feedback, it becomes difficult to make the best decisions geared toward the well-being of the people at the heart of an organization’s work. Pace Center for Girls creates opportunities for girls to share their thoughts and opinions about their services in order to cultivate the best overall program experience.
Founded in 1985 with ten girls at one center in Jacksonville, Florida, Pace Center for Girls has since managed to expand its horizon and serve more than 3,000 girls a year at 22 locations across Florida and Georgia. Pace seeks to improve academic and social services, thus focusing on the intersection of socio-emotional health and education while applying a set of gender-responsive, trauma-informed, and strength-based prevention and early intervention practices. Pace understands that the difficulty their girls face in the school system is a symptom of other difficulties in their lives, so Pace aims to address the root of these hindrances while establishing actionable plans for the girls. With the help of education, counseling, training, and advocacy work, Pace girls are able to develop life skills that will prepare them for a better future.
In this LabStorm, Pace shared its framework and experience exploring several feedback challenges where participants had the opportunity to reflect and react to the information. Here are some recommendations that participants made for Pace’s next steps toward power-sharing and equity.
- Promote equity and inclusion for girls. In order to effect measurable change, it would benefit Pace to acknowledge what may get in the way of operationalizing equitable feedback opportunities when working with youth. Many of the girls joining Pace are arriving with trauma from challenging life experiences which could make it more difficult for the girls to trust or listen to staff members. It’s tough to forget past experiences, which may make it challenging for staff to interact with the girls. Respect looks different from culture to culture, therefore attendees suggested that Pace encourage staff to be vulnerable to avoid any mixed signals or miscommunication with consideration to the lived experiences of the girls. Allowing room for them to talk about their feelings/experiences with one another could create a better overall understanding between students and staff while fostering a more equitable and inclusive experience.
- Utilize feedback loops and remove barriers to achieve a vision of equity and fairness. Language is extremely important to young people and can become a barrier when not used effectively. LabStorm attendees made the suggestion to carefully address the wording of their survey questions when asking their girls for feedback. Everything is a matter of interpretation, so Pace should carefully take into account its lexicon to avoid confusing messaging. Additionally, more effective questioning could be centered around what makes them feel treated with respect. Rather than asking whether or not they feel respected within the program, Pace can ask a set of benchmark questions to first identify what the girls consider respect to be. This would create a conversation around the behaviors of Pace staff that make the girls feel a certain way so that there can be a direct point of action and specific changes can be implemented.
- Embed inclusive practices with Pace girls as part of the program experience. A crucial step toward achieving this would be to understand how behaviors manifest themselves in the classroom. An example from an attendee explained how a more quiet student in the classroom may receive less attention from their teacher as a result. Taking these individual factors of the girls into consideration is key when embedding inclusivity, since it may look different from person to person. The girl’s expectations of how they should be treated may also vary depending on how they come into the program. As they each arrive from different homes and situations, it’s possible that their self-image of what they deserve in the world and what they expect differ. With this in mind, Pace needs to cultivate a sense of belonging across its program.
- Shift accountability from funders to Pace girls and their communities. Amplifying the voices of Pace girls to shift existing power dynamics can go a long way when affecting change. It was recommended that Pace seize opportunities to quantify data showing the positive effects of Pace on girls and clearly demonstrate the value of Pace’s work to its funders. Even more so, showing Pace’s influence on policy changes surrounding juvenile and family court systems would do a great deal in empowering girls. Involving them in these discussions could help them realize how much input they have on important decisions. It would be a powerful lesson to show the girls how policies have changed as a result of them sharing their stories.
At the close of Pace Center for Girls’ presentation, they further understood the value of enhancing its understanding of its girls and applying strategies to make this happen. Pace would like to continue to explore the necessity of language and messaging as it pertains to avoiding miscommunication when seeking feedback from its girls. Overall, this Labstorm highlighted the importance of establishing feedback loops to create a greater overall understanding and relationship between organizations and the communities they seek to serve.
Learn More About LabStorms
LabStorms are collaborative problem-solving sessions designed to help organizations tackle feedback-related challenges or share what’s working well in their practice.
Presenters leave the experience with honest, actionable feedback and suggestions to improve their feedback processes and tools.
To learn more about participating in a virtual LabStorm, please visit feedbacklabs.org/labstorms.