Pierce County Community Engagement Task Force redefines outreach
Conversations about equity, diversity and inclusion are important. But access and accountability are what build and sustain communities.
The Pierce County Community Engagement Task Force is putting words into action to bring much-needed assistance directly to communities and help build more equitable organizations.
“We need to stop talking about diversity, equity and inclusion and rewriting strategic plans,” said Tamar Jackson, Senior Director of Community Engagement for WorkForce Central and the leader of the Pierce County Community Engagement Task Force. “We need to listen to our communities, then show up and do the work.”
From vision to results
The vision for the Task Force literally woke Jackson from his sleep one night in 2019. It was clear that workforce services and resources were not accessible for everyone. There needed to be a collaborative effort that cast a wider net to serve Pierce County’s individuals and families. And that effort needed to promote trust, build sustainable engagement and ensure no one was pushed aside or left behind.
With the support of the Pierce County Workforce Development Council and WorkForce Central, the Pierce County Community Engagement Task Force was formed. Since its launch three years ago, the group has grown to more than 150 members representing Pierce County businesses, nonprofits, education, interfaith organizations and more. And there’s always room for more. Anyone who shares the organization’s commitment to recognize and address disparities in services and outcomes in the community is welcomed to join.
Using an innovative engagement framework and multi-faceted approach, the Task Force is focused on finding solutions to the toughest workforce challenges. Child care, pay equity and pandemic relief are at the top of their list.
“It’s about coming together to connect, network and learn from one another to serve our community,” Jackson said. “Collaboration is the new currency, and we do that through amazing partnerships. When we wrap a village around each individual and family, we move the needle on poverty and uplift our community.”
The team and its partners have accomplished a lot in just three years, including serving historically underserved communities hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As a workforce development organization, we saw an inflow of federal funding through multiple organizations,” Jackson said. “But the question remained: How do we connect individuals to these pandemic-relief programs? We answered that question with Collaboration for a Cause.”
What began as a single event in Tacoma’s Eastside neighborhood has grown into the largest connection-to-services event in Pierce County. Partnering with Goodwill Olympics & Rainier Region and other community organizations, the Task Force has organized seven Collaboration for a Cause events, served 3,500 individuals and provided $350,000 in donated goods. KING 5’s Evening Magazine spotlighted the most recent event held in April at Puyallup’s South Hill Mall, where more than 200 attendees received clothing and gas cards, and connected with organizations for assistance with employment, education, health care and more.
You can watch the Evening Magazine segment here.
Supporting communities where they are
Each Collaboration for a Cause event is unique. The Task Force works with communities to determine their needs, then mobilizes to provide support and services. For instance, the June 24 Collaboration for a Cause in the City of Fife is for community members currently experiencing homelessness. The event will offer medical and dental services, haircuts, showers, laundry services, employment opportunities, coordinated entry housing, free meals and more. Two additional Collaboration for a Cause events are in the works for the City of Lakewood and Frederickson.
For communities or organizations that come to the Task Force with an outreach project in mind, the support they receive comes with one string attached. They must be willing to do the work.
“We are here to support you, but this is something we need to do together and hold each other accountable,” Jackson said. “You need to show up and be available for those searching for your resources. And we also expect you to show up for other communities being served in the future.”
Building relationships, removing barriers
In addition to Collaboration for a Cause, the Task Force and its subgroups have tallied several other accomplishments over a short span of time, including:
- Creating the Lens of Equity mini-series focused on promoting DEAI (diversity, equity, access and inclusion) within organizations. Adding the “A” into the conversation is critical, Jackson said. DEI is pointless if people don’t have access to opportunities. In early 2023, the Task Force will present the Lens of Equity Summit, a full-day event that provides tools and information to help organizations build healthy DEAI frameworks.
- Collaborating with nonprofits to discuss wage gaps and increase funding to address pay equity.
- Working with community partners to ensure child care and early learning is accessible for all.
- Establishing partnerships with small businesses to develop entrepreneurships.
- Maintaining a list of key employers and educational opportunities to help those on a career pathway.
- Creating a speakers’ bureau that enables organizations and agencies to hear from individuals who have lived homelessness and other challenges.
- Sharing its vision on a national stage. In May, the Task Force was invited to address the 38th annual conference of the National Association of Workforce Development Professionals (NAWDP) in Las Vegas. Their presentation focused on how to promote DEAI-B (Diversity, Equity, Access, Inclusion and Belonging) in workforce development to serve the community, increase access and foster growth.