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Mel Gravely

Kickstart your Head Start Program’s Diversity Initiatives with Dual Training in Multicultural Principles and DEI&B

At The Gravely Group, we believe that the Multicultural Principles for Early Childhood Leaders and Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging (DEI&B) are two sides of the same coin, ying and yang, night and day. They just go together, like Thelma and Louise or peanut butter and pickles (no, seriously, it’s a thing).  Some of the same policies, programs, plans or procedures that you implement for one, may often be relevant for the other.

That’s why we offer training on both the multicultural principles and DEI&B. For Head Start agencies that are serious about making a positive change when it comes to cultural responsiveness and diversity in their programs, we recommend implementing both trainings as a package. Getting staff in that mindset for a day of purposeful training is a great way to help kickstart those diversity initiatives you’ve been thinking about, leading to a more inclusive and culturally-sensitive environment for families and staff alike.

In this blog, we’d like to discuss why we recommend both the multicultural principles and DEI&B trainings together by outlining ways that they are different and similar, as well as give you a few ideas you can implement in your program over the next year that can help you get closer to your program’s goals.

Before you read further, we recommend reviewing our introductory blogs on the two subjects. First, is our blog on the multicultural principles, where we briefly outline the 10 principles and link to the full document available on ECKLC. And second is our blog on DEI&B, where we talk about the history of DEI&B in the corporate world and how it became a requirement for all federally-funded programs, including Head Start.

How are Multicultural Principles and DEI&B different?

The first way that they’re different is also how long each has been a part of Head Start. The Multicultural Principles has been a part of Head Start since the early 1990s, with a complete revamp in 2008. DEI&B, on the other hand, was not federally mandated until an Executive Order from President Biden in 2021. Of course, diversity initiatives existed within private businesses and government entities long before 2021, but we could only find one mention of DEI on all of ECLKC. Head Start has had at least 15 years to come up with processes and procedures for the multicultural principles, but DEI&B is still a newborn baby by federal policy standards.

The second way that the multicultural principles and DEI&B are different is how the terms are used in the wider world. Multicultural principles is a uniquely Head Start term. It typically refers to how you teach and interact with children and families, both in the classroom and through your family engagement activities. DEI&B, on the other hand, is a concept that comes from the corporate world, and has traditionally encompassed staff, hiring, and internal human resources processes.  If you search DEI&B, most of the results are about HR processes, not about how you serve constituents or customers.  For the purposes of Head Start, however, we use both multicultural principles and DEI&B to refer to all relevant systems and processes that affect both staff and families.

How are the Multicultural Principles and DEI&B similar?

At their most basic levels, both multicultural principles and DEI&B are simply about making sure that all individuals have a place in the community, a seat at the table, and that their opinions and feelings are valued. When we prioritize the principles behind these two frameworks, we are setting the stage for an environment where everyone can feel safe and respected in our programs.

Each initiative uses different words, but the concepts are similar. The key word in multicultural principles is “culture,” where the guiding principle is “every individual is rooted in culture.” However, the 83-page multicultural principles resource document uses the word diversity a lot, as well. “Diversity” appears 19 time pages throughout its pages, with “diverse” appearing an additional 29 times.

The resource document begins, “In a time of increasing cultural and linguistic diversity within communities, it is especially important that Head Start programs develop long-range plans to understand and incorporate key implications of the research into their systems and service delivery.”

On the other hand, “equity”, “inclusion”, and “belonging” do not appear at all, but the subtext for those concepts is certainly there throughout the document.

For example, the document states, “effective Head Start programming requires understanding, respect, and responsiveness to the cultures of all people.”

In my opinion, DEI&B’s overarching umbrella completely encompasses the concepts within multicultural principles, but the multicultural principles is unique in that it frames the discussion specifically around culture, as opposed to some other measure of diversity, such as race, age, ethnicity, or gender.  That’s why both trainings are so complimentary to each other.

What are some ways that your program can incorporate both Multicultural Principles & DEI&B?

It is our responsibility to make sure that we are creating spaces that are safe, nurturing, and respectful so that every person in our program can thrive. As we mentioned above, some of the same policies that you put together for one initiative may be relevant for the other. Let’s look at a few examples.

1. Engage in dual training: As mentioned above, both trainings compliment each other in a way that, when implemented together, can help programs launch transformative change.

2. Build an equity taskforce: Create a team that represents all stakeholders involved in your Head Start program. The team will serve as the driving force behind equity initiatives and can help guide policy changes, decision-making, and program development.

3. Hire staff from your local community: This is particularly important for leadership roles. Make sure that your leadership staff mirrors the cultural diversity of the children and families you serve.

4. Celebrate diversity: Highlight the unique skills and perspectives that each family brings to the table. Acknowledge the ways in which different backgrounds and experiences can enrich our work and help us to solve complex problems.

For more information on DEI&B or Multicultural Principles training for your program, please contact us.

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