Instead of sharing content with us, JDAI sent us a reflection full of insights that may be helpful.

Reflections from the JDAI 21-Day Equity Habit Building Challenge

An African Proverb suggest, if you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far form a collaborative committee. The challenge and opportunity of equity calls for collaboration. Because one of the eight core strategies of JDAI is collaborations, we infused this strategy into the design of the 21-day Equity Habit Building Challenge for the network of sites participating in the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI).

Inspired by Dr Moore and Debbie Irving, the challenge was adapted for the juvenile justice audience. For many, the work of justice is more than just work, it’s purposeful work and with such it was impossible to start the challenge without examining “Why” each participant chose juvenile justice work and to ensure the challenge was not just a series of activities. The challenge was a practice-based process to examine and explore in person, role and system what can be done to elevate equity and create muscle and the condition necessary to do equity work and do it well.

The Challenge was launched via the Annie E. Casey’s Foundation social networking platform for JDAI e.g., JDAIconnect. While the challenge was designed for the JDAI community of sites, JDAIconnect is in the public domain and anyone could join. As a matter of fact, many of the JDAI participants invited their non-JDAI colleagues, family and friends. We had participants from across the 39 JDAI states and three other countries.

In using an on-line platform to launch, we encounter many of the traditional snags of technology, but it was well worth it. The on-line collaborative nature of the challenge allowed participants to engage at a deep level. The designed invited reflective question to assist in thoughtfulness needed to interrupt patterns of decision-making that draw children into the justice system.

Each day of the challenge included an introductory video from stakeholders across the JDAI network. These stakeholders were familiar faces that participants trusted and could relate to. We decided against weighing the challenge with racial justice experts from the field, not because they were not credible but to make clear this work can be accomplished by virtually anyone who commits to self-reflection and moving from talk to action. Thought provoking videos were launched most days because history taught us folk are more likely to watch a short video clip rather than read an involved article.

The challenge had the highest level of participation on our network site and we learned a few lessons that are likely transferrable to others considering a similar challenge

  • Connect people to people. It works well to connect people to people and provide space for dialogue. We monitored content and allowed the daily videos and recap to set the tone. While there were rich and at times tense moment, because the Challenge was designed to be conversational, the process simply worked. Not only did people share, they shared deeply, not only feelings and thoughts but concrete and actionable strategies that could be readily be applied.
  • Keep it simple and doable. Most participants have busy jobs and busy days. Some started the daily challenge activity while reading their morning paper and others -because of the “community” nature of the challenge- gathered as a team during a designated time to watch the video and discuss the reflective questions, then return the following day with specific examples of the way the activities impacted their thoughts and their work.
  • Weekends matter. We decided against 21 consecutive days due to two important variables:
    • Volume and weekend traffic pattern on our Networking site was traditionally low and, given our work, we desired to respect the weekend days off, allowing space for reflection, pause and processing. We are not sure how long it takes to develop a habit, and such was not our goal. We seeded a process that could be replicated, improved and practiced in most context- in full anticipation that such created a pattern behavior change.
  • Variety makes the content rich, mix it up. This is complex, complicated and hard work. We infused humor when it was both possible and appropriate. It helps to make the content digestible and doable. Laughter really is good medicine.
  • Infuse incentives and rewards. The design team identified inspirational action and or changes in practices that could be elevated and incentivized. We mailed books, tumblers, etc.… folk did not participate for reward, but the rewards didn’t hurt.
  • Discussion stimulators. The design team stimulated daily conversation by adding comments, likes, questions, pictures and other reference sources. It’s helpful to have a team.
  • Easy access. Keep the daily activities accessible as some will fall behind but it’s good to be able to catch up.
  • Celebrate and infuse fun. Celebrate the process and design a unique transition from the high intensity daily activities. And, while this is not a funny matter, learning can be engaging and fun. Humor is a medicine that works when timing is considered and the action, activity and outcome is healthy.

“I am different because of the Challenge. I am also connected to individuals I would have never met because we connected on this content. Finally, the beauty is this, we see changes in policy, practice and behavior --- and that’s great news.” -JDAI Challenge Participant.

My final reflection is this, if I were to do anything different, I’d only shift the name from 21-day Equity Habit Building Challenge to 21-day Equity Habit Building Opportunity, as was the case for us. An opportunity as defined is an appropriate favorable time or occasion. This was the right time and opportunity for us to move from awareness to action.

Gail D