Equity and Accountability: United Way SELA’s New DEI Webpage


Following our CEO’s promise, we’re happy to announce the launch of a new webpage to share our diversity, equity, and inclusion work and track our progress.

United Way of Southeast Louisiana is committed to embedding equity into everything we do. Beginning with the development of our Blueprint for Prosperity five years ago, we hosted community conversations where we learned that the biggest challenge in our community is poverty. We also learned we must use an equity-based approach for any effort to address and eradicate poverty in our seven-parish region.

We committed with the launch of our Blueprint to not only listen and learn but also to fight for our vision of equitable communities where all individuals are healthy, educated, and financially stable.

An Evolving Approach to Equity

A little over a year ago, I shared my thoughts on equity, what it means, and what we’re doing about it.

As we continue to learn and grow, I want to revisit that topic. At UWSELA we’ve adopted the Groundwater approach to dismantling racism. We strive to take an actively antiracist approach to this work and to continually interrogate our own perspectives and biases.

In my original blog post, with reference to the well-known image of the kids watching a ballgame over a fence, I wrote that “[the first part of equity is] acknowledging that everyone is starting from a different place, with different abilities and advantages, and some need different supports to have equal access to opportunity.”

In this example, the problem is identified as one person using a wheel chair, but still assumes that – all things being equal – everyone is starting at the same level, so they only need a ramp to enjoy the game.

What the image fails to capture is the different places from which people start. We must acknowledge that the ground some people watch the game on is uneven from the get-go.  

And so, I’ve come to recognize that the answer to inequity isn’t only in providing different supports to tackle barriers to access but also in addressing the systemic issues responsible for creating the different starting points in the first place.

The question before us isn’t how we get more and better resources to people who face different challenges, it’s how do we build up the infrastructure to support our community so that everyone is truly standing on level ground.

A New Home for DEI

We’re building a space on our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion page dedicated to considering that question and sharing our learning and steps we’re taking along the way.

We’ve spent two years working with a DEI consultant and have committed to allocating staff time and resources to guide our own internal journey. We’ve aligned our grant-making process to our equity priorities. We continue to advocate for equity-based legislation. We’re seeking to partner with those in our community – in nonprofit, business, and government – who are similarly committed to fighting for the better world we envision.

And that’s just the start.

We ask you, our community, to hold us accountable and join our fight. The only way forward is United.  


Kiyomi Appleton Gaines
Vice President of Culture
United Way of Southeast Louisiana