Henry Street Settlement opens doors of opportunity for Lower East Side residents and other New Yorkers through social services, arts, and health care programs.
Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion at Henry Street
DEI Committee Values
- Definition: Diversity recognizes all the ways in which people differ from one another. Diversity can refer to race, socioeconomic status, criminal justice involvement, education, national origin, language, ethnicity, gender, age, religion, ability, sexual orientation, education, marital status, military status, and physical appearance. It also includes individuals’ ideas and beliefs.
- Historical Context: Henry Street’s foundation is based on a respect and reverence for diversity, as Lillian Wald opened our doors to the people of the Lower East Side who were systematically denied access to social services. This included those who migrated during the Great Migration from the American south as well as immigrants from Europe, the Carribean, and China. Contrary to popular opinion at the time, Henry Street did not see cultural assimilation as the only strategy for an immigrant’s successful integration into society. This set us apart from other settlement houses, shaping our approach to social work, health and wellness, and artistic and cultural programming.
- Principle: Diversity enriches our community and our organization. Diversity in perspective increases opportunities for creativity and innovation. Henry Street’s relevance depends on our ability to understand and reflect upon the diversities within our community so that we may respond with nuance and care.
- How we will live the principle: We will be guided by the needs and priorities of the communities we serve, taking into account diverse lived experiences. We will listen to and understand the communities we serve, and our programming will be responsive to the expressed needs of constituents. Our staff and the constituents we serve will reflect the composition of our community in aggregate, and within hierarchical tiers (e.g. leadership, board).
- Definition: Equity is the act of providing resources and support in service of eliminating barriers to access for wellness, power, resources, and professional advancement for all. The provision of such resources is made with the understanding that there are historically marginalized communities who have borne discriminatory treatment, resulting in systemic impediments to goods and services. The principle of equity seeks to intentionally address this imbalance by creating opportunities for growth, resource access, and power redistribution.
- Historical Context: Lillian Wald founded Henry Street Settlement upon the recognition of the gross inequities of our healthcare and labor systems as they related to newly arrived immigrants, women, people of color, and other marginalized communities. With the founding of the Visiting Nurse Service, Wald addressed healthcare disparity by becoming a direct medical service provider to the city’s most vulnerable communities. Her commitment to political equity expanded beyond healthcare, which is reflected in her leadership during the women’s suffrage movement, in her role as a founding member of the NAACP, and in her advocacy for quality public education. As an advocate for holistic wellness, Wald also understood the importance of cultural equity, which is why creative and cultural practices were always an integrated component of Henry Street’s social services model.
- Principle: The principle of equity lives at the very core of our organization’s founding. Henry Street was founded with the belief that all people have a right to wellness, personal agency and social mobility. As an agency, we understand that wellness is defined individually and that we should seek to understand the needs of our team members. Equity is not a static concept, but is ever evolving. As an organization, we will continue to address and adapt our approach to equity as definitions become more expansive and inclusive
- How we will live the principle: We will live by this principle by recognizing that achieving equity is a holistic and ongoing process.
- Programming: Meaningful equity work and substantive change can take place in the form of policy change/advocacy as well as through the support of arts and culture. Both approaches will be supported with equal levels of attention, care, and budgetary support.
- Internal: HR protocols, operations procedures, and program design will be evaluated from an equity lens before implementation, i.e. to prevent adverse impact on any group. As an integrated part of our evaluation methods, we will endeavor to include the perspective of team members at all levels of the organization.
- Definition: Utilizing our definition of diversity, an inclusive culture involves the mindful integration of all people into an organization or community. An inclusive culture encompasses a commitment to workplace diversity that is not limited simply to representation; it creates an equitable climate in which individuals feel that their identities are respected and celebrated. This includes models of power sharing and efforts toward shared decision making.
- Historical Context: HSS was founded to help newly arrived immigrants establish themselves in a new geographic and cultural context. Wald believed that to be inclusive meant embracing the entirety of an individual, centering histories, traditions, religious and cultural practices.
- Principle: Inclusion is an asset and is necessary for organizational growth. Mindful inclusion should aim to be a collective process by which community members are actively engaged in learning. The invitation for inclusion is reciprocal – an opportunity for expansion rather than an assertion of influence or power of one culture over another. By expanding a circle of understanding and mutual trust, community members should feel motivated to positively contribute to a culture of inclusivity and understanding.
- How we will live the principle: Staff will consider individual differences as opportunities for connection and learning. When developing and implementing policy and programming, staff will consider the historical and ongoing effects of inequity. Curiosity, empathy and understanding will be key tools in delivering services, managing relationships within the organization and building resilient communities with integrity and care.