Businesses can emulate Wisconsin Donor Network’s model

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:40 pm

Troy Shaw’s business is diversity. Shaw, the owner of West Allis-based TDS Management Group Inc., is an entrepreneur dedicated to addressing diversity issues in the lives of Milwaukee-area residents and businesses. For eight years, Shaw has been the producer and host of “Focus on Diversity with Troy Shaw,” a television show he created to discuss diversity, segregation and racism in the Milwaukee area.

In 2007, Shaw will embark on another television program with the Wisconsin Donor Network (WDN) called “Changing the Face of Donation.”

Shaw was recruited by Jay Campbell, interim director of Wauwatosa-based WDN, to be a multicultural outreach educator. Shaw will help spread awareness about organ donation to ethnic groups in the Milwaukee area, both through the television show and other educational programs.

“Between 80 and 90 percent of Caucasians are organ donors, where 75 percent of the African-American community doesn’t donate at all,” Shaw said. “They don’t want to think about organ donation.”

Since March, the WDN has made an effort to reach out to the local African-American community to bring awareness and education regarding organ donation.

“In the U.S. and Milwaukee, African-Americans make up 40 percent of people waiting for a kidney transplant, and African-Americans make up 13 percent of the U.S. population,” Campbell said.

Campbell joined the WDN staff in March and decided that if the WDN was going to conduct a diversity campaign, the staff should be diverse it. At the time, Shanita Washington, a procurement coordinator, was the only minority staff member, Campbell said.

Campbell brought in minority professionals who specialize in multicultural education, including: Clarence Thomas Jr. as hospital development specialist; Shaw and Tony Higgins as multicultural outreach educators; and Mikel Holt, owner of Malik Communications Inc., Milwaukee, and associate publisher of Milwaukee Community Journal, who serves on the WDN board of directors.

The WDN’s efforts to encourage more organ donations from African-Americans already appear to be paying off. From January to April of this year, the WDN received 10 organ donations. From May to September, when the new diverse team was in place, the WDN averaged nine donations per month, Campbell said.

Many of the additional organ donations are coming from African-Americans.

The increase resulted from a combination of hard work and the fact that the WDN learned the importance of having someone approach African-American families who shares their culture, Campbell said.

Campbell said he found the group of African-American professionals that he hired by reaching out to that community. Holt, Shaw and Campbell believe that if more employers seeking a qualified, diverse workforce make an effort to reach out to the minority communities, they too will find what they are looking for.

“There are qualified black professionals out there, but they don’t know about the chance, and if they did, they would jump at the chance,” Holt said. “(WDN) might be a template for so many other ventures.”

“Changing the Face of Donation,” hopes to enhance the WDN’s outreach effort to the community with its 13 episodes. Each episode will focus on a different issue surrounding organ donation.

The WDN is paying for the production of “Changing the Face of Donation,” Campbell said. The WDN is currently looking for a local television station partner to air the series, Shaw said.

Shaw’s educational and professional background is in computer science, but he has always been interested in communicating to the masses through television programs.

“When I finally found out that there was an affordable way to get into television through non-linear editing and using applications like Adobe Premier, a consumer product that allows you to create some great quality programming, I jumped at the opportunity and the chance to learn video editing,” he said.

Shaw made his start with a show called “Eye on Milwaukee,” which aired on local cable access in 1998. He launched both “Eye on Milwaukee,” and “Focus on Diversity with Troy Shaw,” with his own funds.

“I always wanted to be able to create something that educates the community within the social realms of things,” Shaw said. “And I always wanted to do it from a commercial standpoint and not through a government-funded public access standpoint.”

“Focus on Diversity with Troy Shaw,” airs on Sunday at 6:30 a.m. on CBS 58 and at 7 p.m. on channel 41. Shaw wants both shows to be seen as competition to other TV programming, instead of public service announcements.

Shaw, who operates a state-of-the-art television production studio in the Summit Place office complex in West Allis, recently reformatted “Focus on Diversity with Troy Shaw,” to include a “wild card guest” who will stimulate the conversation and, in turn, the viewer.

“There is a deep and profound misunderstanding of diversity in this community,” Shaw said. “We have to try harder, and it needs to be done in a different way.”

For instance, the way the WDN realized that it could not serve and reflect a community’s needs without actually reflecting the community in its staff.

“Same group of people, but in a different way,” Campbell said. “We went from the worst in the state to the best in terms of organ procurement organizations.”

This season’s format for “Focus on Diversity” will feature a stage set up for four business owners talking about diversity issues with four journalists.

Chief executive officers currently signed on to be on the show include: Richard Meeusen of Milwaukee-based Badger Meter Inc.; Steve Marcus of Milwaukee-based The Marcus Corp.; Jeffrey Joerres of Glendale-based Manpower Inc.; and Cory McGuire of Wauwatosa-based Dale Carnegie Systems Wisconsin.

Journalists who have committed to the program include: Holt; Eugene Kane, Tannette Johnson-Elie and Ricardo Pimentel of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel;  Robert Miranda of Milwaukee Spanish Journal;  and Steve Jagler, executive editor of Small Business Times.

“What you create on television has to be able to compete with other programs on the air, and it can be done through stimulating conversation,” Shaw said. “Talking about race is difficult, but people will watch it in droves.”

Shaw said his goal is to make “Focus on Diversity with Troy Shaw” the No. 1-watched television program in the state of Wisconsin.

“One of the hardest things to talk about in America is race relations,” Shaw said. “How do you get anything done unless we have a conversation between people, not just of different ethnicities but different social classes?"

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