United Way initiative will engage business leaders to address community’s biases

Follows model of former Milwaukee Mosaic Project

Gallagher and Young are charging United Way's mission at the local and international level.

United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County has announced the launch of an initiative aimed at addressing and solving biases in the community, re-upping an effort previously spearheaded by the Jewish Federation of Milwaukee and Greater Milwaukee Foundation. 

The initiative, called Partnership MKE, will build on the model of the Milwaukee Mosaic Project, a program that paired community and business executives across “social divides” in the community and guided them through a one-year process of learning and relationship building. It was based on the idea that the participants could use their influence to enact change in their businesses and organizations. 

Mary Lou Young

The Jewish Federation of Milwaukee and Greater Milwaukee Foundation launched the Mosaic Project in 2000. It ended in 2010. 

Partnership MKE organizers now are looking to re-engage with the more than 600 alumni of the Mosaic Project, helping them take action steps related to what they learned during the process.

A new cohort of about 80 pairs will then begin the Partnership MKE program in July 2018.  The program will take participants through curriculum from the YWCA of Southeast Wisconsin and the Anti-Defamation League of Chicago.

While the Mosaic Project focused mostly on race issues, Partnership MKE will address biases in all forms, including gender, said Joel Peterson, manager of diversity development and community engagement with United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County.

“There are so many divides in the community right now,” Peterson said. “Hate crimes are at an all-time high. So we’re interested in pairing community and business leaders again and taking them through the same type of process, but not focusing solely on race — focusing on a lot of biases and many divides within our community.”

By learning about different cultures, Peterson said, business leaders can take those lessons and apply them in their professional decisions and advocate for various communities.

“Our mission is to promote and nurture experiences and encounters with individuals, with a goal of building authentic relationships across the divides that exist within our community,” said Mary Lou Young, president and CEO of United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County.

United Way and the Milwaukee Jewish Federation will promote the initiative at the Milwaukee Film Festival, which runs through Oct. 12, with a screening and panel discussion of the documentary “Big Sonia.”

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Lauren Anderson
Lauren Anderson covers health care, nonprofits, education and insurance for BizTimes. Lauren previously reported on education for the Waukesha Freeman. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she studied journalism, history and African studies. In her free time, Lauren enjoys spending time with family and friends and seeing live music wherever she can.

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