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JRI employees lead way with ‘Courageous Conversations’

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Staff of Justice Resource Institute don’t shy away from talking about tough issues like racial justice, immigration policy or vaccine hesitancy.

They lead the way.

JRI’s “Courageous Conversations” initiative brings together groups of employees and managers —usually about 50-100 attend each virtual meeting — to discuss the most difficult topics that come to them, either from fellow employees or from the clients and communities they serve throughout the region.

The initiative grew out of Listen, Learn, Lift, a program started in Lynn to have frank conversations with local youth about racial justice and other tough topics. The conversations and the actions taken as a result were so successful that JRI staff decided to spread the word — and the work — throughout the organization. Staff set the agendas for the bi-monthly Zoom meetings, invite guest speakers and run the meetings. JRI executives give their full support to the initiative, which is in line with the agency’s core value of furthering social justice.

To keep the discussions civil and productive, the group uses a Unity Agreement that outlines principles everyone agrees to uphold at the meetings and that ensure that people are listened to respectfully and feel safe to express themselves honestly. Employees say it builds trust for the entire organization because people feel they are being respected, listened to, and encouraged.

JRI, with over 2,500 employees in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut, runs programs helping individuals and families experiencing trauma. It is one of the largest social service agencies in New England. JRI is happy to share what “Courageous Conversations” has taught them and how the program works.

In this Justice In Action podcast, listen here to JRI staff members Dalene Basden, Director of Family and Community Engagement; Matthew Peiken, Northeast Regional Director; and Amanda Marte, Director of the Young Parent Support Program and an outpatient therapist in the Lawrence and Lowell region, as they discuss “Courageous Conversations.”

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Rachel has been a part of the JRI team since January, 2000. For over 20 years, Rachel has been working in the field of human services assisting families with accessing and navigating services. Rachel received her Bachelors degree in psychology and Masters Degree in Public Administration from Bridgewater State University. She was promoted in July 2005 to Family Networks Program Director where she closely worked with the Department of Children Families for 10 years ensuring that children and families received the highest quality of individualized services ranging from community based through residential care. Rachel is very dedicated to helping the individuals she works with and is committed to improving the lives of children and families. Rachel’s passion for creative service programming inspires her in her role as JRI Service Navigator.