The conference will provide an opportunity to understand the most persistent barriers to inclusion, what is working, and what is promising on the horizon by featuring four conference tracks that will address these four topics:


Track I: Increasing Opportunities for Inclusion in Wisconsin’s Workforce

A globalized marketplace, increasing automation, pressure for rapidly interchangeable work skills, an inconsistent regulatory climate and uncertainty about how to design educational systems to bring them up-to-date with the ways we build knowledge and process information in the context of constantly changing technology are a part of what makes today’s working environment challenging for employers and employees alike.  The barriers are significant and can be structural, including historically low wages, insufficient funding for alternative development strategies, lack of affordable education, taxpayer resistance, and lack of interagency collaboration. Some barriers are attributable to the environment, such as discrimination, stereotyping, persistent poverty and lack of opportunity. Still other barriers boil down to inadequate opportunities and resources for career planning and job skill development.  The pervasiveness of such barriers threatens the welfare of potential workers, blocks opportunities to develop individual skills and breeds hopelessness. The “Increasing Opportunities for Wisconsin’s Workforce” track will address the following questions and more:

  • What are our most persistent barriers to workforce entry?
  • What changes in educational pathways are yielding positive impact?
  • What is the role of technical education and the liberal arts for preparing Wisconsin’s workforce?
  • How are businesses successfully recruiting and retaining historically underrepresented workers?
  • What are some examples of outreach programs—such as internships, apprenticeships, scholarships—that are demonstrating impact?
  • What other innovative efforts are working to create sustainable pathways to jobs, generally?
  • What are examples of successful career guidance and mentoring programs for minority employees?
  • What organizational policies and SOPs are proving successful in mandating fairness and equity for all employees?
  • How are businesses ensuring performance appraisal systems that are non-discriminatory?
  • Do immigrant workers fulfill a workforce need in Wisconsin?  Is this a sustainable option if the jobs they fill are low-paying with few protections? What is the alternative?


Track II: Creating Inclusive Communities

Communities across Wisconsin are changing. New residents, new faces, and new ideas are helping to make our state a vibrant and diverse place to live.  It is important that our communities and neighborhoods are safe and welcoming to all regardless of background or heritage so that all residents can call their community “home.”  The “Creating Inclusive Communities” track will address the following questions and more:

  • What are the key characteristics of an inclusive community?
  • How are we succeeding or failing in creating and sustaining inclusive communities in Wisconsin?  What do we measure to answer that question?
  • What neighborhood- and community-based efforts have made a difference in making our communities more welcoming for diverse residents?
  • What are the similarities and differences in the challenges facing urban and rural communities?
  • What challenges and opportunities exist for churches and religious organizations to have a public role in addressing diversity? 
  • How can law enforcement and criminal justice systems help create a more inclusive community climate?
  • How can we effectively measure and evaluate efforts towards community inclusivity?


Track III: Cultivating Equity in Education

If we hope to have a society that is inclusive, fully employed, maximally productive, and celebratory of diversity generally, we must allocate resources and energy towards the success of the next generation of leaders. Along with the challenges, there are opportunities. Effective after school programs, innovative career exploration and preparation, co-curricular apprenticeships and dual enrollment are just a few of the many positive initiatives that are helping lay the groundwork for success for all youth regardless of background. The “Raising the Next Generation of Inclusive Leaders” track will address the following questions and more:

  • What barriers to comprehensive student learning and education are we experiencing in Wisconsin?
  • How are we currently addressing these barriers in our schools and communities?
  • How have schools and communities specifically addressed the issues of bullying and harassment?
  • What specific policies and programs have been effective in reducing barriers to inclusion?
  • Can youth-led and peer-to-peer efforts make a difference?
  • Is current curriculum adequately addressing issue of diversity and inclusion?
  • What initiatives are impacting transition of youth from high school to higher ed. and the job market?
  • How can we know if our efforts are having a positive effect on future generations?
  • Do we have to wait a generation to enjoy the benefit of rejuvenated leadership?  What are we doing to intentionally make room for Millennial leaders to step into leadership positions in our communities and state?               


Track IV: Building Health Equity in Wisconsin

A healthy citizenry will increase economic capacity and drastically improve quality of life in Wisconsin. But how do we help all residents of Wisconsin attain their highest level of health?  The simplistic answer is to ensure accessible, affordable health care for all. However, we know that upstream social determinants play an enormous role in determining health outcomes. Health inequities are created when barriers prevent individuals and communities from reaching their full health potential. One way to measure progress is to examine health disparities, defined as “differences in health status between people related to social or demographic factors such as race, gender, income or geographic region.” This track will seek concrete solutions to overcoming health disparities that lead to health inequity. The “Building Health Equity in Wisconsin” track will address the following questions and more:

  • What key barriers to improving societal health outcomes are we experiencing in Wisconsin?
  • How are we currently addressing these barriers in our communities?
  • What specific policies and programs have been effective in reducing barriers to health equities?
  • What is the role for public health departments and health systems in addressing health equity?
  • What promising models of community action around health equity can we learn from?
  • How do we build and sustain effective networks to address the root causes of health inequity?
  • How do we set up effective measurement systems to capture the long term outcomes of preventive programs and initiatives?

How do we reach out to and work local leaders—including business, non-profit, and government leaders—to encourage investment in long term strategies to improve health outcomes?