The Equitable Futures Innovation Network (EFIN) is a project of the Connected Learning Lab at UC Irvine, focused on fostering career equity in asset-based and identity-affirming ways (Nasir 2012). For the past three years, this project has engaged in research-practice partnerships with career development organizations to surface, describe, and co-develop programmatic approaches and orientations that build on the identities, history, and other assets of BIPOC youth and their communities. Research fellows Miguel N. Abad and Janiece Mackey have worked alongside youth and educators to investigate, uplift, and reimagine ways in which career development organizations engage youth voice and racial equity. Elizabeth Mendoza and Mimi Ito have supported conversations with varied stakeholders, documentation, and synthesis together with other team members.
The project engaged youth in participatory action research (Cammarota & Fine 2010; Kirshner et al. 2011; Zion 2020) to ensure that investigations were guided by youth concerns, knowledge, and wisdom. Unfolding during the COVID-19 pandemic and a global racial reckoning, the project’s focus on racial justice and holistic health felt urgent and critical for youth and educators.With this focus came a recognition of a widespread need and hunger within the career development and advising field for developing and lifting up approaches for fostering racial equity that address historical and systemic contexts. A recent survey from the National Youth Employment Coalition highlights the urgent need for wellness support for young people who participate in career development programs across the country (Bennett et al. 2022). Furthermore, conventional approaches to career development education have often been based upon the experiences and resources afforded to privileged young people, while underemphasizing the social and contextual factors that produce racial disparities in career development opportunities and outcomes (Kenny et al. 2019; McWhirter and McWha-Hermann 2021).
We came to describe this recognition of both the pervasiveness of racial power dynamics and the cultural intuition from experiences of race as “race-grounded” (Bernal, 2016; Malagon et al, 2009; Mackey, 2020; Mackey et al, 2021) in contrast to race neutral or race evasive approaches that minimized their significance and pervasiveness. Being race-grounded means working from an understanding of how racial dynamics and inequities pervade policies, practices, and cultural assumptions. Furthermore, the notion of race-grounded highlights the ways in which race operates in oppressive ways, but also in ways that offer insight and wisdom into fields such as career development. It also means going beyond seeing race as an individual trait, and focusing on how career development organizations and institutions can serve BIPOC more responsively given the social and systemic barriers that continue to exclude young people from communities across the country.
We have also developed a deep appreciation of how career development programs and organizations have been able to center their work on the identities, histories, and assets of BIPOC youth, even in the face of challenging times and conditions. We have been describing these inspirational examples of race-grounded career development programs and approaches in an ongoing series of case studies. These include cases featuring New Door Ventures, Timbuk2Academy, and Bresee Community Center. In concert with documenting exemplary practices, we are developing a race-grounded framework and rubric for career advising programs and organizations, as a tool for reflection and inspiring change and innovation in practice and design. We are in the process of getting feedback from career advising leaders in the career development education field, and would like to share with the broader Connected Learning Alliance Community as a work in progress.
A Race-Grounded Career Advising Framework
The framework and rubric is intended as a tool for reflection and design inspiration for educators and organizational leaders to have conversations with colleagues and potentially adopt new practices and approaches tailored to your context and community. It is not meant to be proscriptive or suggest that there are one-size-fits all solutions to what are a complex and interrelated set of dynamics.
We begin with a table, inspired by the Equitable Evaluation FrameworkTM, that lays out common pitfalls and alternatives in culture and mindset, describing “deficit orthodoxies” that locate the problems and deficits within BIPOC youth and groups. We offer an alternative “asset-based ethos” to each of these orthodoxies that recognizes the strengths of BIPOC youth and their communities, and locates responsibility for change within dominant systems and structure. This table also offers a description of youth engagement when aligned with an asset-based ethos, and what kind of youth outcomes result.
In a second table, we describe these approaches to youth engagement in terms of key practices of youth career advising and development programs and organizations: guidance, collaboration, relationship building, and care. We offer some examples of approaches and practices that embody a race-grounded ethos in each category, and some description of what it looks and feels like when these practices and approaches are in play.
We are actively seeking input on this framework and rubric with a view towards developing a web resource in the fall. We welcome your input and thoughts on what resonates or does not resonate, and how you might imagine employing this framework in your own practice. Please email us with your thoughts and suggestions!
Bennett, R., Frohlich, J., Haley, M.A., Kresge, K., & Showalter, T. (2022). Identifying gaps in youth employment programs’ capacity to address mental health needs – national survey. National Youth Employment Coalition. https://nyec.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/NYEC-2022-Mental-Health-Report.pdf
Bernal, D. (2016). Cultural intuition: Then, now, and into the future. Center for Critical Race Studies Research Briefs, 1, 1-4.
Cammarota, J., & Fine, M. (2010). Youth participatory action research: A pedagogy for transformational resistance. In Revolutionizing education (pp. 9-20). Routledge.
Kenny, M. E., Blustein, D. L., Liang, B., Klein, T., & Etchie, Q. (2019). Applying the psychology of working theory for transformative career education. Journal of Career Development, 46(6), 623-636.
Kirshner, B., Pozzoboni, K., & Jones, H. (2011). Learning how to manage bias: A case study of youth participatory action research. Applied Developmental Science, 15(3), 140-155.
Mackey, J. Z. (2020). Black finesse amidst the political science paradigm: A race-grounded phenomenology (Doctoral dissertation, University of Denver).
Mackey, J., Roberts, V., Lopez, S., & Battan, S. (2021). Race-grounded reciprocity manifesto. The Assembly, 3(1), 136-139.
Malagon, M. C., Huber, L. P., & Velez, V. N. (2009). Our experiences, our methods: Using grounded theory to inform a critical race theory methodology. Seattle J. Soc. Just., 8, 253.
McWhirter, E. H., & McWha-Hermann, I. (2021). Social justice and career development: Progress, problems, and possibilities. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 126, Article 103492. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jvb.2020.103492
Nasir, N. (2012). Racialized Identities: Race and Achievement among African American Youth. Stanford University Press, Stanford, CA.
Zion, S. (2020). Transformative student voice: Extending the role of youth in addressing systemic marginalization in US schools. Multiple Voices for Ethnically Diverse Exceptional Learners, 20(1), 32-43.
Post by Elizabeth Mendoza, Janiece Mackey, Mimi Ito, and Miguel N. Abad*
*Each author has contributed in substantive and unique ways to the content of this blog post. We have listed authors in reverse alphabetical order, and this order does not indicate differences in the volume or substance of contribution.
Elizabeth Mendoza’s scholarship intersects a sociocultural approach to learning sciences, critical theories of race, and participatory action research to support educators in developing practices that challenge dominant ideologies and re-imagine spaces of healing and transformation.
Dr. Janiece Mackey grew up in Aurora, Colorado where she still resides as a wife and mother of 4 children. Dr. Mackey is a Black race scholar activist who has built her career of servant leadership from her narrative. She knew Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPoc) either weren’t interested in activism at a young age or they didn’t have a conduit to civically engage. Due to being one of a few Black folks within academic, civic, and professional spaces, she created an organization entitled Young Aspiring Americans for Social and Political Activism (YAASPA). YAASPA endeavors to build the self-efficacy of youth to reclaim academic, civic and career spaces through race conscious leadership and transformative organizing. Due to her converging interests in education and policy, she earned her PhD in Higher Education with a Public Policy and Curriculum and Instruction emphasis at the University of Denver. She has been an Equitable Futures Postdoctoral Research Fellow and is now a research scientist while running her organization. She co-edited a book entitled Black Girl Civics, has been an Ethnic Studies and Political Science Adjunct Faculty and published many chapter and articles in the realm of youth participatory action research (YPAR), race-grounded approaches to public administration and education and beyond. She desires to deepen, further develop, and expand “healing praxis” (hooks, 1994) for more BIPoC young adults and professionals within the public sector. She believes that those who commit to transformational justice and racial equity must validate and innovate academic, career, and civic experiences that sustain, retain, and rejuvenate minoritized youth and young professionals.
Mimi Ito is a cultural anthropologist, learning scientist, entrepreneur, and an advocate for connected learning—learning that is equity-oriented, centered on youth interest, and socially connected. Her work decodes digital youth culture for parents and educators, offering ways to tap interests and digital media to fuel learning that is engaging, relevant, and social. She is Professor in Residence and John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Chair in Digital Media and Learning at the University of California, Irvine, where she directs the Connected Learning Lab. The CLL stewards the Connected Learning Alliance, an expanding network of educators, experts and youth-serving organizations mobilizing new technology in the service of equity, access and opportunity for all young people. Mimi is also co-founder of Connected Camps, a non-profit providing online learning experiences for kids in all walks of life. Her publications include: Algorithmic Rights and Protections for Children (2023), Social Media and Youth Wellbeing (2020), The Connected Learning Research Network: Reflections on a Decade of Engaged Scholarship (2020), Affinity Online: How Connection and Shared Interest Fuel Learning (2018), and From Good Intentions to Real Outcomes: Equity by Design in Learning Technologies (2017).
Miguel N. Abad is a San Francisco-based youth worker and an assistant professor in the Department of Child and Adolescent Development at San Francisco State University.