On Saturday, August 26, Lifeworks co-hosted a disability listening session with WeNetworkNow at our main office in Richfield. Participants discussed accessing disability resources and services as part of the next step in building our partnership with WeNetworkNow, a nonprofit that provides professional development and mentorship opportunities to people of African descent.
During the listening session, attendees identified a lack of education on disability services in communities of color and noted that cultural perceptions of disability vary within the African diaspora in Minnesota.
Mamady Konneh, the founder and Executive Director of WeNetworkNow, reflected on the session, saying “I thought the listening session was engaging, filled with good questions, and marked by an insightful exchange of ideas surrounding disability.”
The listening session followed up on a webinar Lifeworks hosted with WeNetworkNow earlier in the year, which focused on raising awareness and educating people about the challenges and stereotypes that people with disabilities experience.
Our partnership with WeNetworkNow is part of our broader effort to connect with marginalized communities in Minnesota. For far too long, culturally diverse communities have not had the same access to disability services as communities from the dominant culture. Listening sessions allow us to engage in dialogue and exchange ideas with these communities to understand them better.
Mr. Konneh desires to turn ideas into action: “These listening sessions, which I referred to as idea-sharing sessions, are paramount in expanding our understanding of diverse communities. I’m excited to and look forward to translating the action items we discussed into tangible results.”
Gertrude Matemba-Mutasa, our President and CEO, also attended the session and shared an idea to develop a cultural liaison program. The idea came about as attendees discussed the importance of relational proximity to information regarding disability. Rather than someone from outside the community engaging with people, cultural liaisons would bridge cultural gaps and barriers to connect their community to vital services and resources. We look forward to exploring how our collective efforts can create an ambassador program effectively.
The listening sessions are a pivotal way to learn more about how our communities and networks can benefit one another. Mr. Konneh says, “[WeNetworkNow members] expressed genuine interest in gaining insights into the world of disability and appreciated the exchange of ideas on how to raise awareness within various communities. They have also expressed interest in getting involved to spread the word about destigmatizing disability.”
The WeNetworkNow members who attended the listening session now have the tools to begin meaningful dialogues with their peers. As members take the initiative, Mr. Konneh reflects on the power the Lifeworks and WeNetworkNow partnership has to generate lasting change: “At the end of the day, we are better together – especially when we combine our respective resources, competencies, and skills.”
WeNetworkNow is growing its professional network and seeking motivated volunteers to help fulfill its mission. Are you looking for ways to contribute to your community? WeNetworkNow offers several opportunities for individuals to utilize their skills while expanding their network and connecting with other professionals of African descent. Click the links below to learn more about the positions. Contact Mamady Konneh at email@example.com if you’re interested in joining WeNetworkNow.