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The 1 Million Cups Organizer Summit 2018, Kansas City, Missouri.

Sharing stories to open doors for more inclusive communities

These 1 Million Cups organizers are taking steps toward fostering more inclusive communities across the nation.

Every Wednesday, 1 Million Cups Organizer Diana Pastrana works to make her community more inclusive, hoping that it resonates with the greater Madison, Wisconsin, area. That’s why this November, the 1 Million Cups community that she leads is featuring all women-owned businesses.

“We’re hoping that it’ll bring more women into our audience, to provide a layer of support for those women-owned companies,” said Pastrana. “Inclusivity is about more than just listening, it’s about bringing people on stage.”

Watch: “1MC Sharing Stories: Diana” | 0:17

Pastrana is just one of more than 900 organizers around the country in 179 locations who are working to create safe, inclusive communities. From celebrating diverse ethnicities to collaborating with Hispanic Chambers, there are actions that organizers are taking now that go beyond just talking about why inclusivity is needed.

“We feel like a neutral venue is very important,” Pastrana said. “We had members of the community express that they would be uncomfortable being at a venue we had selected to host at… so we decided to pick a neutral territory.” When a previous location at a library wasn’t as easy to get to as it could be, Pastrana found a new location that was centrally located and accessible by public transportation.

Across the Mississippi in the Twin cities, Chris Christenson, a co-organizer of 1 Million Cups St. Paul, Minnesota, and 1 Million Cups Minneapolis, Minnesota, is similarly focusing on underserved populations by inviting immigrant entrepreneurs during welcoming week in September each year.

Twenty banners lined the walls of the 1 Million Cups Minneapolis and St. Paul venues, each telling the story of a particular immigrant entrepreneur.

“I really hope that we’re able to be that differentiator for people that have been burned in other circumstances or events or haven’t had those opportunities yet,” Christenson said. “I hope that spirit of vulnerability and support after vulnerability, people say, ‘Hey, I can help’ or say, ‘Hey, I’ve had that same problem.’ We hope that that can ripple out into the greater Twin Cities area.”

Watch: “1MC Sharing Stories: Chris” | 0:25

Intentional partnerships are another way that 1 Million Cups communities are making inclusivity a reality.

“Diversity doesn’t just happen, if you’re not intentional about it,” said Christenson. “If it’s really important to you and to your community, you have to seek it out… you have to invite people and make sure people feel welcome because if you walk into a room, if you don’t see others like you, that’s a barrier that you don’t see as someone in the majority.”

Jonathan Chambers from Woodstock, Georgia, outside of Atlanta, said the work is not often sexy. “As part of a larger role in the local community, you’re fighting an uphill battle to change people’s minds and create spaces where diversity and inclusion can be cultivated.”

“Atlanta is obviously a very diverse place and so it’s super important to be inclusive of people from different races, and genders, and backgrounds,” Chambers said. “For us, inclusion was, ‘how do we find people that are different from us, that are working on projects that we wouldn’t have learned about? People that don’t look like us, don’t think like us, and make them a part of this community?’ The more diverse and inclusive we are, the stronger we are.”

If communities want to succeed, they need to know who lives there and what the varied experiences of those people are. Without a seat at the table and without understanding the unique needs of its residents, cities of all types struggle to let innovation grow.

Watch: “1MC Sharing Stories: Armon” | 0:18

“When we’re inclusive, we’re opening up opportunity for growth and having a more prosperous community by allowing everyone to be involved and feel welcomed and engaged,” said Isabele Prosper, a 1 Million Cups organizer from Dallas, Texas. “The more that we can be proactive to receive everyone, the more likely we are to have different perspectives, different ideas, and really create unique opportunities for everyone in our communities.”

The work doesn’t end when the 1 Million Cups event ends. Volunteers like Pastrana, Christenson, Chambers, and Prosper continue to build communities that are more inclusive by starting in their backyards and offering an opportunity for people of all kinds. By inviting minorities, women, and underserved populations into their networks and being open to their stories and unique perspectives, and by continuing to do the hard work, we can create stronger communities across the country. And stronger communities mean more people have a chance at success.


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