We use the term “multicultural” based on VISIONS’s definition of multiculturalism: the ongoing process of recognizing, understanding and appreciating differences as well as similarities. We think the term “multicultural” also hints at the variety of ways we experience and define “culture”—as norms of behavior, language, how we define beauty, dress, and much more. So there is “youth culture,” “family culture,” “office culture,” and many more ways to think about the word. When we were first naming our organization, we struggled with different names—alliance, association, task force, etc. But in the end, “Network” really spoke to our vision of working with and networking with other community groups, faith communities, the schools, individuals, and town government.
In many ways we operate similarly to some human rights commissions. An essential difference is that the Network operates independently and is not an official branch of town government.
Our mission statement is an indication of the breadth of issues that we are concerned with. Racism has been a major focus over the years, and an entry point for our work on many other issues of social justice. Our programming demonstrates the range of our work—health inequities, employee benefits, physical and mental challenges, housing affordability, gender identity, etc.
The International Connections Committee is one of the Network standing committees. Please see a description of its activities under “What We Do.”
Events and activities appear on the website. We also provide information in school newsletters, posters in retail stores, our local media, and email notices. If you are interested in what might be in the planning stages or wish to volunteer at an event, please check with the Executive Director via this website or a call to our office.
Please see committee descriptions under “What We Do.”
While it’s hard to measure the impact the Multicultural Network has had on the town, we have had positive feedback over the years both from our programming and from the work of the Response and School Impact Committees. We know that through working collaboratively with town government, organizations, and faith communities, more inclusive policies have been instituted, conversations about difficult subjects have taken place, and attitudes have shifted.
Everyone is welcome to participate in our programs, but board members generally are individuals who live or work in Winchester.
We welcome the opportunity to co-sponsor events with other groups (see For Community Guidelines Co-sponsorship) which sometimes involves providing funding. We also occasionally provide funding for multicultural programming in classrooms and for multicultural training scholarships for school personnel or community leaders.
While the term “politically correct” is often used in a pejorative sense, we think that it’s important to be aware of language and actions that can offend people. That said, it’s safe to say that almost everyone has used a word, a term, or told a joke that had its roots in something offensive to a group of people.
It is important to be open to learning that something we said or did had a hurtful or negative impact. And, of course, there is plenty of room for honesty and humor. Laughter can break down barriers, and being thoughtfully honest can also help to break down barriers.
We have a very specific written protocol for taking a public stand on a social justice issue. Our process involves a set of guidelines, Board discussion, and voting procedures with a quorum of the board required to be present. Within that process, the Network makes an effort to obtain input from individuals in the target group directly affected by the issue.
“Isms” in the context of our work refers to a form of oppression of a group of people. For example, racism refers to the fact that white people have historically had economic and social advantages over people of color, who have been oppressed and discriminated against. Sexism refers to male privilege, and classism to socio-economic privilege. One way to define an “ism” is “power plus privilege”. That is not to say that all individuals within a given group feel they have experienced oppression, and it does provide a way to talk about the systemic targeting of a category of people as “less than” or different because of their gender, age, sexual orientation, job status, gender expression and identity, religion, for example. The foundation for this examination of -isms lies in the work of VISIONS, Inc.
Since our founder, Sandy Thompson, attended a four-day intensive workshop with VISIONS in 1990, many of our board members have participated in VISIONS training, either at one or more of our community workshops, a VISIONS four-day (now called PACE) training, or one of our yearly board retreats. You may hear Network board members refer to VISIONS guidelines. VISIONS is a nonprofit organization offering multicultural training and consultation, using an insight-driven and change-oriented approach to diversity and inclusion work. We use the VISIONS framework to provide an overarching backdrop and VISIONS guidelines to ensure a safe setting for discussing difficult, emotional issues.
The Network currently does not have a formal membership requirement. All you have to do is provide your contact information to ensure that you get our email event notices and our newsletter. We welcome your attendance at our events and your volunteering to help.
Please click on “Staying in Touch” at the bottom of our “Welcome” page and then “Contact Us.” A staff or board member will respond.
If you are interested in becoming a board member, we suggest that you arrange to meet with our Executive Director. We welcome your interest! Participating in our yearly Community Multicultural Workshop will introduce the framework and tools we use for challenging conversations of inclusion and diversity. Attending Multicultural Network events will give you a broader understanding of the range of topics and issues that we are involved with.
Our Community Advisors bring to the Network expertise, support, opinions, and advice that complement our work and may not be so fully represented on our board. Community Advisors may include town employees, persons of color, law experts, leaders of a faith community, elected officials, former Board members, and so on. Community Advisors bring community observations and perspectives to the board, serve as consultants and resources, and provide referrals to the Network as may be needed.
High school students are welcome to work on projects in collaboration with the Executive Director and the event or activity chairperson. For more information, email us.
The first step is to contact the Executive Director of the Network through the Network office. She/he will be pleased to provide you with all the necessary information to make the gift.