Chicago Beyond Founder & CEO Liz Dozier on Education, Equity, and Healing

Liz Dozier paid a (virtual) visit to Uptake at Monday’s Lunch & Learn, a regular meeting that welcomes outside speakers whose unique perspectives enrich our conversations about diversity and promote continual learning. Dozier shared her own experience as the Founder & CEO of Chicago Beyond, where she leads investments in ideas, individuals, and community-led organizations that fight for equity for young people, both in Chicago and around the world.

Moving from “What’s Wrong with You” to “What’s Happened to You”

Before establishing Chicago Beyond, Dozier was the principal at Fenger High School, where she doubled the graduation rate and decreased its dropout rate from 19% to 2% by adopting a “justice-based approach” to education. She explained that by shifting the educational model from asking the punitive “what’s wrong with you” to the human-centered “what’s happened to you,” initiatives like early academic intervention and holistic trauma support improved student outcomes.

Dozier’s early learnings from her time as an educator have helped shape much of Chicago Beyond’s work locally, and beyond. Today, Chicago Beyond is working with Chicago Public Schools to develop the first of its kind blueprint for providing holistic trauma support to over 300,000 students. Additionally, Chicago Beyond’s guidebook on recognizing bias and power dynamics in research is being used to help inform more equitable research practices in all 50 states and more than 70 countries.

Pushing Past Uncomfortable Truths

Dozier also touched on “how we underestimate the power of the individual” to make an impact and, specifically, what tech companies can do to support diversity and inclusion. She pointed out that, while an outside facilitator or leader like herself may push teams to question assumptions and get to the root causes of problems, effective solutions emerge organically from the people dealing with them firsthand.

Recognizing and addressing these problems within an organization requires our internal team to push past accepted truths. “When it’s uncomfortable, we’re getting somewhere,” she added.

The Power of Healing

In the midst of a turbulent and uncertain year, Dozier highlighted the power in healing to move past discomfort and sustain our well-being. Healing undergirded her work at Fenger and now at Chicago Beyond, and it is key to the ability of each of us to address inequities in our schools, workplaces, and communities.

Dozier noted: “We can’t heal until we acknowledge the truth. It’s going to be hard; it’s going to be painful, but it’s where we need to go.”

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