Program Summary ~ The Milwaukee Mosaic Partnerships Program
The Milwaukee Mosaic Partnerships Program is a nine-month program that elicits “opinion leaders” from all backgrounds, races and cultures to bridge community “silos and divides” with something as simple as dialogue.
The Program addresses various community problems that are created due to lack of understanding and trust across race and ethnicity. Studies have show that the United States’ race gap is widening with tensions sometimes flaring. Milwaukee Mosaic zeroes in on what some refer to as an “erosion of social capital,” acknowledging that it is not the color of one’s skin that causes the divide, but the lack of communication that builds barriers between communities and cultures.
Through this community program, Milwaukee Mosaic matches two people – one Caucasian and one of color – based on their common interests. From this point, a safe space is created for open dialogue to begin, and to earn trust, organically. Milwaukee Mosaic has recognized that only through one-on-one conversations, personalizing the experience, will the gap begin to close. The “partners” in the Program will learn about each other, as well as learn how to address and deal with conflict – whether the conflict is intentional or unintentional.
During its three-year pilot, the Program has reached over 500 community leaders in the Milwaukee region representing business, government, education, health care, and various faith backgrounds. More than 80% have gone on, since they graduated, to continue to develop their friendships, and advocate for diversity on the boards they serve and organiations they run. Described by one participant as, “not a headline impact but a pebble in the pond impact,” the program creates subtle, but sustainable change, and its waves of effectiveness spread long after the program has ended.
The goal of Mosaic is for the participants to transform their thinking from exclusive to inclusive, carrying that thought-pattern over into their actions and daily lives. Through this transformation, the cultural shift begins, and so does mending of social capitol.
Milwaukee is well known for its siloed neighborhoods and segregated areas of the city, so the need for Mosaic is ever clear. The intent is to enable biracial partnerships, tear down communication barriers, and increase our social capital, “the glue that holds societies together and without which there can be no economic growth or human well-being” (World Bank). Through understanding and diversity we can build stronger communities that remove the fear of the unknown, beget stereotypes, and foster flourishing businesses and nourish deepening relationships across the color lines.
In 2006, Milwaukee took a pledge to reconcile race relations, on a small scale, with a nontraditional approach, with the intent to build social capitol by eradicating diversity disparities. The inception of the Mosaic Partnerships Program, spearheaded by the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, began with an impressive class of 228 eager volunteer participants - 114 white and 114 people of color.
The genesis of Mosaic Partnerships began eight years prior, in Rochester, NY, 2001. The former Mayor of Rochester, William A. Johnson, launched the Mosaic Partnerships Program (then called "Bi-Racial Partnerships for Community Progress") to address race relations issues.
Since then, the Program has grown to several cities that recognize diversity and inclusion as the elusive, but imperative thread in the fabric of our society.
Since 2006, Milwaukee has garnered some of the best and brightest among emerging leaders, established VPs, and tenacious civic leaders in our community. Adjusting to the changing times and the needs of new program participants, the Mosaic Partnership Program has evolved every year incorporating innovative ways to discuss race relations and personal accountability in bridging the racial gap.
Having completed all three phases of the three year pilot, Mosaic continues to conduct the formal nine-month program, and has launched an alumni relations component that focuses on keeping the participants interacting and engaged after graduating from the program. This will foster cross-cultural and biracial collaborations, resource-sharing, and continued networking outside of their comfort zones.
For more information, please contact:
Milwaukee Mosaic Program Consultant
101 W. Pleasant, Suite 210
Milwaukee, WI 53212