SOREN uses equity protocols to guide our network’s understanding of racial equity and diverse lived experiences so we can build perspective, grapple with tensions, and create a dignity-affirming culture in Southern Oregon’s schools where the environment is inclusive and inviting; people can show up authentically without fear; racial diversity, ethnic heritage, culture, and multiple languages are appreciated as assets; hard truths, limiting beliefs, and harmful systems are reckoned with and revamped; and everyone knows, feels, and can confidently say, “I am safe, I matter, and I belong at school and in my community.”

Protocols to disrupt inequities and disparities are integrated into all of our community engagement and professional learning activities.  It is our goal to shift a commonly held belief that equity work, and associated protocols, are saved for equity-specific professional learning.  We intend to listen deeply, share stories, make room for healing (ourselves and others), connect what we have in common, and strengthen relationships across our differences so we can improve experiences and foster conditions for true belonging.

Equity protocols are a vital step for us to build functional teams, facilitate courageous conversations, and ultimately create conditions that support SOREN’s Aim to increase safety, significance, and belonging.  The protocols serve an especially important role in Southern Oregon by shining a light on the influence of the dominant culture while also pushing on members to engage with curiosity and ask how privilege, beliefs and biases may show up in ourselves, in our experiences, and our systems.

“Transformational culture work is always relational; It is not transactional.  Real diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging work is not about a checklist.  It’s about relationships.”Aiko Bethea

Continuous Improvement

This past year, we continued to revise our Aim, realign our drivers and began to test some of our change ideas.  Over the course of the past year, we have worked with coaches from Community Design Partners, Dialogues in Action, BeGr8rr, Core Collaborative, and Carnegie to help us grapple with the transformational/adaptive nature of our Aim, drivers, and change ideas. Our Aim includes three key factors – safety – significance – and belonging.  These three items may seem separate, but we see them as linked.  The proximal nature of each indicator creates a closely coupled relationship where one indicator often affects the others.  We are excited to witness some incredible shifts in beliefs; ways of being and relating to others; and eagerness to engage in complex work.

In the spirit of continuous improvement, SOREN continues to refine our possibly wrong, definitely incomplete theory of change.  Our team continues to engage with educators, including SOREN Advisors, as well as seek support from our Community Design Partners’ Coaches.  We are pushing on systems that are over a century old with an AIM that is simple and complex at the same time. We are consistently fighting the urge to fall into a place of comfort as we stretch our “Whys” and develop interconnected ways to move and measure small shifts that matter in the scheme of continuous improvement and growth.

“Empathy has no script. There is no right way or wrong way to do it. It’s simply listening, holding space, withholding judgement, emotionally connecting, and communicating that incredibly healing message, ‘You are not alone.’”   – Brene Brown

Human Centered Design

We have studied and use human-centered approaches in our decision-making.  We believe in engaging with stakeholders in multiple ways and over time; not just once. We value relationships and know how critical it is to build and maintain strong relationships, built on a foundation of trust, so we can engage in hard conversations and vulnerable work together.

“Belonging, or being fully human, means more than having access.  Belonging entails being respected at a basic level that includes the right to both co-create and make demands on society.”  – john a. powell


Our novice educators are supported through a robust and research-based mentoring program that continues to change and evolve to meet the needs of our educators, mentors, and districts through a human-centered approach that has been our foundation for over a decade. This rich tradition has continued in alignment with our “Educator Voice” and “Psychological Safety” primary drivers.

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