It’s Season 2 of the “Next Steps Challenge” and it’s coming to an ABA YLD affiliate near you! The Next Steps Challenge is an opportunity for ABA YLD affiliates to share information about existing projects and develop new programs targeted at increasing diversity in the pipeline to the legal profession. The Next Steps Challenge is conducted in cooperation with the ABA Center on Racial and Ethnic Diversity and is sponsored by Walmart.
After a successful maiden run—dubbed “Season 1” by Chris Rogers, 2012–2013 ABA YLD Chair—the Next Steps Challenge is gearing up for “Season 2,” a second year of competition in 2012–13.
Broaden Diversity in the Profession
An ABA report entitled “Diversity in the Legal Progression: The Next Steps,” released in April 2010, represented the culmination of a two-year ABA Presidential Initiative that examined the state of diversity in the legal profession. The report identified several recommendations or “Next Steps” to broaden diversity within the legal profession. The purpose of the Next Steps Challenge, which emerged as a way of implementing the recommendations within the report, is to encourage ABA YLD affiliates to develop programming focused on fostering diversity within the legal profession at the local level.
“When Michael Bergmann [2011–12 ABA YLD Chair] and I discussed implementing the Division’s diversity initiatives during an early conversation in 2010, we knew that we wanted to develop a subgrant program that was closely tied to the goals of the Next Steps report,” said Myra McKenzie, 2011–2012 ABA YLD Diversity Director. “Once we had that vision and general framework, Sarah Sharp Theophilus [2011–2012 Affiliates Director] and I fleshed out the program. Our overall goal was to craft a program that would encourage affiliates to create quality pipeline programming while keeping the recommendations found in the Next Steps report in mind.”
A Challenge to Affiliates
Launched after the ABA 2011 Annual Meeting in Toronto, Canada, the Next Steps Challenge tasked ABA YLD affiliates across the nation to plan and complete a project based on a Next Steps recommendation by March 16, 2012. Finalists were invited to the Affiliate Showcase at the ABA YLD Spring Conference in Nashville, Tennessee, in May 2012, where the winning affiliates received ABA YLD subgrants to expand their projects. Buoyed by the success of the first “Season” of the Next Steps Challenge, Min Cho, 2012–13 Diversity Director, and Erica Grinde, 2012–2013 Affiliate Assistance Team (AAT) Director, are looking forward to another successful year of Next Steps programming.
“We do not believe that we are going to make substantial changes with the structure or the timeline of the competition this year,” said Cho. “Instead, we will focus on encouraging our affiliates to participate in the initiative.”
One big difference between the Next Steps program this year versus last year, however, is the wealth of knowledge available to new applicants from last year’s competitors. “The AAT is going to host a summer teleconference during which North Carolina and Arkansas, the winners of last year’s Next Steps Challenge, will discuss their paths to success,” said Grinde. “In addition to the teleconference, the AAT also will highlight the Next Steps Challenge during our programming at the Fall Conference in Charleston. Affiliates will have all the opportunities that they need to learn about the challenge and get ready to compete.”
Cho and Grinde advise affiliates that are interested in applying for a subgrant to start thinking about the process as early as possible. Because the 2012–2013 Next Steps Challenge will closely shadow the 2011–2012 timeline, affiliates will likely have until early November 2012 to explicitly identify a Next Steps report recommendation to serve as a focal point for the project and to develop and submit a detailed program plan. Affiliates interested in participating in the Next Steps Challenge should consult the Next Steps report. ABA recommendations can be found on pages 35–40 of this report, while the “Emerging Issues” section on pages 41–49 of the report could also provide affiliates with the necessary creative spark to get started. Progress reports regarding the program’s implementation will be due in early January 2013. Based on the previous year’s timeline, the competing programs will have to be implemented by mid-March 2013, with a final report due in late March 2013.
“I hope that every affiliate is inspired to submit something to this competition,” confided Cho. “There is no project that is too big or too small.”
Echoing Cho’s sentiment, Grinde said that it is the “impact” of the many projects from across the nation that will culminate in achieving the goals of the Next Step report. “The Next Steps report is pretty detailed, and the recommendations can be intimidating,” said Grinde. “Affiliates should stay focused on the big picture and not get discouraged. Any affiliate that needs assistance with the timeline or advice regarding the process should not hesitate to talk to members of the Diversity Team and the AAT.”
Updates and the recording of the summer teleconference regarding the 2012–2013 Next Steps Challenge will be available at www.ambar.org/nextstepschallenge. The Next Steps report can be found at www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/ administrative/diversity/next_steps_2011.authcheckdam.pdf.