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SJII Funded Projects Announced for 2023-2024

The 2023-2024 Social Justice Innovation Initiative is underway. Thirteen groups applied for funding during the 2023-2024 school year. Of the 13, five projects have been funded.

Campaign School (Nashville / Virtual) – $10,000 – Anna Gordon (Nashville MSSW Student), Kate Chaffin, Tami Walker – Year Three
The Campaign School for Social Workers is a two-day workshop for anyone who wants to be more politically knowledgeable and active as a candidate, staff member, or volunteer. The training will be presented virtually, allowing social workers from across the state of Tennessee to attend. Grantees plan to collaborate with the NASW Tennessee chapter and extend this opportunity to social work departments at other universities in the state, including TSU, MTSU, Belmont, all UT campuses, and several others.

Inclusive Practices for Serving Youth – $10,000 – Charlie Brinkley (Knox MSSW Student), Ragan Schriver, Sean Bryant, Partner with UTCSW, Youth Action Board, Bryant’s Bridge, and Harmony Family Services
Grantee seeks to host an in-person training on addressing gender and racial bias and developing inclusive practices for serving youth, especially youth of color and LGBTQ+ youth. The training will be for people involved in community organizations including Bryant’s Bridge, Metro Drug Coalition, and Harmony Family Services, as well as for UTCSW faculty, staff, and students. 

VAC Impact – $9,900 – Doug Coatsworth, Cynthia Finch / New Directions Health Care Solutions, Kristi Gordon, UTCSW student interns
New Directions (ND) Healthcare Solutions will continue to narrow the disparity gap, making vaccine access available to all by educating underserved residents by canvassing, social media, and meetings. Identifying locations of available vaccines and addressing barriers to vaccination (uninsured, transportation, lack of knowledge). ND will capture community perspectives and stories of COVID-19 impact by hosting Talking Circles and sharing the stories with the TN Department of Health and CDC.

This grant will also make UTCSW a partner for New Directions’ second annual Health Summit to discuss lessons learned, fears, and best practices, and to develop action plans related to future pandemics. Leaders from ND, UTCSW, and the community will advocate for policies and systems changes and community/grassroots involvement for future pandemic response centered on health equity and community engagement.

Empowering Youth – $10,000 – Emily Norris / City of Knoxville, Melody Hawkins / VisionLed, Jen First, Madelyn Hogan and Lizzie Gaver, UTCSW Students

Youth organization leaders, who aim to mitigate the barriers of systemic racism, have expressed an immediate need for a social-emotional learning curriculum that is trauma-responsive and culturally competent, empowering youth by giving them the tools they need to thrive. This initiative aims to meet that need through implementation of the VisionLEd Method (VLM), a culturally competent social-emotional learning (SEL) curriculum, within a cohort of eight youth organizations guided by a Youth Steering Committee as a means of empowering marginalized youth in Knoxville.

The initiative will include a four-hour training Kick-Off, six monthly one-hour cohort sessions, including 30 minutes of curriculum delivery and 20-30 minutes of collaborative strategizing. In addition, it will provide customized training program development for each cohort and one-on-one sessions to ensure each participating organization has an implementation strategy that fits their needs, values, and desired goals. The initiative will also include a Youth Steering Committee which would include one youth advisor selected by each participating organization in the cohort.   

Empower Knox will partner with eight youth-focused organizations in Knoxville: Project Excellence (an initiative of UT’s College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences), Turn Up Knox, YOKE, A1 Learning Connections, KICKO, My Daughter’s Journey, SEED, and YWCA. The roles for CSW students may include attending training, providing feedback, and supporting cohort organizations.

Aging Rainbow Coalition (ARC) Provider Training Initiative – $9,025 – Lizzie Bowland, Joseph Winberry (UNC Chapel Hill), Namrata Mukherjee (UTCSW PhD Candidate)

The project seeks to improve healthcare knowledge and reduce health disparities for older (60+) LGBTQ + persons living in the Knoxville area through information sharing and networking opportunities for both older persons and providers. The Office on Aging for Knoxville (OOA) and Knox County established the Aging Rainbow Coalition (ARC) focused on increasing visibility and trustworthiness of health services and programming for older LGBTQ+ persons. Activities will include information sharing and networking; speaker events; distribution of postcards and web resources to increase (2500+) provider cultural awareness about specific needs of older LGBTQ+ persons.

l to r: Julie Franks, Tanya Rhodes Smith, Kate Chaffin, Kim Crane Mallory at the 2019 Campaign School.