Adding Belonging to the Equation: The Shift from REDI to DEIB 

Years ago, we adopted a focus on bringing REDI–Race, Ethnicity, Diversity, and Inclusion–principles to all of our initiatives, communications, and partnerships. REDI initiatives laid the foundation for addressing issues of racial and ethnic diversity and inclusion. However, as we delved deeper into our equity efforts, we realized that we could create an even more truly inclusive approach to our work, where every single person feels valued and supported.

That brings us to DEIB, which stands for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging. This shift shows how our understanding of diversity and inclusion has changed and grown. Creating a sense of belonging to our communities, especially more marginalized communities, through our investments and services is essential and should be called out.

Making sure that everyone is included is the core of DEIB principles. Everyone who comes into contact with First 5 San Mateo County, from our partners and providers to parents, to policymakers, and beyond, should know that they are a valuable member of our community. It doesn’t stop with diverse representation, efforts to dismantle systemic racism or work to foster inclusion. The focus on racial equity is not going anywhere. It’s growing even larger and more all-encompassing. DEIB is about also creating an atmosphere where everyone can actively participate, share their ideas, and collaborate effectively. The diversity of our county is a tremendous asset, but its potential can only be harnessed if everyone knows that they belong and that their voices are important. 

That’s why belonging is the missing piece of the puzzle. It’s about going beyond inclusion and fostering an environment where every individual feels comfortable seeking out and receiving services and support. If inclusion is an invitation to the table, belonging is the feeling you get when you’re sitting around your own kitchen table. We want our community to feel more engaged, excited, and empowered by the work we do at First 5 San Mateo County. We want them to know they belong. 

This year, as we collect data on our impact, we have fine-tuned our focus on belonging. By asking questions that get to the root of equitable community building, we are able to even more confidently say that our partners are doing the work to welcome all San Mateo County families. To explore the ways that we are staying educated and pursuing diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging, visit our website.   

At the end of the day, the transition from REDI to DEIB is more than just a change in terminology; it’s a reflection of how our understanding of diversity and inclusion continues to grow and change. When we talk about equity, inclusion, and diversity, what we are really saying is that we want people to feel a sense of comfort, power, and affinity for the community they are in, the place where they live. Belonging gets to that extra layer, and it’s important that First 5 San Mateo County creates belonging in all that we do. 

Kitty Lopez has served as the Executive Director of First 5 San Mateo County since 2012, focusing on policy, advocacy and communications development. Additionally, she is the Chair of First 5 Association of California. Kitty previously served as the Executive Director of Samaritan House, one of the leading safety-net nonprofit agencies serving low-income families and individuals in San Mateo County with food, shelter, clothing, health care, counseling, education classes, and holiday assistance from 2002 to 2012.

Kitty taught kindergarten, second grade, and high school in the Bay Area and in Santa Barbara, and was a consultant in schools with children who have autism and special needs. Additionally, Kitty worked in a residential substance abuse treatment center in San Francisco and psychiatric hospital in San Diego.

She attended University of California Santa Barbara earning a California Teaching Credential and B.A in Psychology. Kitty is active in her community serving on several community boards including HEART (Housing Endowment and Regional Trust of San Mateo County), STEP (Success Through Education Program), and Past President and Current Member of the San Mateo Rotary Club.