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Encyclopedia Dubuque


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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


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INCLUSIVE DUBUQUE. Combining local schools, businesses and city government, Inclusive Dubuque was an initiative announced by the City of Dubuque in 2013 to make the city more welcoming and friendly. To initiate the program, the city council in December 2013 unanimously voted to set aside $75,000 in both the current fiscal year and the next. (1) In 2017 more than sixty businesses, non-profits and governmental partners were part of the effort to advancing justice and social equity in Dubuque. (2)

According to the plan, the initiative would utilize a "collective impact" model in which member organizations would contribute to a common goal. The Community Foundation, as an example, would contribute office space for the program and act as its fiscal agent. Other members would contribute financially or offer services or time. (3)

In April, 2014 the City Council announced that it would expect regular updates and reports from Inclusive Dubuque officials during its year-long information gathering process. A "core group" of Inclusive Dubuque leaders was meeting every other week with subcommittees dealing with issues related to community engagement and analysis. Themes that emerged included the lack of diversity in the local arts and cultural scene, challenges of keeping college graduates in the city and the "branding" of Dubuque. Coordinator Jessica Rose was planning upcoming community "Idea Exchanges." After several of these meetings, the initiative would begin a six-month community dialogue similar to the Envision 2010 process held in 2005. A contracted services agreement between the city and Inclusive Dubuque had not been finalized. (4)

Inclusive Dubuque operated under the umbrella of the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque. (5) Since October 2014, "idea exchanges" had been carried out with thirty-seven businesses or organizations within the community. In the past twelve months ending in October, 2014, the number of "mission members" had increased from 22 to 30 including businesses, nonprofits, and educational institutions. (6) The first update to the City Council occurred in October, 2014 with quarterly reports to be made in 2015. (7)

In January 2015, Inclusive Dubuque announced that it would host three "community dialogue" sessions in February to discuss equity issues, economic well-being, and local workforce and socioeconomic status. Additional sessions and online surveys would be held monthly through August to address equity issues in education, health, arts, and culture. Equity referred to race, age, gender, gender identity, socioeconomic status and the status of veterans. Inclusive Dubuque was a network of thirty-six community partners including the DUBUQUE COMMUNITY SCHOOL DISTRICTand the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque. (8)

More than six hundred residents participated in the dialogues and nearly 1,700 filled out a survey. The fact-finding done during the first six months of 2015 indicated the following statistics: (9)

Photo courtesy: Inclusive Dubuque and the Telegraph Herald
Despite the income gaps indicated, nearly 70 percent of those responding to a survey believed their workplace to be inclusive. It was among Blacks, Hindus and those ages 18 to 21 were job discrimination was indicated as the second-highest factor slowing their economic well-being. Dialogue participants said Dubuque's workforce was difficult to break in without the proper connections. (10)

Rick Dickinson, president and CEO of Greater Dubuque Development Corp., responded that an expanding skills gap is probably creating that feeling more than job discrimination. "A significant number of the minority population are highly educated professionals -- physicians, managers, engineers and IT professionals," Dickinson said. GDDC, however, found that 63 percent of Dubuque-area employers struggled to find skilled workers. More needs to be done to raise awareness among employers and the community of the barriers faced by minority groups, but local employers and colleges have worked to address workforce diversity, recruitment and employee development, through programs and mentorships. Among them are Prudential, John Deere, IBM, Hormel and Medical Associates. (11)

From February through October 2015, Inclusive Dubuque hosted sessions gathering information about equity issues in education, housing transportation, and economic well-being. Data was obtain from 580 residents and 2,000 surveys. A summary report issued on November 2, 2016 was used to gather feedback to develop initiatives and set priorities. A Diversity Summit was held on November 3rd. Working groups were then formed around each focus area to set priorities for inclusion in an equity action plan for early 2016. (12)

Early successes were being observed by network partners. The DUBUQUE AREA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE announced in November 2015 that it was in the process of forming a minority business council to promote growth and competitiveness of minority-owned businesses in Dubuque. The council would also help owners of these businesses leverage local resources to provide business and legal advice and find access to capital. Northeast Iowa Community College partnered with Dubuque-Works, Project HOPE, the DUBUQUE COMMUNITY SCHOOL DISTRICT, and the East Central Intergovernmental Agency to provide short-term job training in high-demand fields to low-income, low-skilled workers with only a high school diploma. (13)

In the spring of 2017 Inclusive Dubuque conducted presentations and workshops on racial identity and fostering diversity and inclusion. An estimated three hundred people attended. To inform people about the Marshallese culture, participants completed a project documenting lives of several Marshallese residents. In 2018 planning called for stories based on the immigrants.

In June 2017 a campaign sponsored by Inclusive Dubuque was begun, "I am a Dubuquer," consisting of portraits and short stories of local residents with different backgrounds and careers. The plan was to make everyone living in the city feel more welcome by redefining what it means to be a Dubuquer. The program featured a video with people from different backgrounds, some born in the city, and some elsewhere. The campaign also had a website featuring profile stories of the people in the campaign. (14)

Council members learned of an after-school program by the Boy Scouts of American Northeast Iowa Council to expand scouting to low-income and minority youth living in urban neighborhoods and efforts to increase intercultural competency among MERCY MEDICAL CENTER nursing staff. (15)

In April, 2017 two burned crosses were discovered near Washington Street. More than a year later, no one has been arrested. KWWL filed an Open Records request with the DUBUQUE POLICE DEPARTMENT to learn more about the investigation, but Police Chief Mark Dalsing said because it was an ongoing investigation much of the information was confidential. (16)

Despite those negative incidents police have had to investigate, there are many positives driving change. Dubuque has become more diverse. According to the U.S Census Bureau, the minority population was barely 4 percent in 2000. In 2015, it more than doubled to an estimated 9 percent. There were programs helping to address what some said was still an issue. In addition to Inclusive Dubuque, another program, Circles Initiative, was based after a national model of bringing people together, and building relationships as they worked in ways to thrive. (17)

Circles Initiative met every Tuesday night at PRESCOTT ELEMENTARY SCHOOL from 5:30 - 8:00 p.m. Inclusive Dubuque met several times during the month, as follows: (18)

               1. Arts and Culture Sector group: 1st Tuesday of every month: 
                  3:30-5 at the McCarthy Center for Nonprofits, Roshek Building
               2. Neighborhoods Sector group: 2nd Thursday of every month at the
                  same time and place.
               3. Education Sector group: 1st Wed of every month: same as above.

Plans in December 2017 for a Miracle League Baseball Field, a ballpark for children with disabilities, were moving ahead. The complex would also have an all inclusive playground, and pavilion. With an estimated 1,700 children with some type of disability in the DUBUQUE COMMUNITY SCHOOL DISTRICT, project leaders believed a ballpark like this was needed. Even more children are counting on this outside of the city. The Miracle League was working on the final agreement with the city of Dubuque. If all went as planned, construction would start in the spring, with games starting in the fall. The total cost of the project was estimated to be $3.5 million. (19)

On April 28, 2018 Prescott was the scene of the second one-day Free School composed of classes taught by community members teaching their peers for free. Classes were offered for both adults and children. Adult classes included “What to Look for When Renting an Apartment,” “How to Organize your Workplace” and “Sex Ed in the City.” Children’s classes included Yoga, Magic Tricks and “Loving Me Inside and Out.” The day-long program included a light breakfast and a free lunch for all participants. There was also a toy swap; families could bring clean, gently used toys to swap or donate—or just pick something up for free. This program is supported by a Sustainable Dubuque Grant. (20)

The Dubuque Free School was an initiative of the Dubuque Democratic Socialists. Their approach to education was inspired by the Freedom Schools, which began in Mississippi during the summer of 1964. During the Civil Rights Era, these schools encouraged active citizenship among African-American elementary school kids and encouraged greater community involvement. They are also influenced by the work of Paolo Friere and Bell Hooks, both of whom argued that education is a method of guiding people to achieve their own liberation by developing a critical consciousness. (21)



1. Jacobson, Ben. "City Antes $75,000 for Inclusivity," Telegraph Herald, December 17, 2013, p. 1A

2. Barton, Thomas J. "Inclusivity Efforts Paying Dividends, Official Says," Telegraph Herald, November 28, 2017, p. 3A

3. Jacobson

4. Jacobson, Ben. "Inclusive Dubuque in Fact-Finding Mode," Telegraph Herald, Mar. 30, 2014

5. Montgomery, Jeff, "Inclusive Dubuque Hopes to Make Strides," Telegraph Herald, Oct. 12, 2014, p. 2A

6. Ibid.

7. Ibid.

8. Jacobsen, Ben. "Inclusive Dubuque Plans 'Community Dialogue' Session," Telegraph Herald, January 26, 2015, p. 1

9. Barton, Thomas J. "Diversity Spawns Push for Equity," Telegraph Herald, September 27, 2015, p. 6A

10. Ibid.

11. Ibid.

12. Barton, Thomas J. "Inclusive Dubuque Fills Gaps" Telegraph Herald, November 3, 2015, p. 1A

13. Ibid.

14. Descorbeth, Shirley. Inclusive Dubuque Launches, 'I'm a Dubuquer,' Campaign to Make all Feel Welcome," KWWL.com. Online: http://www.kwwl.com/story/35792263/2017/6/30/inclusive-dubuque-launches-im-a-dubuquer-campaign-to-make-all-feel-welcome

15. Barton, "Inclusivity Efforts Paying Dividends..."

16. Descorbeth, Shirley. "SPECIAL REPORT: Key to Inclusion," KWWL.com. Online: http://www.kwwl.com/story/36854605/2017/11/15/special-report-key-to-inclusion

17. Ibid.

18. Ibid.

19. Descorbeth, Shirley. Plans for Inclusive Baseball Field in Dubuque Moving Forward," KWWL.com, December 13, 2017, Online: http://www.kwwl.com/story/37062498/2017/12/13/plans-for-inclusive-baseball-field-in-dubuque-moving-forward

20. Inclusive Dubuque. "Dubuque Free School at Prescott Elementary," Online: http://inclusivedbq.org/event/dubuque-free-school-at-prescott-elementary/

21. Ibid.