• Research studies indicate that cultural competence is one of the most important skills a leader needs to succeed.

The YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities, a leading nonprofit dedicated to strengthening communities through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility, developed a transformative new Equity Innovation Experience with the Science Museum of Minnesota and community partners.

The new Equity Innovation Experience, located in the YMCA Equity Innovation Center on 651 Nicollet Mall in Minneapolis, is a catalyst to engage the mind on equity, diversity, inclusion and global realities. This interactive exhibit used in conjunction with the Center’s programs provides a unique opportunity to see life from another’s point of view and challenge a person’s mental models of the world. Through this immersive learning process participants gain a deeper understanding of the life paths and experiences present today so they can better serve their communities or reach their customers with greater relevance and comprehension of needs.

“In an increasingly connected world, organizations must adapt to better meet the needs of diverse teams and communities,” said Glen Gunderson, president and CEO for the Y. “The YMCA’s Equity Innovation Center provides unique opportunities for building transformational leaders and engaging diverse stakeholders from all sectors. By experiencing hands-on training designed to help foster innovative solutions to challenges regarding equity, diversity and inclusion, teams can create a safe environment for authentic conversation and build a lasting culture that values all perspectives.” 

Dr. Hedy Lemar Walls, chief social responsibility officer for the Y added, “Organizations are looking for experiences where diverse communities come together for participating in problem solving to shape their own future. The Y’s Equity Innovation Center offers a customized engagement process based on the outcomes the organization wants to achieve.” 

Recently 160 students and staff from North Central University participated in the Y’s Equity Innovation Experience as part of its student leadership development program. The goal of the training was to heighten student cultural awareness and leadership skills in the community.

“To my delight, the customized learning process provided current and historical lessons and information about personal and institutional behaviors, and systems of racial discrimination and injustice which challenge our ability to live, work and play in ‘Comm-Unity’,” said Bill E. Green, director of multicultural engagement and support at North Central University. “The outcomes of our experience have been greater conversations and discussions as well as more activities for personal and institutional opportunities to enhance cultural awareness, inclusion and equity.”

In the new Equity Innovation Experience that is used in conjunction with the Center’s customized programs participants will see firsthand how the experiential learning experience includes hand-opportunities to explore cultural markers, wealth disparities, microagressions, implicit bias and the history of race in America.  As part of the reflective process and after going through the Equity Innovation Experience, participants debrief and connect with a small group about personal experiences and its impact, and how to lead differently going forward.

Learn about the customized learning process for all organizations about equity, diversity, inclusion and global realities – YMCA Equity Innovation Center 

Explore the new Equity Innovation Experience developed with the Science Museum of Minnesota – Exploring the Equity Innovation Experience

Discover how the Equity Innovation Center provides opportunities for diverse communities to come together for problem solving to shape their own future – Engage in the YMCA Equity Innovation Center 

See life from another’s point of view and challenge a person’s mental models of the world - Participate in the YMCA Equity Innovation Experience 

For more information on the programs and services offered at the YMCA Equity Center, visit

Because the Y is a leading nonprofit committed to helping all thrive, financial assistance is available to those in need. With the generous support of donors and community members, the Y ensures that all have the opportunity to participate. To learn more, please visit