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Equity Mindset Cards

image of one side of the "belonging" mindset card

Mindset Cards: Google Slides


A Tool to Support Equitable Change

Follow the links above to access the Mindset Cards. These cards are intended to support the day-to-day work of systemic change to advance equity. They combine key mindsets and resources for sustainable, practical change with key elements of equity-related transformation on all levels: personal, interpersonal, organizational, and structural. 

The Equity and Beyond workgroup on DPI ‘s Title I and School Support Team identified these mindsets and created these cards, based on their collective decades of experience (successfully and unsuccessfully) working to change practices and systems in the field of education. They are periodically updated based on user feedback. The links on this page will always lead to the most current versions.

Three Themes

The colors of the cards group the mindsets into three themes:

  • Inclusion & connection  (Dialogue, Belonging, Co-Creation): lime green
  • Re-calibrating “normal”  (Humility, People Over Systems, Asset Mindset): blue
  • Sustainable change (Institutional Responsibility, Supporting Adaptive Change, Alignment/ Realignment): dark blue

The Basics—Using the Mindsets to Support Transformation

  1. Begin with Humility—start where you are. Assume your lens on a situation is shaped by your identities and experiences, and examine your assets, limits, and opportunities. Assume that you cannot gain the full picture of things alone or by consulting only with people who think like you; open to learning and changing. 
  2. Take on an Asset Mindset and cultivate Belonging and Dialogue to build a coalition for change. Connect with key stakeholders—to understand the problem deeply, this must include the people most affected by it. Make sure your processes of communication and interpersonal interaction allow disagreement and honesty so you can build the trusting relationships that are the foundation of collaboration. Build a shared vision of equity. Welcome everyone’s hopes and fears, and include everyone’s values and goals in the picture of success so you can eliminate any false sense of competing interests. 
  3. Together, take Institutional Responsibility for centering the greatest needs, and begin the process of Alignment/Realignment of practices & systems: Use your assets—connect with peers, community organizations, tools/resources, and other supports to help you investigate the problems with an open heart and mind; look to children and nature for examples and inspiration. Be willing to examine foundations and systems. Look at resource allocation to align human and material resources with equity.
  4. Put People Over Systems and embrace Co-Creation in selecting strategic actions and directions: Investigate multiple solutions and choose with an eye toward systemic change. Find solutions (ways to change behavior and systems) that center those on the margins and address the greatest need for change (which may feel unsettling to those used to being centered), are backed by evidence that is meaningful to those most affected, and are workable in your real situation (teachable, learnable, doable). 
  5. Support Adaptive Change all along the way to promote sustainability: Keep centering communication, relationships, and collaboration, engaging family/community assets. Make sure everyone doing something new is supported to learn how (training, coaching, learning communities, etc.). Plan realistically, including periodic checks and opportunities to adjust. Understand that things will go wrong, pop up unexpectedly, take longer than planned. Identify signs of progress to look for—what might you see happening when things are beginning to shift? when you gain some momentum? when change is fully realized? Fail forward, share what you learn, and ask for help (probably more often than you feel like).

Ways to Use the Mindset Cards

Don’t rely on these tips alone—use the cards as a creative springboard! Set up your own brainstorming session about ways to use the cards to empower your work for greater impact. Courageous creativity is an important skill to cultivate.

General Tips

  • Print the cards out and keep them handy as a visual reminder to use them; you might laminate them and put them on a ring.
  • Keep coming back to the cards, whether things are going smoothly or getting sticky: Use the cards to keep asking yourself, “Is this really aligned with equitable practices, or have we missed the mark?” It’s an ongoing process, and all of us need other people and tools to see what‘s just beyond our reach.
  • Allow difficult conversations to happen:  You can expect to encounter hesitancy and hard conversations when using the cards—this is key to the work and means you are likely moving in the right direction.
  • Use the cards to improve equity initiatives: Just because an initiative is equity-focused doesn’t mean the processes, products, or rollout will automatically be equitable. An equity-related product or initiative created and rolled out using traditionally hierarchical or exclusionary processes will carry the inequity of those processes with it and be the weaker for it. “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” —Audre Lorde
  • Commit as a group to use them consistently, and hold one another accountable. Building relationships is essential to equity work. When there is trust, there is more willingness to dig into equity work. “Move at the speed of trust.” —adrienne maree brown

For Meetings and Groups

  • Designate a mindset checker in meetings: Select a mindset that relates to the agenda and invite the group to use it deliberately during the meeting. Give the group a few minutes to review the card. Designate a “mindset checker” to notice how the mindset is used and, at the end, provide feedback about where it was used well and what opportunities were missed. 
  • Hold multiple mindsets at once: Pick a set of key mindsets for a meeting or a particular decision. Invite each individual involved to take responsibility for bringing a particular mindset to bear. 
  • Invite different members of a group/meeting to focus on different parts of a single card: One person might focus on the sample practices, another on common pitfalls.
  • Eliminate common pitfalls together: In a program/project group, pick a card and deliberately identify pitfalls together. Then use the other sections of the card to find ways to shift things.
  • Mindset of the Month: Select a particular card with a team or group and focus on it for a month. Intentionally experiment with integrating the guiding questions, sample practices and resources into your work, and provide spaces to reflect together on the mindset both personally and professionally. At the end of the month, share or sum up what you’ve learned, and take another month and use the learning to go deeper. Then select a new card.

Timing Tip: When you include a card activity in a meeting, put it first (or early) in the agenda and allow it to infuse the rest of the meeting.

Communications & Coaching

  • Use the language on the cards to build a shared vocabulary around change: See how changing your language changes your sense of possibility. 
  • Shape communications for impact: Use themes from the cards to structure a series, like a newsletter. Or use insights from the cards to help “humanize” something you’re writing. Empathize with the reader, and use a concept from the cards to provide a point of hope or sense of the “why” behind an activity, action, requirement, etc.
  • Coach equity efforts: Keep the cards handy to support coaching conversations. Are there particular words or phrases you hear that indicate a common pitfall? Jot them down on the card. Are there items from the card that have been useful in the past in helping a client past that pitfall? Record your observations so you can make the connection more easily next time. 

Resources for Each Mindset

People Over Systems
Asset Mindset
Institutional Responsibility
Supporting Adaptive Change


Give Us Feedback

Thank you to all the educators at DPI and beyond who contributed to this list of uses and tips! To share more ideas or help improve the cards, complete this mindset cards survey.

For questions about this information, contact Title I and School Support Team (608) 267-3721