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Empowering People for Inclusive Communities in New Ways

Published by John Kaiser on

Over the next five years, EPIC will be upholding its mission by reaching new audiences while continuing its unique youth service model.

Since its founding in 2011, EPIC (which stands for Empowering People for Inclusive Communities) has graduated 135 Service Warriors from its flagship service learning and leadership development program. Each Service Warrior learns how to find and amplify their voice as an agent for positive change in their community, while completing service projects, learning from community leaders, and building their own skills that prepare them for adulthood.  However, COVID-19 served as an occasion for EPIC Founder Jeff Lafata-Hernandez to take a step back and examine how the program will best meet its mission in the future. EPIC has continued to support its community of young leaders since March 2020, while exploring ways to empower other audiences and groups to do their part in building inclusive spaces for people with disabilities. To that end, Jeff recognized the heightened awareness of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) programs taking place and realized that EPIC’s longstanding training programs for community organizations could be rapidly expanded to ensure that disability inclusion has its place within this important movement.

To form a plan, Jeff partnered with a team of MBA candidates from the F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business at Babson College in the fall of 2021 to develop a business and marketing plan to rapidly expand workplace disability inclusion, ableism, and accessibility training for expansion in the coming years. By looking at recent studies, it was found that only 27% of private companies included disabilities as part of the metrics collected for their DEI Strategy, despite 1 in 4 adults in the United States having a disability. While these statistics do not reflect well on the current state of disability inclusion in the workplace, it presents an opportunity for EPIC to provide training and consulting services that meet this unmet need. 

As part of the next five years for the EPIC program, growing the number of disability inclusion and ableism trainings offered to community organizations, schools, higher education, and private businesses will be a key strategy that will generate mission-driven revenue to support further EPIC youth program offerings, including the Service Warrior program. Word-of-mouth and digital marketing strategies have been wildly successful thus far by generating leads from local workplaces and from around the US. EPIC Training and Consulting Services have adapted the Babson plan and surpassed last year’s number of training in just five months while doubling total revenue from these sessions. Training sessions can be tailored to meet the unique needs of any workplace, starting with a standard offering that gives a foundational understanding of ableism, the history of disabilities in the workplace, and basic definitions so that colleagues can share a unified understanding of disability inclusion before undertaking greater efforts.

The next five years will also include exciting plans for EPIC youth services. In addition to bringing the Service Warrior program back to in-person sessions, EPIC will look to grow enrollment back to pre-pandemic numbers in the next two years and relaunch flagship service events that engage hundreds of community members each year. In the coming years, Jeff and the EPIC team will increase their emphasis on youth trainings in schools in order to provide self-advocacy training to students with disabilities. These relationships will also serve as natural recruitment partnerships for other EPIC youth services programming opportunities.

Click here to support EPIC’s efforts by joining their Gift of Service Campaign.

To learn more about EPIC’s workplace training programs, please click here.

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