Between the global pandemic, the movement for racial justice, and unprecedented upheaval to our education system and economy, this year’s events continue to highlight the importance of inclusion. More individuals and organizations are having dynamic conversations about diversity, equity, and embracing differences. Creating inclusive spaces has been core to Understood’s work since its beginning in 2014. Over the years, the social impact organization has focused on helping the 1 in 5 people who learn and think differently thrive.
Today, Understood’s mission - shaping the world for difference - is taking on a much larger meaning. In recent months, people with disabilities are losing their jobs at a higher rate than people without disabilities. And with many schools continuing distance learning, families and educators of children with learning differences are challenged to ensure kids continue to receive the right accommodations and support
“We’re at a time when the world is shining a light on the need for greater diversity and more inclusive spaces, and people with learning and thinking differences must be recognized as part of that conversation,” said Fred Poses, CEO of Understood. “When given proper support and the right opportunities, they can enrich the world but without that, they face educational challenges or even unemployment. There is more work to be done.”
Families are echoing this sentiment. In fact, in a recent survey from Understood and YouGov*, 71% of parents report concerns that their child will face challenges this coming school year, and asked for resources to empower them and their kids. As a response, Understood launched Take N.O.T.E. - an initiative and the first memory device to help families recognize early symptoms of learning disabilities and ADHD and get support. In addition to Take N.O.T.E., Understood supports learning and thinking differences in its accessible digital products, branding,and practical resources for educators and employers to create inclusive environments, to name a few efforts.
With its mission growing in importance, Understood is expanding as an organization with new team members and functions. Joanna Roses recently joined in a new role of Executive Director of Communications to lead its internal and external communications efforts, and help strengthen awareness of Understood and its mission. She reports to Chief Marketing Officer Nathan Friedman.
Roses’ background fits nicely with the audiences that Understood wants to reach with its mission. She has helped position companies like Nickelodeon and the Department of Education in its efforts to recruit future teachers, as well as corporate communications efforts for a range of companies across industries, such as L’Oréal and KAYAK. With leadership roles at agencies such as Golin, startups, and both public and private companies, she joins Understood from analytics company SAS, where she ran its communications and creative marketing division.
Roses is one of several newly added senior leadership team members who are reinforcing Understood’s work, including Chief Human Resources Officer Yvonne Cowser Yancy and Chief Product Officer Jenny Wu. As Yancy scales the team and builds Understood as a best-in-class workplace, Wu is focused on diversifying and expanding the organization’s product offerings.
Added Poses, “Externally, we are shaping a world for differences, but we are also operating this way internally and expanding our team of diverse perspectives and backgrounds within the organization. We are pleased to add Jenny, Yvonne and Joanna into the fold, and are looking forward to their helping to bring our mission to life.”
*YouGov, on behalf of Understood, conducted an online survey among 2,049 parents of children ages 5–17 in the U.S. between July 22 and August 3, 2020.