I traveled to Cincinnati to participate in the 2021 ISM Annual Conference in September. For most of us, it was one of the first in-person events we’ve attended since before the COVID-19 pandemic. It was invigorating to interact face to face—meeting new people and reconnecting with familiar faces. 

If you’ve worked in or around the public sector, you’ve likely encountered old stereotypes about government playing “catch up” to the private sector. Commercial organizations are usually the early adopters of innovative service models and emerging technologies. Public sector agencies are thought to be fast followers at best, laggards at worst.

But based on what I heard and saw at the 2021 ISM Annual Conference, I’m convinced that states will be the aggressive change makers when it comes to one of the most important challenge of our time. By contrast, my sense is that race equity remains a loaded topic or an opaque priority (or both) for many in the private sector.

I’m proud that Accenture is an exception. We’re taking action against racism and demonstrating that commitment in how we attract, retain and develop talent. We’re also tackling inclusion and diversity in collaboration with our clients. At ISM, I shared an example—the Accenture Virtual Experience Solution (AVEnueS) scenario featuring a teen named Tory.

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In this training exercise, Tory and his family have been brought to the attention of their local child services agency. Users meet and interact with this youth and his loved ones using Virtual Reality technology. After that interaction, they convene with others who just completed the experience to discuss their assessments and recommendations for how to support Tory. And here’s the twist: As I showed during the conference, half of AVEnueS users interact virtually with a white Tory, half with a Black Tory. This training experience prompts important discussions about how thought processes and decision making may be influenced by racial bias. It also gives child welfare professionals a rare chance to practice the work of race equity without putting real families at risk.

The Tory scenario is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg in terms of how strategy and technology solutions can support rapid progress in increasing race equity. Based on what I witnessed at the ISM Annual Meeting, states are ready and willing to embrace bold, innovative approaches. At Accenture, we share this passion and commitment—and are ready to collaborate with states to support equity and justice for all families and kids.

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What I found the most energizing during the event was states’ clear commitment to increasing race equity.

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Molly Tierney

Managing Director – Public Service, Child Welfare, North America

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