Unleashed: Helping Address Implicit Bias Discrimination from a Young Age

Unleashed is a nonprofit organization that conducts evidenced-based workshops about implicit bias discrimination to middle and high school s

Photo of Leigh Ho
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6508887511 14975 Page Mill Road, Los Altos Hills, CA

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Date You Started Your Project Started


Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Established (successfully passed early phases, have a plan for the future)

1. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

Identity-based discrimination is pervasive in our society and we don’t teach our students about this. Unleashed is different compared to other programs in that we are specifically targeting young people. Most Diversity and Inclusion programs and interventions are aimed at adults, despite the fact that implicit biases form long before adulthood. Moreover, no studies exist studying implicit bias discrimination in the demographic of young people.

2. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

Mechanism of Action: Teach students about implicit bias discrimination from a young age using validated methods and research. Unleashed’s Solution: Unleashed is a nonprofit organization that conducts evidenced-based workshops about implicit bias discrimination to middle and high school students. Participants learn about implicit bias, its negative effects, and methods to limit its impact. Students can then explore how implicit bias can intersect with gender, race, and sexuality.

3. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project?

“Unleashed” was a program born out of a journalism class for middle-schoolers at the Boys and Girls Club. Although my original curriculum focused on current events, the 20 students enrolled were more eager to talk about their own experiences with race and identity. Recognising these students’ urgent need for an outlet, I shifted the focus of the class to identity. I saw a dramatic shift in the students’ engagement. They raised their hands more frequently. They actually completed in-class activities--and even completed their homework. It became clear to me that young people on the precipice of adolescence craved opportunities to talk about the way they saw society working. Now, Unleashed has pivoted towards teaching young people about implicit bias, but our mission remains the same: to arm our students with the tools to understand the world around them and implicit bias.

5. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.

Though based in California and New York, Unleashed made its way down to Kansas City, Missouri. There, we gave workshops to students from an all girls' school. We asked them to explain the following situation: "A father and son are in a horrible car crash that kills the dad. The son is rushed to the hospital; just as he’s about to go under the knife, the surgeon says, “I can’t operate—that boy is my son!” There are two answers: the surgeon is a female or the boy has two fathers. It took a long time for the girls in the school to come up with the possibility that the surgeon could be female. This was quite remarkable considering these were students at a progressive all girls' school! This instance demonstrated that this kind of implicit bias work is crucial for our youth.

6. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?

Unleashed’s implicit bias programs are evidence-based. We use the Implicit Association Test, which measures the strength of associations between concepts. Our program establishes implicit bias as a significant factor in discriminatory behaviour and highlight the importance of systemic modifications. Perhaps most importantly, our curriculum is validated by leading implicit bias experts. Our team works closely with Kate Ratcliff, the executive director of Project Implicit. We collect data on our workshops through pre and post surveys, which Kate evaluates.

7. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

-Hosted 12 workshops total reaching ~1000 students to date -Awarded the Princeton Prize in Race Relations in recognition of work on Unleashed -Onboard Harvard Project Implicit––a leading non-profit organization and research consortium of experts in implicit bias research––to ensure the curriculum is in alignment with current implicit bias research. Project Implicit researchers reviewed the curriculum content specific to implicit bias to ensure alignment to current research -Expanded Unleashed to NYC. Conducted workshops with NYC Dept of Education public schools: East Side Middle School (150 students) and East Side Community School (15-30 students) -Asked to implement workshops for 640+ students at 75 Morton Middle School. Created teacher training program to to meet demand. -Implemented teacher workshops in Kansas City public schools and St. Teresa's Academy in Kansas City

8. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?

*Growing Student workshops -East Side Middle School: seventh graders and sixth graders (approximately 300 new students total) -schools in Kansas City that we worked with in the past (approximately 600 students totals). *Growing Teacher Trainings -We are are starting to prioritize teacher-training programs to scale our workshops more quickly/efficiently and have started to charge $600-900 per daylong training session (which includes reimbursements for travel costs). *Fundraising campaign to hire full-time admin Changemaker funds would help us reach our goal to raise $130K to hire our first full time administrator––to support their salary for two years. This will serve as a stopgap on the road to sustainability.

9. Which of the following types of expertise would be most useful for you?

  • Board Development

10. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?

  • Friend support
  • Family support
  • Mentors/advisors

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 1 [optional] Which of the following categories do you identify with?

  • Asian (for example: Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Pakistani) (9)

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 2 [optional] Do you identify as part of any of the following underrepresented communities?

  • Communities of color

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Social media


Join the conversation:

Photo of Shannon Stephens

Hi Leigh! Thank you so much for sharing the work of Unleashed with the Changemaker challenge! The specific scenario that you gave to the all-girls school really blew me away and caused me to question my own bias when contemplating the scenario. I agree that the youth need to be armed to combat bias discrimination and that your program will improve their sense of self! I am definitely rooting for your cause and hope that your organization continues to expand!

Photo of Shreya Chaudhuri

Hey! This is an incredible idea. Incorporating an education of discrimination and how to avoid it will really change the way people treat others from a younger age.