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Intersectional Innovations

Case Studies

The Challenge

Picture this: every morning for a month, immersing yourself in a dedicated Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) routine. Imagine the shift in your behavior. Now, magnify that across your entire company. That's the seismic change underway at Denny's, the 24/7 icon of diner-style dining.

With a workforce of 65,000 and 1450 bustling restaurants, serving a whopping 400 million breakfasts annually, Denny's Restaurants isn't just flipping pancakes, they're transforming culture.

However, getting a large corporation to participate in a company-wide DEI program is no small task.

Denny's Case Study

Denny's 30-Day DEI Program: Authentic Progress or Virtue Signaling?

💫 DEI Trailblazers Yeruwelle de Rouen of Intersectional Innovations Works With Denny's DEI Team, Featured by Forbes💫

Client - Portland Metro STEM Partnership

Can we equitably diversify the future of tech among Portland youth?

The Result

Denny’s DEI Leadership team was featured by Forbes!

Read Forbes Article>>

Denny’s DEI participation increased:

In a groundbreaking move, we launched a comprehensive program targeting their corporate team members at the Denny’s Support Center. The results were nothing short of extraordinary, with an astounding 80%+ participation rate sustained over the 18-month initiative.

6 Key Takeaways of Denny's Immersive DEI Program

1. Provide tailored and Impactful Content:

  • A Shift from Routine: Departing from the conventional one-off approach, Melaku Peterson and Roinisalo adopted a dynamic strategy.

  • Data-Driven Customization: Content was meticulously crafted based on insights gleaned from pulse surveys, coupled with the innovative 30-day challenge framework.

  • Personalization is Key: The learning experience was designed to resonate on a personal level, aligning with each individual's broader purpose.

2. Foster a Collaborative Space: "Denny's Circle"

  • Digital Nexus for Reflection and Discourse: Denny's harnessed the potential of its proprietary digital platform, "Denny's Circle," as a hub for reflection, discussions, and peer learning.

  • Community Engagement Surge: The platform saw a surge in membership, escalating from 130 to an impressive 300 participants out of a total of 500.

3. Rewards as a Catalysts:

  • Incentivizing Participation: Denny's introduced an engaging rewards system. Employees who completed three out of five weekly exercises became eligible for the raffle.

  • Bonus Rewards for Overachievement: Those surpassing the threshold or undertaking additional exercises earned extra raffle tickets.

  • Prizes Galore: From cross-country tickets to power lunches with executives, the prize roster was a testament to Denny's commitment to recognition and appreciation.

4. Elevate Champions of Change:

  • The "Go Beyond Champions": A cohort of dedicated champions was enlisted to play pivotal roles. They lent their expertise to events, facilitated discussions, and took up positions in the DEI council.

5. Mid-Challenge Revelry:

  • Marking Progress Together: At the midway point of the 30-day challenge, participants gathered to commemorate their journey. The "Go Beyond" banner served as a visual representation of their collective dedication, gracing their workspace throughout the month.

6. Culmination Celebration:

  • Honoring Authenticity: The conclusion of the challenge was marked by a community day celebration. Participants shared their "Authentic Self" narratives, reflecting on their transformational journey. Video testimonials were recorded to inspire future participants.

I think we can all agree that Denny's has set a new standard in DEI initiatives, redefining how organizations can drive transformative change. Through these strategic pillars, Melaku Peterson and Roinisalo have not only spurred participation but have also fostered a culture of belonging, recognition, and personal growth. This program stands as a testament to Denny's commitment to a brighter, more inclusive future.

Denny’s DEI Leadership team was featured by Forbes!

What Topics are covered in the 30 Days?


Week 1: 

Your identity is your power


Week 2:

Activate your Allyship


Week 3:

Co-create the way we work


Week 4:

Empowered inclusion


What’s after the 30-Day Program?


30 days is not enough to change the culture. That’s why the Championing Humanity Program is part of a larger 18-month DEI initiative called Denny’s Together.


Denny’s Together doesn't just raise awareness; it translates it into tangible on-the-job action.


Action that most corporations are simply not willing to allocate budget towards. 

In the pursuit of reshaping behavior and culture at Denny's, Fasika Melaku Peterson and Raila Roinisalo embarked on an ambitious 18-month program. This visionary endeavor seeks to transcend conventional thinking, beliefs, and experiences, establishing an environment where every individual feels a profound sense of belonging and recognition.

Embracing Reflection and Practice: Contrary to consuming the entirety of the 18-month program, Yeruwelle judiciously allocates space and time for reflection and practical application. This deliberate integration of introspection and hands-on implementation ensures a comprehensive evolution throughout the duration of the program.


30-Day Championing Humanity Program 

The Challenge

After raising $3.7 million how do we allocate these funds to best bring together seven separate, grassroots organizations to create the BIPOC STEAM Ignite Ecosystem Partnership within Oregon? 

In order to do this we would need all seven organizations in the BIPOC STEAM Ignite Ecosystem Partnership to agree on a collective narrative of how to better serve Portland BIPOC youth and their families so they are prepared to pursue STEM careers. The challenge for Yeruwelle of Intersectional Innovations is supporting Partner organizations to disrupt the norms established by industry for engaging BIPOC youth in STEM and empower them to redesign working together and creating with the communities in a restorative manner. 



Foster trust and innovation among distinct entities, including two school districts.



  • Account for historical relationship dynamics, changing staff, and diverse needs.

  • Awareness that youth STEM education is often driven by industry desires and needs, not youth interests and community needs. 

  • Portland Metro Stem Partnership is involved in supporting fund distribution, helping audit and design the partnership community, and providing a consultant to equitably facilitate all of these responsibilities and more. They selected Intersectional Innovations to provide this support.




Audit Community Needs: 

  • Align each Partner’s needs and outcomes to synergize collaboration.

  • Design outcomes for engagement and fund allocation.

  • Elevate the unique needs and context of BIPOC, ESL, refugee, and other community voices represented within the partnership. 


Equitable Decision Making:

  • Center equity, history, and need.

  • Establish clear historical documentation.

  • Allow for iterative solutions.

  • Finalize decisions through consensus.


Programs Development:

  • Cutting-edge STEM career engagement that teaches industry how to best engage with and support silenced, othered and disempowered communities. .

  • Community programs driven by youth and family input in BIPOC and underserved communities.


Resource Allocation: 

  • Equitably distribute extra raised funds and corporate donations.

  • Utilize a liberatory decision-making process for seamless distribution with unanimous agreement.


The partners have also expressed the following shared goals:


  • Creating a Community of Practice to foster collaboration and support partners to expand STEAM programming

  • Developing Career Connected Learning (CCL) & industry connections to support skills development, and build awareness of high-wage/high-demand jobs

  • Increasing the number of BIPOC & White Ally industry volunteers

  • Increasing the number of BIPOC community members as trained mentors


KPIs expressed by the partners: 


These partners have the shared goal of expanding access to culturally-affirming and career-connected STEAM learning opportunities for BIPOC youth, youth navigating poverty, and girls in our region and beyond. These partners share the desire to both improve and expand their own programs while working together to develop collaborative opportunities to expand access for youth without privilege. 


We believe this initiative has the potential to reach the following people over a three-year period


  • 9,300 youth K-12

  • 6,000 families with children birth to age 6 (early learning)

  • 1,500 early learning educators

Portland Metro STEM Partnership Case Study

💫 Can we reach national goals to diversify Tech and STEM by funding partnerships between grass-roots community organizations to engage their own BIPOC youth in culturally representative STEM education?💫

The Solution

Yeruwelle de Rouen of Intersectional Innovations was hired by Fasika Melaku Peterson, the Chief of Learning and Development, and Raila Roinisalo, the Director of Leadership Development to craft a 30-day program designed solely for People leadership.


The program is called the Championing Humanity Program which is part of a larger 18-month DEI initiative called Denny’s Together. 

This 30-day Championing Humanity Program aims to help Denny’s People leadership team transform empathy into compassion and allyship into actionable practices for increased equity.

The Solution

Although wanting to serve Portland BIPOC youth is honorable, the execution of predominantly white companies engaging local nonprofits that serve underrepresented communities can sometimes cause harm and an imbalance of power if not done through a restorative lens.


To ensure a restorative community outreach program the following deliverables were co-created over the period of 18 months:


  • Private 1:1 stakeholder interviews with all stakeholders

  • Questionnaire and survey creation for program development

  • Group Decision-Making Process Creation

  • Restorative Meeting Facilitation

  • Leadership Training via Restorative Design Process 

  • Intersectional Marketing Materials & Press Release

  • Nonprofit funding consultation through an anti-domination-centered leadership framework

The Result

All KPIs below were exceeded.


We believe this initiative has the potential to reach the following people over a three-year period


  • 9,300 youth K-12

  • 6,000 families with children birth to age 6 (early learning)

  • 1,500 early learning educators 

Our support provided partners with the following results:


  • More Productive Collaboration time for partners and support to establish the CoP to build the ecosystem

  • Additional STEAM programs for each partner organization to expand in ways that best aligns with community goals, interests, and needs 

  • Quicker Co-partner Communication across the ecosystem (e.g., developing new/expanding reach of current assets)

  • Extra funds due to restorative budgeting

  • Realtime reporting for all stakeholders to see other stakeholders' project preferences

  • 0 conflict between all 7 orgs throughout the entire engagement

  • New scalable structure and reporting for future partnerships including 7+ orgs

  • New standard operating procedures for DEI meeting action items

  • News coverage in local media outlets

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