While government plays a crucial role in advancing racial equity, the complexities of institutional and structural racism also require strategies that span across all sectors of the community. In Dubuque, Iowa, City government is part of a network of nearly 60 organizations and individuals from faith, labor, education, business, non-profit, and government dedicated to advancing justice and social equity and inclusion in our community.
The network officially launched in October 2013, and in 2014 the Dubuque City Council adopted Inclusive Dubuque as a council priority and allocated $75,000 over a three year period for the purpose of advancing the work of the network. In 2015, Inclusive Dubuque launched its first major collaborative effort: the development of a community equity profile.
This was an extensive process to discover how diverse groups are affected by various systems in our community that impact economic wellbeing, housing, education, health, safe neighborhoods, transportation, and arts & culture. The information gathered is now being used to inform government and community strategies and provides one example of intentionally engaging the community in developing a framework for data-driven accountability.
Advancing Racial Equity through Community Engagement and Data-Driven Accountability
The process to develop the equity profile involved engaging community members as facilitators and as participants in a series of community dialogue sessions and surveys. Working with the Interactivity Foundation, we offered training to 24 racially diverse community members and City staff. These individuals later served as facilitators of dialogue sessions in the community. This effort had the side benefit of developing skills and strengthening relationships amongst individuals interested in supporting dialogue around race and racism.
Each month from February through August 2015 focused on one particular area, such as housing or education. Dialogue sessions were held in various locations throughout the community and surveys were available in hard copy and on-line. In addition to using traditional and social media, we reached members of traditionally marginalized communities through a series of events being led by and with these communities during the summer months. We met with formal and informal community leaders within various groups, worked with them to develop culturally appropriate processes, negotiated parameters of participation, translated materials as needed, and attended events to conduct dialogue sessions or gather surveys. Events attended included Juneteenth, Spanish mass, Marshall Islands Constitution Day, Friends of India celebration, meetings of the League of United Latin American Citizens, NAACP, and the Tri-State Muslim Association, and a private gathering of Filipino residents.
Ultimately, nearly 600 people attended community dialogue sessions and nearly 2,000 completed on-line surveys. Over 300 people signed up to stay connected and that number continues to grow. The demographic breakdown for participants in the process was roughly representative of the community demographics, at least for those groups for whom community level demographics were available. The data gathered from the community was supplemented with secondary data from the U.S. Census Bureau, compiled into a summary profile, and now forms the baseline data for community decision-making moving forward.
Since completing the equity profile process, we have developed working groups for each of the focus areas with over 90 community members and organizational leaders participating. In December 2015, Dan Duncan of Results Leadership Group conducted training for network partners on applying Results Based Accountability (RBA) and Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) principles to our work. Jordan Bingham, Health Equity Coordinator at Public Health Madison & Dane County, co-facilitated a segment on applying a racial equity lens to this framework.
Thus far in 2016, each working group has applied RBA thinking and established a result and indicators for that group’s focus area. The plan moving forward is to use these results and indicators to develop a community equity scorecard that guides us in collaborating strategically across sectors and tracking progress over time. The racial equity scorecard indicators proposed by the Government Alliance on Race and Equity have been included as part of the conversation, and several of them are being adopted into Dubuque’s equity scorecard. Ideas for strategies and partnerships are being captured along the way, and relationships are being developed and strengthened throughout the network as the working groups meet.
City staff from various departments serve on working groups along with community members, with the goal of linking community and government equity plans and strategies. First, the results and indicators being established at the population level are being taken into consideration by the City of Dubuque as we develop our government performance dashboard. Second, as departments develop their equity plans, they will include external strategic partnerships with the community as a part of those plans. Finally, the City’s internal equity core team has been using RBA thinking to develop indicators and performance measures that will help us to track government’s contribution towards racial equity in our work to develop the City’s workforce and deliver City services in racially equitable ways. The ultimate goal is to use RBA thinking to develop our strategies within and across departments and community partners as we work to collectively impact racial equity in the Dubuque community.