On Tuesday, July 25th, the Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE) hosted a webinar focused on how jurisdictions can sharpen their programs and policies to achieve more racially equitable outcomes through the development of Racial Equity Action Plans.
People of color consistently fare worse than their white counterparts in many areas including housing, education, health, and public safety. Local governments have a unique responsibility to address the systemic forces that contribute to racial inequities in community. To identify and transform these systems, local governments must adopt a shared vision of racial equity, and work to implement policies and plans that drive institutional and structural change. Racial Equity Action Plans can put this change theory into action to achieve a collective vision and are a critical tool in advancing racial equity.
This webinar featured technical specifics and case studies designed to help local governments to discern key steps in developing racial equity action plans and share current promising practice.
• Nefertiri Stickout, City of Philadelphia, Office of Mayor James F. Kenney, Assistant Diversity Officer for Research and Policy
• Matias Valenzuela, Director, Office of Equity and Social Justice, Office of the King County Executive
• Ryan Curren, City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability Project Manager
GARE Deputy Director Dwayne S. Marsh hosted the conversation.
The conversation drew a rich mix of jurisdictions experienced in developing action plans and a number of government entities exploring the possibility for the first time. Several themes emerged in the conversation, helping to answer questions such as:
1. When do you know you are ready enough to embark on the REAP process?
2. How can the REAP serve as a compass for navigating complex institutional systems?
3. What do you do if your division/department does not have a vision?
4. How comprehensive does my REAP need to be to be effective?
Listen to the full webinar recording to hear how the City of Philadelphia and King County, WA are making these actions real in their local communities. You can also review the PowerPoint slides from the presentation and some of the [Q&A] that continued past the scheduled session. to learn more.
Question and Answer series – Racial Equity Action Plan
1. What were some strategies that you used to keep momentum of the internal/staff workgroups going?
Building collaborative partnerships was essential to lifting some of the racial equity work in Philadelphia. Reaching out and finding the right people was a critical factor in building a team to help initiate and move the work forward. The team would meet regularly and the momentum built as the team started accomplishing internal objectives and worked collaboratively to move the work forward. There was not a need to give such a team incentives because the members of the team were already so deeply committed to the work and hold a collaborative mindset. To expand the work to other departments, however, where there may be more turf issues will probably take more of a push from leadership and other creative strategies. But to build the momentum, selecting a group that is already internally motivated made it easier to lift the work from an initial standpoint. As objectives are accomplished, the momentum is sustained and accelerated.
In King County, we’ve had deadlines and clear deliverables, so each workgroup has needed to pull its weight in order to keep the ball moving overall. Accountability is important. We’ve engaged leadership a lot, so they know they have to support employees in doing this work and making time for it.
2. How can residents get involved in the Health Equity Team?
In Philadelphia, the Health Equity Team is partnering with the Strawberry Mansion Community Development Center, and will collaborate with residents of that particular community around the tobacco work. Residents can indicate interest to the CDC, which should ideally communicate residents’ interest to the program staff. Residents are also welcome to contact Nefertiri Sickout regarding the tobacco control work.
3.Does the tobacco reduction goal include policy, systems or environmental changes within the city?
Yes, the tobacco reduction work, as set forth on the first page of the racial equity plan, outlines strategies that include policy, systems and environmental changes (e.g., placing a cap on the number of tobacco retail stores in communities and near schools.) The purpose of this particular racial equity work is to engage the community (especially youth) in participatory decision making around such strategies that are designed and developed by the City to address the tobacco industry’s targeted marketing and profiling of tobacco products to youth of color in primarily disadvantaged communities.
4. What are best practices around engaging staff of color without tokenizing them, or without asking them to do a lot of emotional & other labor when you (for example) only have 2 staff of color? This also goes for a predominantly white institution looking to communities of color for input/feedback.
It should be a team effort. Placing certain responsibilities on staff of color, because they are the “minority” staff, as opposed to setting those expectations for all staff can unintentionally make staff of color feel “tokenized” or singled-out. Staff of color should be at the table in the decision-making process, as opposed to just being on the receiving-end of directions and instructions. Similarly, white institutions should build partnerships with community organizations/stakeholders/leaders and seek to engage them as partners in the development and design of policies. Building those relationships and partnerships should help open the door to meaningful engagement with the community, and ideally, the institution should seek to have community representatives “at the table” (via those established partnerships) when building out policies, strategies, etc.
In King County, talking and meeting with people individually and in small groups is important. Also, confidentially is critical. For these staff and after you talk with them, it’s important to keep them engaged so they see that you are following up on the input they are providing.
What I don’t recommend is having people of color talking about race in a space that is super-heavy white and the few POC are consistently asked to speak up. It can be re-traumatizing and counter-productive, unless it’s done with lots of care. For example, one thing that can be done is for the group to talk about whiteness so the gaze spreads to the white folks. But they need to be prepared to have that conversation for the dialogue to be effective.
For more information on this, or any of our GARE webinars, contact Maria Martinez at firstname.lastname@example.org.