The City of Fort Collins is the fourth largest city in Colorado with a population of just over 160,000. To date, our racial equity initiatives have come in the form of crafting an equity and inclusion strategic focus within the Social Sustainability Department’s overall strategic plan that is in alignment with the City’s objective around diversity. We are also looking to create new strategic objectives in 2018 relative to the City’s overall strategic plan (current one is around promoting diversity).
We have identified gaps within our organization, including career pathways for persons of color (with special attention to leadership positions), a need to better align with community demographics, recruitment strategies and a markedly lessened feeling of respect and overall belonging for persons of color within the organization.
In 2015 when the strategic plan launched, we had no resourcing for equity and inclusion efforts and to fill that particular gap, created an internal equity team that has participation across the organization, from Police Services to City Manager’s Office, HR, Social Sustainability, etc.
That team was very successful in carrying forward the work in the absence of a resourced position. We did hire an equity and inclusion coordinator in 2017, who coordinates the efforts stemming from the core team, steering committee, and what have evolved to be 4 subcommittees. We also have community members sit on all the various teams, for added transparency and leveraging of experience and expertise.
Because the work is broad, not all subcommittees outcomes are tied to racial inequity (LGBTQ+, for example), but much of the work being done is through the lens of advancing racial equity in terms of improving access and opportunity to city processes, diversifying the voices that inform our city leadership, ensuring more culturally sensitive engagement, and more.
One example of subcommittee work is our public participation team, which is looking specifically at our boards and commissions, budgeting teams, and CityWorks program. Starting in 2017, that team has audited our boards and commissions to see if our representation matches our city’s demographics and identified areas for improvement. Currently, that team is drafting a report for leadership with recommendations on how to improve access and opportunity for underrepresented community members, with a focus on racial disparities that were illuminated during that process.
In addition to subcommittees, the City of Fort Collins is committed to advancing racial equity through community engagement. In 2016, the City hosted a community-wide Art of Belonging forum to identify areas in which the City could improve on its service delivery to marginalized populations, and have been working to address those identified gaps as well. Additionally, we hosted an internal workforce Belonging forum to identify areas of improvement as reported directly from staff with the help of a neutral, third-party facilitator, and have acquired a detailed report that is informing our efforts moving forward.
We also just deployed a Core 34 engagement survey to all staff with a question designed to capture people’s experiences at the organization in terms of feeling respected, and are just beginning to look at the data in terms of various identities. Already we know that race is a critical identity needing attention in terms of how respected people are feeling, and the depth of information afforded by this survey will likely be of great benefit not only during the rest of 2017, but 2018 as well.
Recent efforts in 2018 including auditing our boards and commission membership to identify gaps in representation; incorporating a racial equity lens in our triple bottom line analysis; creating a citywide banner campaign; staff trainings on implicit bias and the history and impacts of racism; and more. In 2018 we submitted a budget proposal for a comprehensive strategic plan, development of an equity lens to be used across the organization, and metrics. If the offer is not resourced we will be able to hopefully move forward on executing some of what was proposed. This year, the City is also undergoing an analysis of potential pay gaps within its workforce related to racial equity.