"Racial Equity Work is About Changing the Culture of Institutions"
In a recent blog post, Living Cities -a collaborative of foundations and financial institutions working to close racial gaps- shares the lessons they have learned from Racial Equity Here, an initiative that supports five cities committed to improving racial equity.
According to Nadia Owusu, associate director for Learning and Equity, and Ben Hecht, president and CEO, Living Cities went into Racial Equity Here wanting to count the number of policies changed in Albuquerque, Grand Rapids, Louisville, Austin, and Philadelphia. "But, we also saw colleagues in the five cities deepen their relationships with each other," they explain regarding the work the cities did over two years to operationalize racial equity in local governments.
Besides sharing in this post examples of shifts in policy and practice that resulted from these efforts, Owusu and Hecht write:
We saw conversations about race normalized in city halls. We saw leaders in cities realize their own power as gatekeepers and begin to view their daily work through a different lens. We saw them deeply reflect on how every budget or policy decision they make impacts racial equity. We saw them interrogate whether they are creating advantages or disadvantages for particular groups of people as a result of their individual and institutional decisions. We saw them speaking and listening to communities of color and implementing their ideas. We saw a mayor address his staff after a hate crime was committed in their city, not with the speech of politics, but with poetry aimed at connecting to people’s hearts. We did not know that this ‘soft’ stuff of culture change would be the most important story we have to tell about these cities, but it was.
"Beyond shifts in policy and practice," they add, "perhaps one of the most important lessons that Living Cities learned from our local government partners in Racial Equity Here is that racial equity work is about changing the culture of institutions."
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