Operationalizing Racial Equity & Inclusion at Living Cities: Tools for Getting Started and Keeping At It

Operationalizing Racial Equity & Inclusion at Living Cities: Tools for Getting Started and Keeping At It

These are some of the resources and contacts we have shared with organizations who are looking to embed racial equity and inclusion into their work.

Living Cities is working to close racial income and wealth gaps in America’s cities. Like any organization or system, Living Cities is made of individual people, all of whom need to be better equipped to tackle systemic racism at its roots. In order to pursue our mission and goals with integrity, we knew we needed to start at home; including by reckoning with our own history, dismantling structures of inequity in our own organization and work, and building our individual and institutional racial equity and inclusion competencies so that we can better tackle systemic racism in the world.

Over the last five years, we have been on a journey to center and operationalize racial equity throughout our policies, practices, and programs. It is hard and ongoing work, but we’ve seen glimmers of the potential it has to be transformative. We are already seeing our leadership and staff build awareness around blind spots, activate new patterns of behavior, and engage in more accountable gatekeeping in decision-making (big and small), all in service of closing the racial income and wealth gaps. Along the way, we are continuously learning about what it takes to truly embed racial equity at organizational, systemic, and city/regional levels and working to use that learning to continuously improve our own work and to share more broadly.

Recently, several organizations who are starting their own journeys have asked us to share some of the steps we’ve taken.

Recently, several organizations who are starting their own journeys have asked us to share some of the steps we’ve taken, partners we’ve engaged, and learnings to date from this work. While we have are by no means “there yet” on our journey and don’t claim to be experts, we are committed here, as elsewhere, to learning in public and in real time.

Below are some of the resources and contacts we have shared with folks who have asked. We hope to regularly update this list as we continue to learn. We also expect that our internal team driving this work – Colleagues Operationalizing Racial Equity (CORE) – will be sharing additional insights, learnings, and other content in the coming months to supplement this quick summary.

In the meantime, we’re sharing three resources here: a draft report, a list of partners with a brief description of how we’ve engaged with them (over a five-year period), and an FAQ doc we recently shared.

1. Report: What Does it Take to Embed a Racial Equity & Inclusion Lens?

This report was drafted by a team of Living Cities staff led by Hafizah Omar seeking to better understand what it takes to embed a racial equity and inclusion lens at the organizational level.

The report is informed by a recent field scan as well as our own experiences as an organization. The report highlights twelve key themes and recommendations developed based on a landscape analysis and staff survey, and links to a myriad of other tools, resources, and partners throughout.

2. Our Partners

Living Cities has worked with various partners over the years as we’ve embarked and continued the journey. Below are contact details for each along with a brief description of how we’ve engaged them.

  • As of December 2017, all of our staff have gone through an Undoing Racism Workshops run by the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond (PISAB) or the Racial Equity Institute. Both organizations host ongoing workshops around the country or allow you to partner with them to host one for yourself. As an ongoing practice, Living Cities is now asking each new staff member to take a workshop within 90 days of starting.
  • Other partners we’ve worked with over the years include Marcus Littles at Frontline Solutions. Marcus really helped us in the early days of our journey five years ago and has been a friend and advisor to Living Cities since then
  • Erika Bernabei at Equity and Results has worked with us in various capacities for almost three years, primarily in helping us be disciplined in pursuing a results framework with an anti-racist lens across our portfolio and for our internal infrastructure.
  • We recently partnered with the Interaction Institute for Social Change (IISC) at an organizational level. They facilitated a powerful all-staff retreat for us in December 2017 that has really helped us take our work to the next level. Separately, several of our staff members have been through their Fundamentals of Facilitation for Racial Justice training and found it very valuable in advancing their ability to lead internal and external conversations around racial equity.
  • The Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE) at the Center for Social Inclusion currently serves as the cohort lead for our Racial Equity Here cohort (working with city governments in five cities to transform local government to advance racial equity). GARE is also a trusted thought partner and advisor to Living Cities beyond the REH cohort role.
  • Compass Point is facilitating a cohort of six organizations sponsored by the Kresge Foundation about Organizational Equity and Leadership. Three of our senior leaders are part of that cohort and have learned a lot from it, bringing those learnings and some specific tangible actions and practices back to the leadership team and the broader organization.

3. Frequently Asked Questions Guide

Additionally, our internal CORE team recently produced an FAQ sheet based on questions we frequently receive about the REI practice at Living Cities. These answers provide a good starting point to address many of the initial questions we’ve heard from staff and others along the way.

We hope this initial set of resources serves as a guide and to spotlight the amazing work being done by organizations across the country in this field. We welcome any questions you may have or any insights of your own you’d like to contribute.

If you have any questions or want to share your story on your racial equity journey, please email racialequity@livingcities.org

Elodie Baquerot and Nadia Owusu co-lead the team working to advance racial equity internally at Living Cities: Colleagues Operationalizing Racial Equity (CORE). The other members of this team are Shanee HelferThomas HoustonLethy LirianoFrancine MbomatshieleloboEvelyn Ontaneda, and Ratna Gill.


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