On June 15, 2021 Living Cities administered our fifth annual Racial Equity and Inclusion (REI) competency survey to all staff to reflect on their individual competency related to understanding and advancing racial equity. The survey was originally designed by Hafizah Omar, with feedback and input from Nadia Owusu and Ratna Gill. The questions from this survey were adapted from GARE’s Employee Survey for Local Governments, D5 Initiative’s Field Survey, and additional best practices from the field. This was the fourth year that we collected demographic data. In the last three years we also included questions that speak to Living Cities’ racial equity competency framework and risk-taking.
Twenty two of the 29 staff eligible staff responded to the survey, a response rate of 76%. This is the first year we have not received 100% completion on our survey. Staff who had been here less than three months as of June 15 did not take the survey. The survey results represent findings from 62% of current staff.
The survey results were analyzed by the CORE team: Joanna Carrasco, Thiara Falcon, Hafizah Omar, Carla Reed, Chipo Sachirarwe, and Alyssa Smaldino. We had the following overarching takeaways:
- Compared to past years, staff continue to grow their competency to identify examples of institutional, interpersonal and structural racism, but increasingly disagree when asked if they have the tools to address these forms of racism in the workplace.
- Conflict transformation and accountability continue to be points of tension that staff seek tools and resources to address. This indicates a need to reassess strategy and practice around pathways for employees to provide feedback across the organization.
- Despite some actions taken by leadership in the past year, there is a sharp decline in staff feeling like there’s a commitment to racial equity and inclusion at the leadership level.
Historically, this survey has been used to assess our staff’s competency in their REI skills and analysis so we can understand the support needed to continue deepening our collective competency around REI. This strategy is rooted in the person-role-system framework which grounds all of our work in the belief that if we change ourselves at the personal level and deepen our abilities to understand what factors produce systemic inequity, we can in turn make more equitable decisions in our roles and toward our results.
Additional Note on FY21 (July 2020 – June 2021):
Living Cities experienced a lot of transition in FY21, which is notable due to its impact on organizational culture. We announced the transition of our former CEO and President, Ben Hecht, after 14 years of leadership, and welcomed Joe Scantlebury’s leadership to the organization on September 7, 2021. In addition, the organization has seen turnover of 24.3% in FY21 alone, which resulted in increased work and decreased capacity for many staff members and project teams, including our leadership team. Several staff members who transitioned were also part of our leadership team which we call the Resources and Results (R&R) team.
We’ve also welcomed and onboarded 14 new staff members to the organization in FY21. Thus, 38% of our current staff’s perspective is not represented in the survey, which is only open to staff who have been employed at Living Cities for at least three months.
The survey remained open for three months this year, which is longer than we’ve historically given staff to complete the survey. During this three month time period, we had a couple staff transition out of the organization, so it’s possible that some responses may be from staff members who are no longer employed at Living Cities.
In the midst of these transitions, we are also still understanding what shifts are necessary to meet staff needs during the ongoing covid-19 pandemic.
Featured Image Credit: @mosaiceye instagram
Below is a graphic that illustrates some of our high-level findings: