Week 5: Working with Communities to Advance Racial Equity and Eliminate Disparities

Week 5: Working with Communities to Advance Racial Equity and Eliminate Disparities

In the fifth week of our e-course on community engagement in collective impact, we look at how community engagement in collective impact can help advance racial equity.

Time: ~30 minutes of reading; ~2 hours of group discussion time

This is the last of five modules to help collective impact initiatives better understand why and how to work with community members. Each module includes resources, discussion questions and interactive exercises. While the course can be taken as an individual, it is recommended that participants discuss the modules in a group, with other members of their collective impact initiative. We recommend setting aside a few hours each work week to discuss the resources and complete the exercises. We also offer questions for each resource to help guide discussion. This material is meant to help you continue to develop your thinking from Module 1Module 2Module 3, and Module 4.

This and other modules in the e-learning course should not be seen as the definitive resource on community engagement in collective impact. We offer the resources as a way to consider the most effective ways to think about how your collective impact initiative can better work with community members.

This module has five components to complete: Reading materials and video, an exercise, online discussion, a webinar and a post-module survey. Access these components online by scrolling down, or by downloading the “asset package,” in the right hand column of this page. The “download this document” option listed first allows you to download ONLY the exercise. There are “additional resources” listed in case you want to go deeper in certain areas.


This module will help you answer the question of how you can work with community members to promote racial equity through collective impact. The readings and video will provide frameworks, insights and examples of initiatives working with communities to advance racial equity. The exercises will help you think through how to equitably partner with communities, and how partnering with communities can advance racial equity.

Learning objectives:

  • Understand different ways to apply an explicit equity lens to collective impact work
  • Understand the role of disaggregated data in identifying local disparities and encouraging stakeholder engagement
  • Understand the complex intersections between racial equity, community engagement and collective impact
  • Assess the racial equity impact of your collective impact efforts and/or engagement strategies

Reading Materials and Video:

1. Working with communities to advance racial equity and eliminate disparities

This blog post from Living Cities discusses the main learning objectives and questions for this module.

Guiding discussion questions:

  • How do you currently partner with communities of color?
  • What data exists on local disparities related to the shared result of your collective impact effort?

2. Bringing an Equity Lens to Collective Impact

This blog by Urban Strategies Council outlines how an equity lens can be applied to each principle of collective impact. It shares examples of how Urban Strategies Council is taking action on equity in its local collective impact effort in Oakland.

Guiding discussion questions:

  • What opportunities exist in your community to explicitly advance equity through collective impact?
  • In what parts of your collective impact work are you already working to reduce disparities?
  • In which aspects of your collective impact work could you be doing a better job of explicitly tackling racial inequality?

3. Four Insights on how Collective Impact, Community Engagement and Racial Equity Intersect

This Living Cities blog offers tangible takeaways about the intersection of racial equity, community engagement and collective impact.

Guiding discussion questions:

  • How have these themes emerged in your own collective impact work?
  • What role do community members historically disengaged from local problem-solving have within your collective impact effort?

4. Using Data to Close the Achievement Gap

This case study provides an overview of collective impact efforts to close the achievement gap in Portland. It offers an example of how a collective impact partnership used data to inform community decision-making and engage stakeholders in the analysis of disparities.

Guiding discussion questions:

  • What data exists in your community that can help shed light on the state of racial disparities?
  • How can working deeply with community members in your collective impact initiative help address local disparities?
  • How deeply do you need to work with communities of color to reduce local disparities?
  • Which parts of your initiative should gather and incorporate feedback from communities of color?

5. VIDEO: How do you build in a consideration of racial inequities when working with community members?

This video captures insights from a discussion on racial equity and community engagement at a recent Living Cities’ Integration Initiative Learning Community.


Guiding discussion questions:

  • Do the examples shared by the presenters resonate with your own community engagement efforts?
  • How can you apply the considerations from the video discussion into your own collective impact work?


1. Racial Equity Impact in Collective Impact Assessment

Access by clicking the “download this document” button at the top right of this page. Promoting equity takes explicit intentionality. Without an explicit equity lens, implicit bias has the risk of unintentionally influencing our collective practices, policies and behaviors that result in disparate outcomes. Taking a moment to pause and assess the racial outcomes of a decision or policy is thus important for surfacing these potential inadvertent impacts. This particular tool, modified from Race Matters Institute, provides a set of guiding questions to assess if your collective impact effort is likely to close or exacerbate racial disparities in your community.

Guiding discussion questions:

  • How intentional have you been in implementing a racial equity lens in your community engagement strategies in the past?
  • What can you change today about how you work with community members to advance equity and eliminate local disparities?

2. Revisit “Assessing Your Engagement Strategies” exercise from Module 1

Now that you have completed all five modules, go back to the from Module 1 and see what changes you and your group would make. Do you need to change your goals? Your strategies? Did you learn that some of your assumptions may be misguided? Again, use exercise as a guide for discussion with your collective impact initiative.


How do you apply a racial equity lens to working with communities in collective impact?

Download or stream webinar recording

Partnering with community members of color is critical to ensure that social change efforts are informed by the lived experience of the communities they seek to benefit . While advancing racial equity will take more than just bringing community members to the collective impact table, it’s an important step toward achieving dramatically better results for low-income people. This webinar explores these issues further by featuring the perspective of collective impact practitioners from Cincinnati, Seattle, Albuquerque, and Oakland.

Online Discussion:

There are many ways you can discuss the course topics in this and other modules with participants:

Join the on-going conversation on the Collective Impact Forum community discussion page, which requires free registration.

Join our Twitter “study hall” on Friday, April 17th at 1pm ET (10am PT; 6pm GMT) to ask your questions and share your insights. We will be join by special guest Richard Crews, Community Impact Director for Thriving Together, Valley of the Sun United Way, to help spark and moderate discussion. Use the hashtag #CEinCI to join in.

Post-Module Survey

Once you and our team have completed this module, please complete the Module 5 Survey, which will take about five minutes. This survey lets us know you have completed this module and gives us valuable feedback on how to improve the e-course.

Additional resources:



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