What specific structures do you utilize?

Through our research and experience, we have to come to understand that when compounded over time, specific practices and policies create and recreate unequal opportunity thereby becoming deeply entrenched and self-perpetuating.  We support organizations to advance racial equity by addressing these practices. 

While this is not an exhaustive list of action steps.  Upon execution of contract, Initiate Equity would share a more robust process with their partner organization:

  • Analyzing an organization’s current outcomes and their root causes.
  • Including those most disadvantaged by current policies and practices to help frame solutions to address outcomes.
  • Incorporating a racial equity impact assessment to the strengthen the proposal(s) and maximize organizational resources (i.e. time and money). 

What are examples of specific deliverables a partner can expect to receive?

Upon request, an executive summary of the work conducted would be provided.

What range of outcomes could result from a systems-level analysis?

We utilize a continuum model to demonstrate the range of potential outcomes after engaging in a systems analysis.  It serves as an anchor for where people could land post this experience.  In addition, participants may find themselves represented in all three areas (which is also typical).  Initiate Equity provides resources post the systems analysis for participants to continue to their own professional development. 

Racial/Cultural Pre-Competence: Participants leave with an emerging awareness of racial inequity.  Those in the stage are still developing their understanding of root causes and are still learning to recognize disparity as a racial equity issue.  Some indicators of this stage include not wanting to make the “wrong” decision or desiring the “perfect” solution to address inequity.  At this level the school/team can move in a positive, constructive direction or the leader/ team can falter and regress.

Racial/Cultural Competence: Participants leave with a d developing understanding of racial inequity.  Participants have analyzed current practices and developed new solutions that support a diverse and inclusive environment for all races and culture.  They show an emerging understanding of the role history plays in creating and maintaining inequity.  However practices and policies employed continue to support the maintenance of dominant culture, institutional racism and structural inequality.

Racial/Cultural Proficiency: Participants leave with an understanding and belief that advocating for racial equity requires a lifelong commitment to growing, learning and reflecting.  This includes an awareness that mistakes will be made, but growth and learning from those mistakes is critical.  They are also able to name the role power plays in the maintenance of dominant culture and inequality, and work to connect new policies and practices to the disruption of inequitable power distribution.  They demonstrate an explicit focus on intersectional racial justice including a proactive desire to understand the history of racism and xenophobia.  Leaders and their teams growing increasingly effective in serving the needs of all racial and cultural groups as evidenced by impacts that redress racialized outcomes. 

Leaders also understand their work extends beyond institutional practices and includes an understanding of structural racism (voting rights + housing discrimination & gentrification + criminal justice + access to affordable health care) and how it contributes to racialized outcomes.  They demonstrate an ongoing commitment to understanding the role they play in addressing structural racism.

What are the typical challenges encountered when taking on systemic change?

  • Resistance to change regardless of current/historical data indicating patterns of racial inequity.
  • Desiring the “perfect” solution versing recognizing equity work is about praxis. (Praxis = Ongoing reflection and action).
  • The false belief that a focus on racial equity means a lack of focus on academic outcomes and achievement; an illusion of competing priorities.
  • Desiring to focus on diversity and inclusion which are often symptoms of racial inequity without reflecting on the underlying policies, institutional mechanisms and cultural practices that create and maintain unequal power distribution, unequal opportunity and racialized outcomes.
  • Detouring during a working group session by taking the focus off of race and focusing on other issues of inequality.

How does your practice including working to mitigate those challenges?

Challenges are inevitable within equity work. However Initiate Equity’s experience has taught us how to support school teams through them.

Prior to Working Group Sessions

  • Initiate Equity meets with school leaders individually to share challenges that typically surface within these work spaces.
  • We discuss to what degree they feel ready and willing to engage in equity work, and also discuss any concerns they may have about our time together.
  • We also use this preliminary meeting to allow participants to proactively prepare for any potential roadblocks that could prevent our success (i.e. testing windows, charter renewal, etc.).
  • We engage leaders and participants in a self-assessment to determine where they believe they fall on a racial/cultural competency scale.  This helps our clients to develop self-awareness and recognize their own blindspots.

During Working Group Sessions:

  • We remind participants that challenges, fear, resistance, concerns, questions and pushback are a natural part of the change process.
  • We utilize community circle and reflection as a way for participants to process and actively choose to continue to engage in the work of driving systemic change.
  • We require ongoing conversations via check-ins with leadership team members and participants to understand how they’re processing and internalizing the work.  Sometimes it can be hard for leaders to admit their shortcomings in front of staff and so we create space during the check-ins for more processing time.

Ultimately if leaders/teams are not onboard, it impacts the efficacy of the recommendations, results in deeper resistance to equity work and reinforces practices that support dominant culture.

What follow up actives would you recommend to ensure the impact is sustainable?

Initiate Equity works in partnership with schools/orgs to develop post-activities stemming from the analysis.  However one area that’s consistent is the ongoing need for managers and leaders to strengthen their racial equity lens. 

Do you provide references?

We hold confidentiality in the highest regard.  Our experiences continually reveals how difficult it can be for organizations to address the vestiges of racism within their respective organizations.  Initiate Equity will connect with current and former partners to see if they would be wiling to speak about their experiences.  If partner organizations agree, Initiate Equity will include references within the official Request For Proposal.