Reflections following PolicyLink’s Equity Summit

I just turned 45, so I think I can officially claim the label: Middle Aged White Guy. I am okay with my age and I like to think I own my white guy privilege, which I carried along with a small overnight bag to Los Angeles for the PolicyLink Equity Summit.

PolicyLink is a national institute advancing economic and social equity. The 2015 PolicyLink Equity Summit was the first gathering they’ve hosted since 2011. The driving theme was “Equity is the Superior Growth Model.”

At the opening plenary, Stanford economist Raj Chetty offered up an uneasy laugh line: “The chance of achieving the American Dream is 2x higher in Canada. Angela Glover Blackwell, the president of PolicyLink, urged the 3,000+ crowd, saying we need to “harden our commitment to being in the struggle…to achieve equity.”

For the past couple of years, Capitol Hill Housing and our partners on the EcoDistrict Steering Committee have been working to deepen our commitment to social equity in our ecodistrict work. We added a performance area for equity and consulted a wide range of experts and community members in development the following goals:

  • ENGAGE UNDERREPRESENTED GROUPS IN ECODISTRICT DECISION-MAKING
  • INCREASE ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY FOR LOW-INCOME PEOPLE
  • PRESERVE AND EXPAND AFFORDABLE HOUSING AND COMMERCIAL SPACES
  • ENSURE ACCESS TO PUBLIC SPACES AND SERVICES

We formed an Equity and Engagement Working Group from members of the steering committee and other community volunteers to create an “equity lens” through which we’ll examine and evaluate every new EcoDistrict initiative.

The working group created a questionnaire that asks several key questions: Who is included in shaping and leading the project? Who does the project benefit and who is left out? And finally, how does the project strive to address oppression, both overt and systemic. The Equity and Engagement Working Group also will lead the planning for the EcoDistrict’s first major equity-focused project, the EcoDistrict Renter Engagement Program. More details soon!

At the Equity Summit, Blackwell read PolicyLink’s Equity Manifesto where equity is defined as “just and fair inclusion into a society in which all can participate, prosper, and reach their full potential.” Will you join us in the struggle to achieve equity on Capitol Hill?