WHAT IS EQUITY?

Equity in community is hospitality. It is creating an environment of inclusion that acknowledges the uniqueness of individual differences, and embraces them with understanding. Conversations which help to create community are a tapestry of the gifts of all participants.

Equity is impartiality. It rises above isolated partial judgments of what is thought to be good for communities (outside thinking). Communities must be included in decision making processes that ultimately affect and determine their overall quality of life (inside thinking).

Equity is a process and a goal. For instance, Equity as a goal is giving everyone in need of shoes a pair of shoes. Equity as a process is giving everyone who needs a pair of shoes a pair of shoesthat FITS.

Equity in community is FULL access…full access to goods, services, opportunities, investments, education, all the resources that intentionally transform neighborhoods, communities and geographical regions into place(s) of prosperity.

“Equity in community is the addressing of the evolution of opportunity for existing residents while anticipating the concerns of a new population”

-Millvale EcoDistrict Pivot 2.0

“[Equity in community is] increasing the scalability of safe and healthy environments of self-determined opportunity for all residents”

-New Sun Rising

“Equity” in community matters; by definition, “Equitable development is a positive development strategy that ensures everyone participates in and benefits from the region’s economic transformation – especially low-income residents, communities of color, immigrants, and others at risk of being left behind. It requires an intentional focus on eliminating racial inequities and barriers, and making accountable and catalytic investments to assure that lower-wealth residents:

  • Live in healthy, safe, opportunity-rich neighborhoods that reflect their culture (and are not displaced from them);
  • Connect to economic and ownership opportunities; and
  • Have voice and influence in the decisions that shape their neighborhoods”

-PolicyLink-Equitable Development: The Path to an all-In Pittsburgh

HOW CAN WE SUPPORT EQUITABLE DEVELOPMENT IN OUR COMMUNITIES?

Any attempt at supporting equitable development in our communities must be accessible, workable, and sustainable in order to be effective.

Accessibility

In order to foster true equitable development, it is essential that the process is entirely accessible to the community and its diverse members. Diversity matters because the differences between people bring a varied range of ideas, possibilities and potentials. Diversity matters because [it] is the understanding that each individual is unique and it is the recognition of those individual differences. Diversity is the inclusion of the(se) differences in conversations about Equity. Diverse equitable systems achieve “holistic’ outcomes of future planning and implementation – all voices are heard, all participate in the process of “conversations creating community”, and all contribute to the ultimate solutions and outcomes. This approach results in the direct improvement of the quality of life for members of the community, made sustainable through diverse ownership of and involvement in the process.

“Robust equity agendas are driven by diverse racial coalitions”

-Policylink

Workability

Equitable development is a process that continues to evolve over a long period of time. In order to remain true to the purpose of creating an equitable community, it is important to utilize a workable model to guide this process. A “workable” model means a practical model that is able to function within the community and be understood by community members. Building equity in community through conversations of what residents value is a workable model which New Sun Rising has used in two Pittsburgh communities and is poised to support the across the Pittsburgh region.

New Sun Rising uses a strategy known as The Appreciative Inquiry Process to build Equity in communities through Equity Cafes, which engage communities in conversations about how they identify themselves, conversations that create or (re)create community. Through the Equity Cafe model, community members are brought together in small round-table “conversations creating community” about who they have been and how they can carry that forward into the future they are dreaming and designing together.

New Sun Rising is working with communities that are ”neighborhoods of self-determination” where people are participating in opportunities that shape their future as well as short and long range plans for the future of their community. Our programs help community project and business leaders cultivate the personal capacities required for success in their endeavors.

“Conversations are action – the very heartbeat and lifeblood of social systems like COMMUNITIES.”

-Thomas J. Hurley and Juanita Brown

“Something fundamental changes when  people begin to ask questions together. The questions create more of a learning conversation than the normal stale debate about problems”

-Mike Szymanczyk, Chairman and CEO, The Altria Group

Sustainability

Equitable development requires the implementation of sustainable, lasting change. The Community Engagement Continuum is a process for engaging community residents in conversations about equity. The concept of a “continuum” is important because it highlights the fact that community engagement should be an ongoing, sustained process. The process creates open pathways for participation through the following methods:

  1. Inform – To provide information to help public understand
  2. Consult – To obtain public feedback
  3. Involve – To work with the public through a process
  4. Collaborate – To partner with the public in decision-making
  5. Empower – To place final decision-making in the hands of the public

There are a number of ways that people can build Equity in communities. There must be a curiosity about what is going on in the community, and a method to support the possibilities which come out of that curiosity. There must be community willingness to participate in the process – not merely as spectators. This curiosity and willingness to participate are the beginning of the process of equity building. People participate in building equity because they care about where they live, work, or play.

Stakeholders build equity by engaging in a process by which they can identify what they value accompanied by a process for residents unfamiliar with civic engagement to learn a way to articulate what their values are. This articulation of value is then translated into actionable plans. It is how communities learn how to express their new common cultures.

All of these pieces of the continuum, culminating in the fifth step, “Empower,” are essential to creating sustainable change. As New Sun Rising develops capacity building programs, we constantly strive to build neighborhoods of “self-determination.” Widespread community support, coupled with community ownership, supports a sustainable and equitable process of development. Embedded in these programs are strategies to build equity and inclusion which help to create holistic environments of sustainability. These networks are then replicated, resulting in both community vibrancy and connection to economic opportunity.

 

Written by Jorinda Bullitt

Photographs courtesy of Will Halim, Storyburgh