You’ve probably heard equity discussed in relation to finances, in which case it is used to refer to ownership - how many shares you own in a business, how much of your home you own (the difference between the value of the property and how much debt you still owe), or how much stock you own.
Increasingly the concept of equity, rather than equality, is being applied to social issues. While, theoretically, the concept of equality means that everyone gets the same thing, the reality is that not everyone needs the same thing. For people who have long been harmed in an unequal system (read: women, people outside the gender binary, people with black and brown skin, people with disabilities, poor and working class folks, and more) it is more important that they get what they need instead of the same thing as everyone else.
In order to understand the concept and practice of equity, it’s essential to first understand that not everyone starts out in the same place. Using the analogy of a baseball game, some people have been “born on third base,” as the saying goes, while others can’t even get into the stadium. In this analogy the stadium represents equal access to quality education from preschool through college, healthy food, clean air and water, safe and dignified jobs that pay livable wages, reliable public transportation, clean and safe neighborhoods in which to live and raise families, and - perhaps most importantly - a say in the decisions that impact our lives.
Equity is a concept that says - if we are going to have the fair, just and free society that we idealize, we need to put in place efforts for all people to be able to meet their basic needs and take advantage of the opportunities available to them. Because some people have been outside of the stadium for generations more support is required to make sure they have what they need to thrive.
Our team is motivated by a belief that there is enough for everyone and that it is possible to create a society where all people are thriving. We believe that to get there it starts with each of us recognizing the ways in which we make assumptions about each other’s identities and experiences, what each person does or doesn’t have to offer, whose voices and opinions are most in need of being heard, etc. - all implicit biases that we bring with us into each of the interactions we have throughout the day.
Once we have been able to recognize the presence of these biases we are better able to see people for who they truly are and what they have to offer, connect more authentically with the people in our communities and our workplaces, and build relationships based on mutual learning, respect, and equity. And once we connect and see the inherent value in each person we are able to come up with more accurate, trauma-informed, sustainable solutions. This in turn leads to safer, healthier, more just communities, and more resilient, responsive, and relevant organizations that better reflect the needs and desires of those they serve.
examples of Equity in action
If you are an organization that addresses hunger and you prioritize equity you would ensure that seats on the Board of Directors are reserved for people who know what it is to be hungry.
If you are a school that prioritizes equity you would ensure that the discipline program policies take into account how the stress and trauma of hunger, poverty, and racism impact kids and implement restorative justice practices rather than punitive practices.
If you are making policy decisions relating to addiction and you prioritize equity you would not only bring to the table healthcare professionals and law enforcement, you would also ensure a seat at the table for people who have been personally impacted by addiction.
Our team is working to change the paradigm that says that some people are better than others because of how they look, the color of their skin, their background, or the amount of money in their bank account. We are striving for a society where we are all working together for fairness and justice and freedom - and where our policies and practices match our values.
5 key tools
We weave these tools throughout all of our work.
Practice vulnerability. We recognize and name our own personal experiences - we tell our stories and we listen to the stories of others.
Recognize the larger context of racial and economic inequity we are living in. We need to continue learning so that we can make informed decisions and interrupt assumptions we are making about people.
Interrupt our assumptions and unconscious bias. We all carry bias with us and it is important for an equitable society that we can recognize when this bias is harming others and take steps to interrupt it. We can change many of these neural pathways.
Use trauma-informed principles. Trauma, whether from a one-time event or from generations of marginalization, has a profound impact on humans. It is important to recognize this and to put specific trauma-informed principles into practice so that people in our workplaces can be safe, valued, heard, and work towards healing.
Implement equity at four levels - Personal, Interpersonal, Organizational Policy & Practices, and Larger Systems. By using an equity lens we move beyond ‘helping’ to transform relationships among people living in poverty and the organizations meant to serve them. This model empowers all stakeholders to co-create short- and long-term solutions that work.
When we use these tools we see a positive impact.
Stronger relationships across difference
Ability to hear other perspectives
Programs developed by people most impacted
Peer-based supports in place
Ability to talk about racism and other forms of bias when they are harming people at the workplace
Creative and resilient problem-solving
Subtle and obvious policy and practice shifts in workplaces
People can bring their full selves to their workplace and be valued and respected for who they are and the various skills they bring
Hiring and retaining a diverse employee base
Stronger equitable pay and benefits packages - taking into account the diverse needs of employees
Restorative justice practices put into place for addressing harm done
Less difference between highest and lowest paid employees
Using organizational influence to have an impact on equitable policies at the local, state, and national level
Check out the results and benefits that groups have had from working with us.
Contact us to get more information on how we can support your work in building an equity lens!