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Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Resources for Local Governments

This page provides resources, tools, and sample documents related to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs in local governments in Washington State.


Across Washington State, many local governments are making a commitment to advancing equity. They may be in the early stages — forming advisory groups or gathering data — or in a more advanced effort — reviewing and revising policies and procedures that create barriers to progress toward equity and inclusion. There are many reasons why a local government would consider undertaking a DEI initiative, including:

  • Improved decision-making that better represents all communities and is less likely to suffer from unintentional blind spots and biases,
  • Increased community trust in local government by offering more options for community members to be seen and heard as well as to better understand local government initiatives,
  • A more equitable allocation of public resources to all communities,
  • Increased trust between community members by offering citizen more opportunities to interact with one another, and
  • Improved employee satisfaction, reducing staff turnover, and increasing employee engagement and awareness.

The Washington State Office of Equity was formed in 2020 (authorized by chapter 43.06D RCW). The Task Force Proposal defines diversity, equity, and inclusion in the following ways:

  • Diversity “describes the presence of differences within a given setting, collective, or group.”
  • Equity is the process of “developing, strengthening, and supporting policies and procedures that distribute and prioritize resources to those who have been historically and currently marginalized.”
  • Inclusion is “intentionally designed, active, and ongoing engagement with people that ensures opportunities and pathways for participation in all aspects of group, organization, or community, including decision making processes.”

Building Inclusive Communities

Washington communities are composed of a broad diversity of residents including non-English speaking residents and populations from many racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds.

Many jurisdictions actively work to celebrate their multi-ethnic heritage and to ensure that diverse communities are well-represented in policy discussions. A more complex definition of inclusive communities includes elements such as helping people thrive by encouraging civility, combating racism, welcoming and celebrating diversity, promoting safe and affordable housing, enabling participation in community services and local government, supporting fairness in access to justice and services, reducing violence, supporting social justice, encouraging awareness and understanding of opportunities/limitations, making residents aware of human rights commissions, and working for a more sustainable community for all residents.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Training

For many local governments, the pathway toward advancing equity begins with training and facilitated conversations for staff and elected officials. This training is helpful in building a common vocabulary and understanding of race equity concepts across the organization.

There are many different types of diversity and racial equity training offered by consultants and consulting organizations. MRSC’s blog post on advancing equity gives an overview of the different types of training available. The Washington-based consulting firm Cultures Connecting has developed a DEI facilitator and consultant directory to help agencies identify available consultants and services.

Official Statements in Support of Inclusion

Another initial step in establishing an inclusive community is making an official statement to reinforce a commitment to acceptance, equal treatment, and safety for everyone.

  • Everett Community Engagement and Inclusion Mayoral Directive (2018) — Directive to coordinate with neighborhood and community groups and schools to increase community engagement; diversify city workforce; enhance access to and information about city governments; improve customer service; and provide new youth engagement opportunities.
  • King County Board of Health Resolution No. 20-08 (2020) — Declares racism a public health crisis; commits to assessing, revising, and writing its guiding documents and its policies with a racial justice and equity lens, including the Board of Health Code and annual workplan.
  • Issaquah Resolution No. 2020-08 (2020)— Adopts statement rejecting racially based bias, harassment, and hate crimes due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Jefferson County Board of Health Resolution No. 65-20 (2020) — Action items are preceded by an extensive findings, facts, statements, and good faith beliefs section that begins with a Land Acknowledgement statement and explanation of the choice of terminology used.
  • Shoreline Resolution No. 467 (2020) — Outlines efforts city will make to address persistent racism and work towards becoming an anti-racist community.
  • Tacoma Resolution No. 40622 (2020) — Directs city manager to keep anti-racism as a top priority in the process of budget development and prioritize anti-racism in the planning of an economic recovery strategy following COVID-19, and in the evaluation of new policies and programs, as well as existing services.
  • Tumwater Resolution No. R2017-004 (2017) — Prohibits inquiries into citizenship as a prerequisite for receiving city services, except where required by state, federal, or international law. Encourages dialogue between city employees and city residents who may be affected by federal enforcement of federal immigration laws.

DEI-Related Data Collection and Analysis 

Data collection and analysis is critical; not only for determining what challenges a local government chooses to tackle with a DEI initiative but also in measuring any potential success in the community and within the local government. 

  • Snohomish County Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Assessment (2019) — Identifies successful DEI practices that can be replicated countywide; offers recommendations on where continued diversity, equity, and inclusion work is needed.
  • Tacoma Equity Index — Used by city staff, community members, partners, and other decision makers to ensure that city is making data-informed decisions that improve access to opportunity for all Tacoma residents.
  • Yakima Equity Study (2016) — Addresses the distribution of resources and investments across several city districts.

Community-Based Advisory Committees

Below are examples of programs that focused on building bridges with local communities. This includes the development of advisory committees, commissions, and task forces to build awareness and provide guidance on policy choices.

Inclusive Public Engagement Initiatives

Below are examples of programs that are community-focused efforts to transform local government outreach and service delivery to the broader community. This includes specific outreach strategies, plans, or policies. 

  • Bellevue Diversity Advantage Initiative — Includes Diversity Advantage Plan, summary, and progress report, as well as materials related to cross-cultural programming
  • Everett Mayoral Directive: Community Engagement and Inclusion (2018) — Outlines initiatives to increase community engagement, particularly with underrepresented members of the community and young people, and to improve access to city government.
  • Shoreline Equity & Social Justice Program — Focuses on increasing the capacity of city staff to promote service equity and inclusion, increasing access to city information and services by diverse communities, and increasing support for diverse communities.
  • Tacoma IT Strategic Plan (2017) — Addresses key information technology goals, including a focus on digital citizen engagement and equity in access to digital services.

Inclusive Hiring and Contracting Policies

Hiring and contracting policies are a necessary focus of attention when addressing long-term structural issues that result in the disenfranchisement of people due to race, ethnicity, ability, or sexual orientation.

For additional information on the hiring process, including anti-discrimination laws and questions that can and cannot be asked of job applicants, see our page on Hiring Procedures.

Strategic Plans

Below are examples of strategic plans focused on or address DEI in local government operations

Implement Use of Equity Tools

Below are examples of equity tools in use in Washington State. The Government Alliance on Race & Equity (GARE) offers a basic Racial Equity Toolkit that can be modified by local governments.

Community Policing and Police and Criminal Justice Reform Initiatives

Some local governments are conducting specialized DEI efforts in policing and criminal justice to address long-term racial disparities in arrests and sentencing.

  • Port of Seattle Solicitation 00320367 (2020) — A request for proposals to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the port police department's policies, protocols, and procedures that impact DEI issues; seeks recommendations for action.
  • Spokane County Justice Task Force — Develops recommendations for the county commissioners regarding the future of the Spokane County Jail. The Racial Equity Committee is tasked with developing a clear and complete action plan to address the disproportionate impact on people of color within the regional criminal justice system.
  • Pasco Citizen’s Advisory Committee — Specifically formed to address community concerns and assist in developing strategies for implementation of Community Oriented Policing components.

Additional Equity and Inclusion Policies

Below are examples of additional DEI-related internal policies

  • Bellingham Ordinance 2017-02-008 (2017) — Affirms city’s support of immigrants and refugees of all nationalities, religions, and backgrounds; precludes use of city funds or resources for activities that enforce civil or administrative federal immigrations laws.
  • Issaquah Resolution No. 2022-11 (2022) — Adopts a list of cultural and religious holidays for remainder of 2022 and 2023 and states that city should make every effort to avoid scheduling public meetings on those holidays.
  • Kirkland: Reflections and Lessons Learned from the Welcoming Kirkland Initiative (2020) — As part of this initiative, city contracted with an external entity on an comprehensive community engagement project to ensure that all residents feel welcome and secure in the community.
  • Mason County Park & Trails Gender Equity Policy — Provides that department and third-party-sponsored athletics/sports programs, as well as department facilities that support athletic programs, provide equal opportunity and access for activities for both boys and girls, as well as women and men.
  • Tacoma Municipal Code Chapter 1.29 (2019) — Requires gender neutral labeling of all single-occupancy bathrooms.

Recommended Resources

Below are some external and MRSC resources related to DEI topics.

MRSC Resources

Other Resources

Last Modified: February 23, 2024