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Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Efforts in Washington State

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Efforts in Washington State

MRSC has recently received inquiries from Washington State jurisdictions regarding race and social justice initiatives and policies. Nationwide protests, local activism, and the public’s involvement in local and national policy discourse have increased in recent months after the high-profile deaths of Black Americans in police custody and as Black Americans continue to experience racially motivated violence and discrimination. Some local governments are seeking to begin racial equity work, while others are looking to review existing policies with an equity lens. In response to this national and regional effort, this blog post provides resources and sample documents in use by local governments in Washington State. Initiatives in this blog include samples that are focused solely on racial equity, or more broadly on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).

People and organizations stand in different places along the path of DEI work. There are a variety of entry points for such initiatives: some local governments embark on internal initiatives first and then begin external work, while others undertake efforts in both realms at once. Many employ a consultant or consulting firm outside of the local government at any given point along the path. The examples here should offer something of use and interest to anyone beginning or involved in DEI work. The materials here vary in detail and length to help the reader visualize an approach that could work for your community or organization.

Getting Started

The examples in this section show a starting point for a few local governments. A basic description of the document highlights aspects of each. The proposal document for the City of Bainbridge Island includes prospective costs.

Snohomish County

The county has an 11-member Equity and Inclusion Task force made up of staff from various departments. It’s been in operation since 2018, and its stated purpose is to help inform the executive’s office how county government can make improvements and ensure that the community is safe, welcoming, and inclusive. Its focus is on internal county government operations. To date, an assessment has been completed, and recommendations were made to the task force addressing the leadership expectation and vision, human resources and hiring, ongoing training and resources, and staff retention through a diversity, equity, and inclusion lens. The Equity and Inclusion Task Force defines Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion on their webpage along with the names and titles of all task force members.

Here are Recommendations for Snohomish County's Equity and Inclusion Task Force.

City of Bainbridge Island

The City of Bainbridge Island has a Race Equity Task Force that engaged the Government Alliance on Race & Equity (GARE) to build employee racial equity awareness and the city’s capacity to proactively advance racial equity. Highlights are the scope of work (p.2), why GARE recommends each module they have proposed, and a chart describing the content and cost of the trainings/workshops.

Here is the GARE City of Bainbridge Island Proposal.

City of Wenatchee

The City of Wenatchee established an Advisory Council on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in their city code (Chapter 1.50 WMC) to recommend initiatives that:

  • Ensure equal disbursement of public and private resources
  • Encourage participation by all in the community’s decision-making processes, including equal opportunity policies and
  • To provide a forum for all diversity issues including the annual Americans with Disabilities Act concerns, complaints, and activity.

Here is the Advisory Council's mission statement and goals.

Equity Tools for Policies and Programs

Racial equity and race and social justice tool kits are abundant, and they have different uses. Local governments across the country have worked to develop a tool kit or ‘lens’ through which to view new and existing policies and programs as they relate to DEI initiatives, and MRSC has seen an increase in requests for these types of materials.

City of Seattle Racial Equity Tool Kit

The City of Seattle Racial Equity Tool Kit has been used by the city since 2012 to assess policy, programs, initiatives, and budget issues. It is the first example of a racial equity tool kit and a simple form containing just six steps. A worksheet, glossary, map of neighborhoods, and links to data sources are included. The sample we have linked to is the tool kit itself, plus a completed example that the city used to evaluate whether to expand Section 8 voucher protections by including other verifiable sources of income, potentially reducing racially inequitable treatment in housing.

Here is the City of Seattle's Racial Equity Tool Kit.

City of Renton Equity Lens

The City of Renton has been active for many years with regard to equity and inclusivity. Their Equity Lens has been used for numerous efforts, some of which are described in the document listed below. The city also has a practice of citing anti-discrimination laws it adheres to on its website.

Here is the City of Renton's Equity Lens.

GARE Racial Equity Tool Kit

This is an extensive document with steps to help you develop your own process, and it lists data resources. Here is the GARE Racial Equity Tool Kit

Measuring Outcomes

There’s no doubt that good data can contribute to measuring impact and outcomes and to informing decisions that governments make at all levels. Quantitative data are most frequently used for a myriad of government studies. They identify “if” there is an issue and “where” it is located. In the case of equity initiatives, qualitative data — most often gathered in narrative form through interviews, community meetings, surveys, and focus groups — are instrumental in determining the “why”and helping get to the root cause of inequities. The United States Interagency Council on Homelessness published a Racial Equity Data Guidebook describing the rationale for both quantitative and qualitative analysis and giving examples of qualitative research methods.

The City of Tacoma measures outcomes and tracks progress with its Equity Index. The city’s website hosts an interactive tool that uses 20 data points to report level of service or lack of service in four major categories: accessibility, economy, education, and livability. These measurables are broken out in the Equity Index FAQ below, which also describes why and how the city created the Equity Index.

Here is Tacoma’s Equity Index Main Page and additional tools, including:

Policy Examples

Here are policy examples that were developed to improve equity in a variety of areas.

City of Tacoma’s Office of Equity and Human Rights has created a Handbook for Recruiting, Hiring & Retention: Applying an Equity Lens to Recruiting, Interviewing, Hiring, and Retaining Employees. From the book’s statement of purpose:

Each section includes specific steps or checklist staff can take to help achieve the goal of a workforce that reflects the community it serves. The appendices contain background information and resources to help managers who want more detailed information about creating and maintaining a workforce that is inclusive, culturally competent, and reflects the community it serves.

Seattle Public Utilities’ (SPU) Women and Minority Owned Business Enterprise Program is a part of the organization's social equity focus. Below is SPU’s Social Responsibility in Contracting statement.

The City is committed to socially responsible procurement and promoting social equity through our contracts. We work to ensure open and fair procurements, competitive and fair pricing, environmentally-sustainable solutions, best labor practices, access to equal benefits and utilization of women- and minority-owned businesses, when applicable, in City bid decisions and contracts.

City of Renton’s HR Inclusion Tactical Plan was created to improve access to city employment. In the document, the city defines their goals and measurables, identifies strategies, and provides three years of data that show some improvement toward the goal.

City of Tacoma’s Single-Occupancy Restrooms requires all single-occupancy restrooms to be labeled as gender neutral. It derives from the Tacoma Municipal Code Chapter 1.29

MRSC is a private nonprofit organization serving local governments in Washington State. Eligible government agencies in Washington State may use our free, one-on-one Ask MRSC service to get answers to legal, policy, or financial questions.

Photo of Laura Crandall

About Laura Crandall

Laura Crandall worked for MRSC as a Public Policy Consultant and Finance Analyst from August 2018 to September 2020. She no longer works for MRSC.

Previously, Laura worked as a Management Analyst with the City of Burien and as an Analyst in the Finance Department with the City of Tukwila. Laura has an MPA from Seattle University with a focus in local government. She was selected for an ICMA Local Government Management Fellowship after graduating.

Laura served as executive director of a nonprofit for six years, and has experience in organizational and program development, staff management and mentoring, budgeting, and benefits.