Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Initiatives in Washington State – 2021 Update
In response to inquiries on race and social justice policies and the rise of social justice activism across the country, MRSC previously wrote on how local governments can integrate Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) into new and existing policies. This post will provide updates on new and innovative DEI efforts in Washington State.
There are multiple pathways available to local governments looking to build DEI initiatives in their communities, including both internal and external initiatives designed to promote DEI values. This blog highlights local government initiatives that are primarily focused on racial equity and includes methods for community outreach and DEI analysis.
Starting a DEI Program
The intiatives outlined in this section offer starting points for local governments to consider when developing their own DEI initiatives. Each example includes a basic description and highlights important aspects.
Developing a community DEI commission or task force is important to developing effective local government solutions. The City of Bainbridge Island began its DEI work by establishing an internal task force on race and equity, which eventually became separate advisory committee (per Ordinance No. 2020-23) in late 2020. Codified as the Race Equity Advisory Committee in chapter 2.72 of the city’s municipal code, the nine-member committee is tasked with a variety of responsibilities, including assisting the city in implementing racial equity-related goals and policies, recommending a racial equity action plan and implementation strategy, providing education and outreach to the public, and supporting equity-related audits of city policies and procedures.
In fall 2020, the City of Olympia recruited four community members from historically marginalized and underrepresented communities to form a workgroup that would research the development of a commission to address social justice, human rights, and equity issues in the city. The workgroup presented its report to the Olympia City Council in November 2021, and in that same month, the council approved the establishment of the Social Justice and Equity Commission, tasking it with “eliminating racism and fulfilling human rights for a just and equitable Olympia for all people.” The city is currently recruiting advisors and expects to begin meetings as soon as April 2022.
Local governments can also begin developing their DEI initiatives through declarations from administrative heads. In October 2020, City of Kent Mayor Dana Ralph issued a mayoral directive directing all city departments and employees to take specific actions on advancing race and equity issues. By December of the same year, the city hired its first interim race and equity manager to manage the creation of an equity strategic plan with input from the city council, the Cultural Communities Board (an advisory group formed in 2015), community leaders, and other stakeholders.
Shoreline’s Resolution No. 467 details anti-racist commitments from the city, including developing initiatives to promote DEI. This resolution has become the base policy for the city’s equity and social justice goals.
Seattle has been a pioneer in DEI efforts through its Race and Social Justice Initiative and has developed tools that can serve as a model for others, such as the Seattle Racial Equity Toolkit. As a policy example, the Seattle Gender Justice Project aims to improve gender equity and promote inclusive practices in internal and external city policies. This program is conducted by the Office for Civil Rights in conjunction with external community partners.
DEI Toolkits and Guides
DEI toolkits and guides are what local governments use to build new DEI programs or integrate DEI considerations into their existing policies. Effective examples are listed below.
Racial Equity Toolkit
The Government Alliance on Race & Equity (GARE) Racial Equity Toolkit (2016) is frequently used by Washington local governments to identify and address equity disparities and solutions. This toolkit identifies relevant internal and external parties to address using a DEI framework. It also includes a step-by-step process for identifying and implementing DEI goals using data analysis, community engagement, and planning. Finally, the toolkit identifies common barriers to DEI policies and how best to address them.
Equity Resource Guide
The Association of Washington Cities’ Equity Resource Guide (2021) includes internal and external initiatives for cities to consider in implementing DEI initiatives and integrating them into existing policies. This guide also showcases studies in DEI budgeting, housing, transportation, human resources, criminal justice, and democratic access. Each case study describes modern practices for reducing inequity and promoting DEI values. There is also methodology for evaluating equity outcomes from each initiative.
Measuring the impact of DEI initiatives requires quantitative and qualitative analysis that can accurately reflect changes within the community. Quantitative data identify outcomes in the form of numeric data and observations and are more effective for determining if and where inequities exist. Qualitative data is collected through outreach efforts, such as surveys or interviews, and are meant to determine the causes of inequity. More information on analyzing inequity can be found in Data Guidance for Analyzing Racial and Ethnic Inequities in Homelessness Crisis Response Systems (2020) from the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness.
Using Equity Data for Quantitative Analysis
Data visualization is a common technique for measuring inequity occurrence and severity. The Pierce County Equity Index Map uses geographic data to visualize equity measures throughout the county. This includes equity in education, health, population demographics, and other important indicators. More information on the methodology and data gathering used in this tool can be found on the Tacoma Equity Index webpage.
Local governments can also use data approaches to ensure equity in law enforcement activity. The Pierce County Criminal Justice Dashboard illustrates demographic data for arrests and bookings to provide a higher level of transparency.
The King County RapidRide Fare Enforcement Report (2018) uses data to evaluate the equity effects of transit citations on those experiencing homelessness or housing instability. This report provides qualitative context and recommendations to mitigate inequity in fare enforcement, recommendations the agency has since put into practice.
Using Equity Data for Qualitative Analysis
Community outreach and engagement strategies are used to gather qualitative data from those experiencing inequities. Techniques such as interviews and community surveys help local governments determine what specific inequities impact a community and hone more specific policy responses.
Bothell’s DEI Survey Results show how to perform staff and community DEI outreach to understand community needs and demographics. This example provides community and staff feedback on DEI projects for both internal and external considerations.
Below are specific policy examples for improving community DEI:
- The King County Metro Strategic Plan for Public Transportation 2021-2031 builds equity into many of its transportation access and resilience goals. The plan presents a wide variety of strategies for meeting different equity measures.
- The Tacoma Workforce Equity Study (2021) examines internal employment demographics and recommends strategies for improving diversity and equity among employees. This includes measuring disparity in race, gender, and hiring practices.
- The SoundTransit Title VI Service and Fare Equity Analysis (2021) evaluates the equity impacts and implications of changes in transportation routes. This includes considerations for transportation affordability and access by race and level of income.
- The Tacoma Fair Housing Law prevents discriminatory practices in rental, sale, and advertising of available or affordable housing. This is established in the Tacoma Housing Code Chapter 1.29 – Human Rights Commission.
For more information or assistance, see these MRSC webpages:
- Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Resources for Local Governments — Provides resources, tools, and sample documents related to state-based local government DEI efforts.
- Language Access — Provides language access requirements and resources for use by local governments in Washington State, including information on civil rights compliance issues related to Limited English Proficiency, language access plans, language requirements relating to voting rights, court requirements, and other language services.
- Community Engagement Resources — Highlights a variety of approaches for obtaining public feedback and for involving citizens in shaping the plans and programs that significantly affect their lives.
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.