Minnesota Cities Magazine
More from Sep-Oct 2017 issue

Two-Way Street: How Is Your City Advancing Race Equity?

The experience of two cities that participated in an LMC race equity cohort

Brooklyn Center (Population 30,864)
In Brooklyn Center, we feel fortunate to have a very diverse community, where no single ethnic group makes up a majority of our population. Since 2007, we have put a lot of energy into recognizing and embracing the benefits of living in this multicultural community.

A strategic approach
For years, we took several separate and perhaps disjointed steps to capitalize on and embrace our rich diversity. Then we decided to conduct an inclusion audit, which caused us to take a more strategic approach to embracing inclusion and diversity.

In 2016, we heard about the race equity cohort, sponsored by the League of Minnesota Cities (LMC) and the Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE). This was a logical next step for us.

Our race equity cohort experience has strengthened our inclusion and diversity goals. It has given us a deeper appreciation for the historical context and institutional barriers that continue to perpetuate often unrecognized disparate outcomes.

The cohort has helped add clarity to our inclusion and diversity efforts. We have improved our ability to identify, focus, and track progress where it really matters.

Two major goals
Our race equity plan has two major goals. The first is to end racial/ethnic disparity in the makeup of the city’s workforce. The second is to deliver equitable city services. These are both big goals that will take years to accomplish.

We have made significant progress in the area of attracting and retaining a workforce reflective of our diverse community. We have assessed the makeup of our organization and our entire hiring process, from minimum requirements to interviews. The objective is to eliminate implicit bias.

We have many additional plans underway, including various outreach efforts and expanding intern and police cadet opportunities.

We’ll begin working on equitable service goals in 2018 by having each department perform an equity audit for a particular service. The results of the audit will be used to develop action steps as necessary to address any unjustified disparities.

Work in progress
While we have been diligently working on inclusion, diversity, and equity for a decade, progress is always slower than we would like. But we will remain committed to our goals, and I am confident that, no matter how long it takes, we are on an irreversible journey to becoming a community where each person is valued and engaged.

Duluth (Population 86,597)
When Mayor Emily Larson took office in January 2016, it was clear that race and equity would play a large role in defining her vision and priorities in terms of how the City of Duluth provides services and makes decisions.

Part of Mayor Larson’s message was that the city should “lead by being.” We can’t expect the community to advance race equity if we aren’t. Her vision was to start by being an inclusive and fair employer.

Joining the race equity cohort
Also at the beginning of 2016, we heard about the race equity cohort, sponsored by LMC and GARE. The City Council decided this yearlong training was something worth pursuing, so we joined the 2016 cohort.

It was a great experience. The people—from Minnesota cities, counties, and other governmental agencies—were very engaged, honest, and willing to challenge themselves and others to think about the work they do every day and how that work can be changed to be more equitable.

Plan focuses on city employment
During the cohort experience, we drafted a race equity action plan that focuses on human resources. It provides a general outline for how the City of Duluth will continue to work toward a workforce that accurately reflects our community.

The plan highlights strategies and practices that include assessing job descriptions and requirements, and removing potential barriers to employment. The plan also covers how the city can promote job openings and conduct interviews and job fairs in different ways.

Other efforts
In addition to the race equity cohort, we have had two other groups of city staff participate in three-day, intensive trainings called “Fostering the Roots of Cross-Cultural Competency,” or “Roots.” Among other issues, this training addresses race and privilege.

This is a nice complement to the GARE cohort because GARE tends to address the broader impact that governmental systems have, while these supplemental trainings focus more heavily on the individual.

Going forward
It’s always a challenge to find the staff time and capacity to devote to these efforts, but our city values this work and we are motivated to continue it. We continue to look at further opportunities to expand staff involvement in the Roots training, and we plan to identify areas within the city where we need to draft additional race equity plans.

Read the Sep-Oct 2017 issue of Minnesota Cities magazine

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