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Category: Student Experience

Title: Solidarity Series 3: The Policy Innovation Lab’s Current and Future Actions to Pursue and Promote Racial Equity

Date Published: November 18, 2020

In June 2020, the Lab’s former Strategy Lead, Steven Swann (MPP’20) published eleven strategies for organizations to pursue and promote racial equity.

Today, the Policy Innovation Lab shares its public commitment to the strategies Swann outlined for anti-racism in organizations. Listed below are the actions the Lab has taken to implement racial equity strategies and future actions the organization and its members pledge to take.

Strategy 1: Build an Organizational Analysis of Racism

Find a racial equity training and engage other resources that will challenge your organization to be self-critical and attentive to racial dynamics. Make training and participation in ongoing efforts mandatory for everyone so that they aren’t relegated to a side project engaged by a select few on the basis of interest or identity.

Actions the Lab is Currently Taking
  • Conducting annual mandatory implicit bias training for new Lab members
  • Facilitating an introduction to the social and political history of Washington, DC with an emphasis on racial inequality and legacies of racism in the District for students
Actions the Lab Commits To
  • Providing anti-racism training and other resources for all Lab members
  • Requiring anti-racism analysis in all Lab projects

Strategy 2: Purge the Notion of The Sacred

Examine everything. If the mission, vision, values, structures, processes, and practices of the organization are worthy, they will be reaffirmed. If not, you can do better without them. Tradition is not alone self-justifying.

Actions the Lab is Currently Taking
  • Periodically conducting a study of its mission, vision, and values
  • Publicly stating the Lab’s vision, mission statement, and values (racial equity, social justice, respect for communities, integrity, humility, innovation) that were implemented in the fall of 2019
Actions the Lab Commits To
  • Publicizing the mission and values more prominently
  • Placing the mission and values more explicitly in all Lab communications, trainings, and seminars

Strategy 3: Adopt a Self-Critical Perspective

Transformation occurs when there is a shift in personal awareness that helps drive collective action aimed at systems reform. On a personal level, Lab members examine their own values and actions, using the tools and understandings they have acquired through the Lab and experiences, for evidence of implicit bias and other forms of racial discrimination and make a plan for addressing them.

In coordination with community members and partners, the Lab continues to respond to critical policy issues in the District guided by its values –– racial equity, social justice, respect for community, integrity, humility, and innovation.

Actions the Lab is Currently Taking
  • Providing Implicit Bias Training and Anti-Racism for all Lab members
  • Prioritizing the voices, experiences, aspirations, ideas and recommendations of residents and others impacted by policy and program decisions
  • Training Lab members in Human-Centered Design Thinking by fostering empathy and centering people in the policy design and development process
  • Training Lab members in critical listening skills, e.g. active listening
Actions the Lab Commits To
  • Developing a racial equity impact assessment for the Lab and evaluating the Lab annually
  • Providing resources to illuminate and facilitate personal awareness work

Strategy 4: Liberate Yourself

Liberate yourself from the idea that you must keep existing values, structures, policies, and practices in place as you pursue racial equity in your organization. Liberate yourself, as well, from the idea that you can remain comfortable as you change the organization––the discomfort marks the territory where growth is occurring. If you are not challenged throughout this process, you are leaving potential progress on the table.

Actions the Lab is Currently Taking:
  • Engaging in radically honest conversation amongst Lab members and across the community despite the discomfort this causes
Actions the Lab Commits To
  • Conducting a biannual survey of a) Lab members to self-evaluate and b) community partners to evaluate the Lab’s commitment to its mission, values, and anti-racism
  • Designating the lab as a safe space that supports BIPoC, particularly women and trans people and where all lab members commit to listening and respecting marginalized experiences

Strategy 5: Be Explicit

Declare the organization’s stance on racism in both public and internal communications and describe racial equity as its approach to fixing it. Build the habit of considering the impacts of race and racism in the operation of the organization.

Actions the Lab is Currently Taking
  • Explicitly stating the organization’s work is grounded in: “Racial equity and social justice through its commitment to work on projects and policies that promote racial equity and advance an agenda of inclusion, equitable opportunity, and justice.”
  • Centering the Lab’s community projects around racial equity (example: one project proposed policies for equitable development in Washington DC)
  • Publishing a widely disseminated annual impact report
  • Updating our Solidarity Series
Actions the Lab Commits To
  • Explicitly communicating the focus and aims of its projects through a racial equity lens.

Strategy 6: Set Concrete SMART Goals That You Can Actually Fail to Achieve

By establishing SMART–– specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timebound––goals, the organization and its members must collectively work together to achieve the desired outcomes. It requires full team involvement and concerted organizational resources.

Actions the Lab is Currently Taking
  • Reworking curriculum to specifically focus on anti-racism, racial equity, and Lab engagement with the mission statement
Actions the Lab Commits To
  • Developing SMART goals related to promoting anti-racism in recruitment, in acceptance of new projects, and in the training curriculum.
  • Reviewing these goals on an annual basis to assure that progress is being made and making adjustments if necessary.

Strategy 7: Be Willing to Give up Things that Matter

If imbalances in power, resources, rewards and the values of lives are key characteristics of racial inequity, then racial equity will require those who have more than what is fair to strategically relinquish it in service of those with less than what is equal.

Actions the Lab is Currently Taking
  • Prioritizing developmental projects with a racial equity lens that require a significant workload upfront rather than opting for well-advanced community projects that are already designed for success.
Actions the Lab Commits To
  • Integrating historically marginalized community voices in our work, even when it requires an increased outreach effort

Strategy 8: Don’t Confuse Your Words with Your Work

Statements are only valuable to the extent that they signal the direction in which the organization is moving and invite others to hold the organization and its members accountable for that movement. The deployment of resources (time, energy, platform, space, personnel, capital, etc.) are the most important expression of values.

Actions the Lab is Currently Taking
  • Accepting community-driven projects that center racial equity, increased opportunities for communities of color, and community voice and engagement
Actions the Lab Commits To
  • Developing explicit strategies aimed at intentionally recruiting students of color as Lab members

Strategy 9: Remember Your Place

The state of racial equity is characterized by people and communities of color deciding their own fates. They should be a meaningful part of an organization and active stakeholders in decision-making processes.

Actions the Lab is Currently Taking
  • Continuing the practice that the Lab’s work in DC is driven by the community, not the students. Lab projects are co-designed with community members and other partners
Actions the Lab Commits To
  • Being mindful of the community members and stakeholders we partner with, to ensure that the Lab is truly serving the Black and non-White residents of Wards 7 and 8.
  • Increasing stakeholder interviews with Ward 7 and 8 communities

Strategy 10: Look Outside

At the societal level, racial inequity is a structural problem, which means organizations need to look beyond the boundaries of their core activities and seek opportunities to employ their resources in the work of changing racial conditions in their communities and beyond.

Actions the Lab is Currently Taking
  • Partnering with other Georgetown organizations that have Black leadership and specifically promote Black perspectives
Actions the Lab Commits To
  • Evaluating ways the Lab can advocate and agitate for racial equity at Georgetown University

Strategy 11: Seek Progress, Not Perfection

In this work, there will be mistakes. Don’t allow the uncertainty of a new path, the possibility of being critiqued for missteps, or an initial lack of confidence to be exonerative from the moral demand to engage and take steps on this path. Earnest and humble efforts do not have trouble finding support.

The Lab commits to constantly, consistently working towards being a more anti-racist organization.