Equity Working Group: Bringing additional voices to the table
Quality community engagement requires relationships, authenticity, inclusivity, and accessibility. Taken together, these ingredients are crucial if we want to advance equity in this region and work to eliminate disparities.
For nearly 50 years, the Metropolitan Council has been lauded for planning regionally for future prosperity. Now we have to think regionally and act equitably.
Throughout the process to adopt Thrive MSP 2040, the region’s long-range plan, we heard that the Council needs to change its approach to public engagement. In May 2013, I established an Equity Working Group of Council members to discuss how we could make our public engagement more effective, as well as make our Council advisory committees more reflective of our region. In addition, I asked the group to assess whether we should have a separate advisory committee for equity and community engagement.
At the heart of the Equity Working Group’s charge was the “how” of acting equitably and the need to bring more voices to our decision-making processes—to make decisions with people, not for people.
Council members Steven Chávez, Gary Cunningham, Edward Reynoso, Katie Rodriguez and Wendy Wulff have diligently worked with staff to produce policy recommendations that will foster equity in the Council’s work on a long-term basis. (Former Council Members John Doan and Roxanne Smith also served on the working group.) The policy recommendations were informed by conversations with members of the Community Engagement Steering Committee.
The Council took an exciting and important step in December to recommend implementing key values for public engagement—contained in the Council’s new public engagement plan—and being more mindful of diverse voices in appointing members of our advisory committees.
The group also recommended convening stakeholders around regional issues of significance and encouraged the next chair to consider appointing an advisory group to focus on how the Council implements the equity principle contained in Thrive MSP 2040.
We are fortunate to have such a robust and civically active nonprofit sector in the Twin Cities region. The advocates have been instrumental in our engagement efforts. Though I am stepping down as Chair of the Council soon, we’re all looking forward to improving our internal and external practices and processes for outreach and engagement with historically underrepresented residents of the region. The Equity Working Group’s policy recommendations will help ensure that. Successful outreach and community participation results in better decisions and a better region for everyone.
By Susan Haigh