New Orleans adopts social & economic equity strategy to boost community resilience

On April 20, 2017, New Orleans, Louisiana Mayor Mitch Landrieu hosted the EquityNewOrleans Strategy Launch to roll out the City’s first-ever equity strategy. It will be embedded in the city’s plans and policies to create more social cohesion, thus boosting the city’s resilience.

Spearheaded by Mayor Landrieu, the Equity Strategy seeks to address inequities due to economic, racial or geographic disparities that prevent New Orleans from growing to its full capacity. Additionally, the strategy will inform City decision-making and development of future policies, program and services, hopefully leading to a more equitable government for the benefit of all New Orleanians.

In the new New Orleans, having an equitable government in place is a top priority,” said Mayor Landrieu. “We understand the power of equity and view it as a growth strategy that will lead us to creating a stronger and more prosperous city for all our residents. I am proud of our new EquityNewOrleans strategy because it helps us continue to build New Orleans into a city for the ages. We understand that it is only when everyone is winning that New Orleans is at her best.

Saint Louis Cathedral & Jackson Square.
Photo credit: Storm Cunningham

A year earlier, in April of 2016, the City began convening residents and City officials, conferring with national experts and examining best practice models for data around what an equitable government looks like.

PolicyLink CEO Angela Glover Blackwell said, “EquityNewOrleans will harness the power of city government to foster inclusion and dismantle barriers to opportunity. By embedding equity into every function of city government, this strategy sets an important example for how local governments can build communities that allow everyone to participate, prosper, and reach their full potential.

Over the past year, the City of New Orleans has worked with both PolicyLink and the Government Alliance on Race & Equity (GARE), two organizations that work with cities that have prioritized equity. The EquityNewOrleans initiative was funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, in partnership with the Foundation for Louisiana (FFL).

Foundation for Louisiana President Flozell Daniels, Jr. enthused, “The promise of a bright future for New Orleans’ people is dependent on our collective ability to ensure that everyone gets to participate in economic and social progress. This plan ensures that the public sector is set to play a robust role in moving this agenda forward.

In June of 2016, as part of the first community listening session, the City formally launched the EquityNewOrleans initiative.

During community listening sessions, the initiative provided information on a number of areas where the Administration is currently doing equity-focused work including: resilience and sustainability, land use, housing, economic opportunity, criminal justice reform, health, infrastructure, digital equity, NOLA FOR LIFE reentry, and transportation, access and mobility.

The Center for Social Inclusion‘s Senior Vice-President and GARE Director Julie Nelson explained, “We recognize the historical way in which government created and maintained racial inequities. If we want to achieve our aspirations of equality and justice, we need to use the leadership, leverage and power of local government to become a truly inclusive and effective democracy. This is a critical moment to advance systemic solutions for racial equity. We focus on the public sector with the recognition that the transformation of government is essential for us to advance racial equity and is critical to our success as a nation.

Additionally, EquityNewOrleans engaged senior City leadership, department heads and managers in City government by creating equity leadership and action teams, where participants were provided equity-focused training workshops to understand the role of equity in government and increase shared knowledge.

To date, over 300 City employees, residents, youth, elected officials, advocacy leaders, business leaders and non-profit leaders have been interviewed to establish a baseline of understanding equity across New Orleans.

W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF) Director of Mississippi and New Orleans Programs Rhea Williams-Bishop said, “Today’s launch marks an important inflection point in our long-term commitment to New Orleans and builds on our partnership with Mayor Landrieu and his team to foster genuine conversations about race, racism, trauma and the role of government in creating equitable conditions so that children, families and communities can thrive.

As a result of these partnerships, the EquityNewOrleans strategy is prepared to help government to better tackle social inequities across New Orleans.

New Orleans’ Deputy Mayor Judy Reese Morse added, “It is a fact that every New Orleans resident does not have access to and cannot enjoy the same resources and opportunities because of economic, racial and geographic disparities. We recognize the importance of addressing this issue because this threatens New Orleans’ ability to operate at its highest level. The equity strategy is transformative for New Orleans because it sets the City up to be able to serve all the people of New Orleans like never before.

As the City approaches its 300th anniversary, the EquityNewOrleans strategy will help to lay the foundation for the next 300 years. The City will:

  • Establish an Equity Office that will be responsible for: promoting equity and reducing disparities within City government; providing guidance, education and technical assistance to City departments as they develop sustainable methods to build capacity in achieving equitable outcomes; and, working to produce measurable improvements and disparity reductions in City policies, programs and service delivery.
  • Take Executive and Legislative actions that embed equity as a fundamental value and goal of City of New Orleans government.
  • Using Equity as a Component of the Budgeting Process, will direct City of New Orleans departments and offices to assess the equity and social impacts of budget requests to ensure programs, projects and other investments help reduce disparities and promote service-level equity, improve participation and support leadership development.
  • Create City Department Equity Plans that will allow City administrators to create their own departmental Equity Plans focused on accepting responsibility to reduce disparities within their scope of influence. These plans are to be outcome-driven and departments will be expected to report not just on actions, but also on the outcomes of those actions.
  • Implement the use of an Equity Assessment Tool to provide an opportunity to thoughtfully evaluate the potential racial equity impacts of a policy, program or initiative; to consider existing, or other data and information to gauge improvements; and, to consider and engage stakeholders in the decision-making process.
  • Establish City of New Orleans Equity Teams to engage leadership and staff to become advisors, champions and users of racial equity tools to advance equitable outcomes and to increase awareness of and attention to racial equity in policy & practice.
  • Establish an Equity-focused Performance Management program to track implementation of the equity strategy through identified indicators, measuring change over time and the impact of public sector investments and policy changes.
  • Establish a Racial Equity Community Roundtable that forwards the work of equity in City government. It will include leaders from all sectors that will both inform the City’s work to advance equity, and increase the use of an equity lens within the community and their own organizations.
  • Launch Racial Equity Training for all employees and members of boards and commissions including the implementation of a “Train the Trainer” model focused on building internal capacity. The training will provide increased understanding of institutional barriers and the role, responsibilities and opportunities for government to advance racial equity both internally and in partnership with other institutions and the community.
  • Launch Inclusive Outreach and Public Engagement Training for employees to effectively plan and implement inclusive engagement strategies to help ensure that participation in public engagement efforts fully reflect the demographics of the New Orleans community.
  • Advance Workforce Equity through the development of a City of New Orleans Workforce Demographics Dashboard, an analysis of hiring processes for racial disparities and specialized Human Resources Racial Equity Tools Training.
  • Develop an Inclusive Outreach and Public Engagement Guide designed to increase access to information, resources and civic processes to communities through the implementation of racially and culturally inclusive outreach and public engagement processes.
  • Create an EquityNewOrleans Public Awareness Campaign that will serve as the visual campaign to increase awareness about the role of equity within City government.

Over this past year, we have worked hard to engage City leaders and residents from across the city to determine what an equitable government looks like. We are excited to present a well-researched, data-driven strategy that will impact the way we serve New Orleanians for generations to come,” said Equity Strategy Director Roxanne Franklin. “Our successful strategy launch is only the beginning and we look forward to collaborating with City departments and other critical stakeholders to create a more equitable government.

Councilmember Jason Rogers Williams concluded, “On the eve of our City’s 300th birthday, I am proud to support this equity initiative. Maintaining equity as a core tenet of our public sector will create a unique, social-justice focused perspective that will shine a light on communities that have been left in the dark for far too long. This practice will benefit all sectors and residents of New Orleans.

See EquityNewOrleans Strategy website.

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