Interact for Health

Interact’s learning about equity continues with visit to Atlanta

(Feb 15th, 2016)

We recently traveled to Atlanta to learn how organizations there are working to improve equity. We enjoyed hearing about the work that the Annie E. Casey Foundation Atlanta Civic Site, Community Initiatives, Atlanta Regional Commission, Enterprise Community Partners and the Partnership for Southern Equity are doing to improve equity in education, housing, transportation, workforce development and other areas. A number of themes about the work stood out to us.

Collaboration and community input and engagement are critical. Development and change must happen with people, not to people. Input and expertise from the community must be valued at the same level as input from professionals. Combining data with people’s everyday stories will help the community understand where there are inequities. Because if people can’t see themselves in the challenge, then it’s going to be hard to get people involved in the challenge.

Organizations have to live equity, not do equity. Race, equity and inclusion (REI) need to be part of everything an organization does if it wants to make a difference. For example, a construction project planned by the Atlanta Civic Site will have a policy requiring that a certain percentage of the construction workers will be people of color. Not only will the finished project address equity, so will the process of getting there. Organizations need to model the behavior that they want others to adopt.

Look at how everything works together to achieve change. Communities have a shared destiny and must decide on a “North Star” of what they want to achieve in terms of equity and inclusion. They need to “bust out of silos” and work across sectors -- housing, economic opportunity, education, transportation, health, workforce development – to achieve systems change. It’s not one group’s idea versus another group’s idea. It’s a group’s idea in relation to where the community is going together.

Above: The last stop on our Atlanta visit was to the Partnership for Southern Equity.
Top of page: Janelle Williams and Alex Camardelle explain their work at the Annie E. Casey Foundation's Atlanta Civic Site. 

Building equity takes time. Several organizations are working on projects that have timelines measured in years or decades rather than months. The Atlanta Civic Site’s goal for children is that they reach middle income by middle age. There will be frustrations with such long projects, but starting small, getting good outcomes and building up will yield the biggest and most meaningful changes in the long term.

Thank you to everyone who met with us in Atlanta! The trip was an engaging and insightful experience for our team. We will use what we learned on the journey to help craft Interact for Health’s own health equity efforts.