Impacting Equity in Transportation Webinar
January 25 from 1-2PM EST
Amber Trout: Welcome everyone. Good morning, good afternoon, or happy supper wherever you are calling in from. We’re really excited that you’re here to join us. My name is Amber Trout from Community Science. I am excited to co-host this webinar with Barr and the Center for Neighborhood Technology with our awesome panelists to share our learnings from a guide we all worked on together, called Tools for Equitable Mobility Practices. We’re really excited that we have these three experts with us, and we hope that you drop your questions in the chat. Avelyn is going to drop directions if you want to have a live transcript – that’s available, it should be on the right-hand side of your video. And, before we jump right into the moderator and panelists and introducing them, I would love to invite Najah Casimir to say why are we here, why are we talking about this guide now, and what do we hope to get out of this conversation.
Najah Casimir: Thank you, Amber. Hello everyone! As Amber said my name is Najah Casimir, I am the Program Officer for mobility on Barr’s climate team. On behalf of the Barr foundation, I want to thank you all for joining us today. Special thank you to everyone who contributed to the guide, our hosts today, and the panelists who will be sharing their knowledge with us. This guide is a compilation of promising practices for advancing equity in mobility related fields. It’s important to note that we were intentional about calling them “promising practices” rather than “best practices”, because we are all on a collective journey towards building inclusive communities that really meet the needs of everyone. I believe that as people we often confuse what is normal and common with what’s right. But any short peek into a history book will show you that that is often not the case. So again, I want to say thank you to the people whose tools were profiled in this guide. Thank you for knowing that the norm was not working for your community, and for knowing that you have the ability to do things differently.
Najah Casimir: For those who are looking to follow suit, please pay close attention to the beginning of the guide. Before you take any actions, you need to know your own context. Many of us are familiar with the concept of induced demand. Expanding a highway ultimately leads to more trips taken by car, and more congestion. Let us not replicate these types of issues by rushing towards solutions without a clear understanding of the problems we are trying to solve. Your intention is not enough. You must also think about the impact of any work that you’re about to begin. With that, I want to thank you all for listening today; I’m so excited for this conversation. And with that, Jackie, I’ll pass it to you.
Jackie Grimshaw: Thank you very much, I appreciate that. And welcome to all. As an as Najah just said, this guide, Tools for Equitable Mobility, is meant to help public agencies or transportation advocates make decisions that advance transportation equity. Finally, there is growing recognition that transportation policies and investment based in structural racism have harmed and burdened residents in black and brown communities. Right now, some folks are adding the word equity when they describe their work with no idea of what equity really means. I was just at the Transportation Research Board, and you know their committees, there’s the asphalt, concrete and equity committee. So, what does that mean? Really no sense. What we want to make sure is that we recognize that the policies that have caused harm to people with disabilities, as well as black and brown folks, and other marginalized groups. That we recognize and start to ameliorate those harms.
Jackie Grimshaw: Today’s discussion will focus on two of the tools in this toolkit that assess the potential equity impact of transportation policy decisions. We have three presenters today, but I want to get started by asking a KeAndra Cylear Dodds, Executive Director of Equity and Race in the Office for the Chief Executive Office at LA Metro, and then Hana Creger, who is the Senior Program Manager for Climate Equity at the Greenlining Institute, to introduce themselves by telling us telling us about their tool, why they were developed, what they are for, maybe at least one example of how they have been used, and most importantly – why they are great. So KeAndra, who are you? Tell us about yourself and your tool.
KeAndra Cylear Dodds: Hi everyone, I’m KeAndra Cylear Dodds. I work with Metro, and I lead our office of Equity & Race. Our tool that we are going to talk about today is the Rapid Equity Assessment. So, this is a tool that we created in the summer of last year. For a little context, this was about a few months into my new role at Metro. I started in January 2020; we were a few months into a pandemic. And we were also a few months into social unrest protests that were happening in response to the George Floyd murder. Throughout that time, as I was kind of getting acquainted with Metro, I realized we needed a clear tool to help us to apply an equity lens to our decision making. Things were changing very quickly; a lot of decisions were being made. And we have what we call our equity platform, which is something that was approved back in 2018, and gives the framework for how we approach equity. But it’s not a guide or a tool to really help people think about how they apply it to their specific decisions, to projects, to different actions that they’re taking. And so, I worked with a group of staff within our agency to develop this rapid equity tool that could be something simple, to really help guide decision making, even though we might not have the benefit of a lot of time for a lot of resources. Something to give just a clear way to think through what the benefits are to, particularly marginalized, communities of this action, or what are the potential harms. Or, have we considered any mitigations, how we engage them, or what can we do right now? And then, how do we make sure that our decisions have more equitable outcomes, or at a minimum, not exacerbate existing disparities.
KeAandra Cylear Dodds: And so fast forward to today, much has changed and even that tool has evolved. When we first created it, it was a tool that wasn’t required. So, it actually, despite our intent, wasn’t widely used. But then this year, about a year later, since we launched it we have now have an equity assessment requirement as a part of everything that goes to our board. So, reports, updates, etc. have to have an assessment, using this tool, that is approved by my department, in order to move forward. And so, we use the tool a great deal now. We have trainings to help people understand the different questions, to think through the benefits the burdens the mitigation, all those things. And we’ve also evolved the questions a bit to focus a bit more on community engagement and data analysis. These were two things that we realized early on that people were not utilizing as they thought through the equity impacts and opportunities for the program. That’s one example – the use in our equity section in our board reports – but it’s a huge one. Because we go to the board with 40 to 50 items, a month, every month. And so, it’s a lot of work for my team, but it’s also very exciting because it’s a huge way that our work is really starting to have a broader impact on the agency. And so, this tool is just, it’s really been a great opportunity to work with folks throughout the agency and to really look more closely at our decisions for equity. I’ll stop there, and happy to talk more about it.
Jacky Grimshaw: Oh, excellent. Hana?
Hana Creger: Hi everyone, nice to be with you all. For folks who aren’t familiar, Greenlining is a research and public policy nonprofit, advocating for racial equity across the whole wide range of policy areas, including clean transportation and mobility. And just for some background context on the tool that I’ll share – so, over the years, we’ve been very involved in the development and implementation of California’s clean mobility equity policies and programs. And you know, we wanted to better understand exactly how this wide array of clean mobility programs were truly addressing equity in a way that actually challenges us to rethink and reimagine the unjust systems and structures that end up kind of getting in the way of advancing our equity goals. And so, to do this, we developed a very extensive equity evaluation methodology, and I’ll elaborate on that a bit later on, but just to give some high-level takeaways – I think what makes this tool unique is that it recognizes that folks are not all starting from the same place. It digs into what are those baseline bare minimum equity approaches that have to serve as the starting point. But then, what are those more innovative and transformative equity approaches that are pushing the envelope, when it comes to developing and implementing equity programs. And again, depending on where an entity is starting from, these minimum equity approaches will of course be relatively quicker and easier to achieve. They then end up serving kind of as a foundation for these more transformative approaches that just by their very nature will require significantly greater levels of resources, effort, staff time, and full-on investment across all levels of government.
Hana Creger: And so, using this methodology, I’ll drop the link into the chat of the resource I’m about to share, we published this report called Clean Mobility Equity: A Paybook. We evaluated 12 programs that are specifically targeted to our most polluted and impoverished communities, primarily communities of color. These programs include clean vehicle incentives, electric vehicle car sharing at affordable housing sites, electric school bus programs, as well as community driven and community owned clean mobility programs. And so, we know a whole range of successes challenges areas for improvement, as well as recommendations to further advance equity. Really the goal of this report is to serve as both an accountability guide for California, as we continue evolving our clean mobility programs to more meaningfully center equity and to push the envelope, but also as a guide for other states and the federal government as they are now moving to develop and implement similar things to the mobility equity programs and, again, maybe are starting from a different place. This last year, we spent a lot of time socializing this report with various federal agencies, with other states, with cities around the country. It’s exciting that we’re now beginning to work with California state agencies and their academic research partners on how to incorporate these equity evaluation measures into the existing program evaluations. We are now developing partnerships with federal agencies, like the Department of Energy and Department of Transportation, on how to utilize these types of equity evaluation tools in order to comply with the Biden administration’s Justice 40 initiative. So, lots of exciting stuff to come, but I think we’re only kind of the beginning of this.
Jacky Grimshaw: Excellent. Okay. Our third panelist/presenter is Amber, so why don’t you introduce yourself and then we’ll get into our Q&A.
Amber Trout: Great. Afternoon/morning again. I am Amber from Community Science. What I wanted to share is why these tools. We worked with Center for Neighborhood Technology, and asked how do we know which tools; where do we even start? We scanned up to 20 tools that focused on equity. What are the set of equity questions? From there, we focused on which ones focus on mobility, which ones are usable and accessible? The data is easily – you are able to get it. And what we really realized is that every metropolitan area has quantitative indicators already. There’s really an opportunity to think about the qualitative information that’s needed to go with the decision-making processes, that can check that quantitative bias or that narrow focus that quantitative data provides, that is very important to have, but what is the context to understand that space? And to understand and acknowledge the harm that has already happened in the community as a result of some transportation policies. From there, we had an advisory committee, two that are on this panel with us here, of 20 people helping us to figure out what are the tools that we want to highlight. And so, we ended up on the six tools in the guide. A few that are not here on the panel: we also highlighted the City of Oakland Transportation Racial Equity Indicator; the King County, Washington State, Equity Impact Review; the Green Justice Coalition Policy Toolkit; and we had an academic tool with the intersectional based policy analysis. We included these to show there’s multiple ways to assess equity.
Amber Trout: And so, rather than pitting them the tools against each other, or being extractive – saying to use this piece in LA, but only use this piece in Greenlining – that’s, that’s not a grounded in integrity way to approach equity. Rather where’s your organization, and where do you want to go? That’s really how we approached which guides to highlight. And then, as Najah opened up, where are you as an organization, where as you as a person, before you even use these tools. And so, the last point I wanted to say is while we did the scan, we interviewed people, we highlighted these tools, this certainly not our knowledge. This knowledge is built on equity pioneers that have been doing this work for decades, unrecognized. For us, we feel this is just a way to grow awareness of what has been done, and those promising practices that are being done. So, I’m really excited for the discussion, and to talk about what the role of evaluation could be, as part of this discussion.
Jackie Grimshaw: Excellent, thank you very much Amber. So, with that background let’s get into the discussion. This first set of questions, KeAndra and Hana, I would like to have both of you answer. I’ll start first with you Hana. Tell us, how does your agency define equity? And what does that look like in the work that you do?
Hana Creger: Yeah, happy to share. Greenlining’s approach absolutely focuses on looking at the traditional benefits versus burdens. But I think another piece that’s important to mention, is we’re really focused on how racial equity is – the goal is about transforming the behaviors, the institutions, and the systems that end up disproportionately harming people of color. And really to get there, that means increasing access to power, redistributing resources, providing additional resources, and eliminating barriers to opportunity. With that framing, we then use racial equity as the core to pull all of our different policy strategies around whether that is clean transportation, clean energy, access to financial services, technology. I can share a little bit more about this later on if we cover a bit more of the specifics around the equity evaluation methodology – we aim to have as many kinds as possible of comprehensive, multifaceted, multi-sector approaches built into our equity approach. Where it’s not just about access, but every conversation around mobility is around economic justice, climate justice, access to health care. So basically, trying to cover as many issues as we can, regardless of the topic that is actually at hand.
Jackie Grimshaw: Got it. KeAndra?
KeAndra Cylear Dodds: Thank you. Our formal definition, we have a longer one, but our abbreviated definition is that equity is both an outcome and a process to address disparities to ensure fair and just access to opportunities. There four words within that we really, really focus on. The first of which is outcomes. We’re focused on the end result, and making sure that people in the end have equal access to whatever they need to lead a full healthy life – access to food, jobs, etc. And also, affordable access, safe access, sustainable access. And then the second word we focus on is the process. That matters just as much as the outcome. It matters how we include people that are most impacted to understand their existing conditions, what they need, and how we make sure that our adjustments to policy solutions and actions are actually framed in a way that will address those disparities that they face, or the barriers that they face. And then of course disparities, we have to recognize and understand what disparities exist, and why. And then lastly, our ultimate goal is to increase access to opportunities at the framing of which we carry forward our work. And then what it looks like, well, it varies throughout our agency because we have such a broad scope. We operate buses and trains, and so in that context it is service that gets people where they need to go, especially people that have very few transportation options. We also have a real estate program – young properties. And so, in some cases it’s its policies and its programs that support affordable housing and transit, and transit-oriented communities. It really varies but ultimately, it’s the actions that we take to understand, and give people what they need to have healthy and full lives, and how we prioritize those with the greatest needs first.
Jackie Grimshaw: Good. So, Hannah, you mentioned evaluation a minute ago. So, how was evaluation incorporated as part of the decision-making process? And what types of data, and community engagement inputs did you use?
Hana Creger: It’s a great question. So, to conduct this equity evaluation, we simply talk to people. We wanted a qualitative narrative around how these programs are working, and how they were not working. That looked like interviewing everyone from the program administrators, to grantees who won awards, grantees who did not win awards, state agencies who are involved in overseeing these programs, and other partners. The reason we decided to do this work is that partners were coming to us and sharing challenges, and we kept hearing – there were very clear similar challenges across many different kinds of programs, and we felt that it was important to lift up these stories. And to, again, use this as an accountability tool to tell the state government that we’re putting all this money out there, and a lot of things are going well, and there’s a lot of things that we’re missing. We especially wanted to uplift and highlight those programs that were doing a really good job at centering community needs and community decision making. And we wanted to point out that those programs that California has pumped a lot of money into, such as the clean vehicle incentives, are very prescriptive, don’t do a great job oftentimes at targeting those folks with the greatest barriers to access, and unfortunately leave out many communities who don’t drive. Throughout this process, again, we wanted to uplift those programs that do a great job at centering community voices, community decision making, and community power and share those best practices, challenges, and lessons learned and use them as an advocacy tool to get those programs greater funding.
Jackie: Grimshaw And with LA Metro, KeAndra?
KeAndra Cylear Dodds: Can you repeat the question?
Jackie Grimshaw: The question was, how is evaluation incorporated as part of the decision-making process, and what types of data and community engagement inputs did you use?
KeAndra Cylear Dodds: So, what’s interesting about our tool is, it’s kind of evolved to expand on those two components. So, as far as evaluation, the rapid equity assessment isn’t prescriptive as far as the data and the community engagement and input, but it does draw a very specific focus on marginalized groups. So, black, indigenous, people of color, low-income folks (and we have a threshold to help us define it), people with disabilities, and disadvantaged businesses and minority owned businesses, and a few other marginalized groups including women, other folks, etc. And then it really drives you to, for each project or action that you’re considering, think about who’s going to be impacted within those groups, how did you engage them, what did you hear from them, and how does that help inform this decision. So, it explicitly asks questions like that, and then as far as the data that you’re using – is it disaggregated, and are you finding disparities that exist within that data, and if so, how does this action address it or not address it. So, it expands on, as you mentioned earlier, some of the quantitative information and work that we’ve already been doing, by adding qualitative elements that also require more engagement and more input from community members that are impacted by our work.
Jackie Grimshaw: KeAndra, have you ever made a mistake in using this tool, or can you share a mistake or lesson you’ve learned along the way, as you worked on getting this rapid assessment tool out there?
KeAndra Cylear Dodds: Yeah, lots of lessons learned. I think one of the things we’ve learned is just sometimes tools have to evolve. The first version of it – we’ve changed the language to make it clearer, we’ve added glossaries to help people understand different concepts that are new to some of our staff, we have trainings that also go with the tool, and we’ve added questions. It’s important to note that sometimes what you first produce, you may have to adjust it to make it more effective and to make it more useful within your agency. We’ve also added other tools, because this tool doesn’t necessarily work in every situation. That was also just an important lesson learned, and also something to think about as we now build an equity tool kit with multiple tools that can encompass different aspects of our work. And then I think another important lesson learned, is that sometimes people assume, because it is called a rapid assessment, that it’s quick, fast, and it’s just really to certify that this is equitable and great, no matter what it actually is. This is not that. It really takes time, it takes resources, research, it takes engagement. Although it’s probably the quickest tool that we have, it still takes work, and it still takes intentionality. You have to demonstrate how, in each of the questions whether it’s about benefits or harms, you have to actually demonstrate what you’re saying. We don’t accept responses that are just – oh this is equitable because it’s that low-income community. What does that actually mean, how is it impacting them? How are they accessing it, how might it be harming them? And so, we really get into the details, but it’s you know, it’s been a learning process to really figure out how to train people so that they know that that is what we expect. And that is what they have to do when they’re completing this. So, lots of lessons learned, and we continue to learn. And we’re just evolving and trying to improve the tools as we go.
Jackie Grimshaw: So why did you call it rapid?
KeAndra Cylear Dodds: Well, we called it rapid because initially it was something that was created for emergency decisions. We had had a series of decisions that were being made around May and April, and I didn’t see equity centered in that work. And so, my I charged myself, and our team with figuring out what can we do to help agents to do that. And so that was the intent. It was something that could more quickly be used. And actually, if you have a group of people with diverse perspectives and experiences, you can complete the tool more quickly and more comprehensively, then if you do it just by yourself or with no folks with diverse experiences and understanding of how it might impact different communities. And so, it can be rapid comparatively, but it’s not a quick certification process that can go.
Jackie Grimshaw: Rapid but not quick. Great. Got to keep that straight. So, Hannah in your work in creating your guide, have you made a mistake, is there some lessons that you’ve learned along the way?
Hana Creger: I mean as Kendra mentioned, this is constantly a moving target. What seemed bold and innovative a few years ago is now like the bare minimum of what we need to be doing. And so now it’s like, oh god I already have to update this whole equity evaluation like next year! But I think another thing we’ve come up against is this equity evaluation is just the starting point. The real work, then, must go on to involve taking the steps to address those gaps, and to move us forward to a higher standard of equity. And unfortunately, generally government is not set up to take on these transformative equity approaches, yet. In trying to move these recommendations forward, we’re just coming up against all kinds of bureaucratic, and even tiny, administrative barriers that don’t allow these things to move forward. The reality check of putting these kinds of strategies into practice has been a challenge and a lesson learned, and a harsh reality check.
Jackie Grimshaw: Both of you just happen to be in California. I’m in Illinois. So, these examples that you’ve given us this morning or this afternoon, will they work in other places? Or are they California centric? What’s your perspective, KeAndra? Could I use this anywhere, or, or is it just something that is good for LA Metro nowhere else?
KeAndra Cylear Dodds: Our tool can be used anywhere. I think there are inequities all over the country, and in different locations – urban, rural, big, large states, small states – there are existing disparities that exist amongst our communities. Our county and is also super diverse. We cover LA County, that’s over 10 million people, 88 cities, and then an unincorporated county. We considered how this would apply to that broad range of communities as we developed it. So, not to say LA County is a microcosm for the US, but we thought about how we would apply these questions in different contexts, in communities with all folks of color, incomes vary, there’s people with disabilities, there’s people that speak different languages, etc. There’s just a rich diversity that this can still apply to you, no matter where you are. And thinking through, who is it benefiting and who is it burdening, those are just those are questions you can ask anywhere, you should with any project. You want to understand what the impact of your work is, and who is it harming (if it’s harming anyone), who is it truly benefiting, and how do you make adjustments so that the outcomes are different, so that they are more equitable, so that so people can get what they need. Lastly, we talked to a lot of folks in different agencies and shared our tool and have found a lot of interest in the approach, because it’s just focused on people and the end user. It’s focused on understanding what is the experience, the lived experience, of people with our work, and how do we make adjustments to make it more equitable. That’s the ultimate goal. And so, yes, I think it can be used in other places outside of California.
Jackie Grimshaw: So, Hana, we don’t have these wonderful programs that you have in California that you use with your tool, so can I import your process here to Illinois?
Hana Creger: Absolutely. I think what’s important to always remember is that none of these strategies or methodologies should simply be copied and pasted. What we’re offering is a process that always should be led by communities to land on whatever equity strategies and measures make sense for them. What we have here is simply a starting point. But ideally the community identifies additional equity strategies and metrics that aren’t listed in the report, they tweak them to be more relevant, they take out the ones that don’t make sense. This, again, always must be a community driven process.
Jackie Grimshaw: I am going to ask you this one question, both of you to answer, and then we’ll open it up to questions from our participants. I’ll start with you, Hana. It seems to me that in looking at your tool, and the process that Greenlining used, it was kind of unique in evaluating an equity rubric that asks different program elements the questions. How did you come up with this process, that you just mentioned that can be used anywhere, how did you come to using that strategy in your equity tool?
Hana Creger: As Amber mentioned, Greenlining’s report offers very specific qualitative equity standards and strategies that a clean mobility program should abide by. There were two elements to this. The first was our six standards for equitable investment, which are emphasize anti racist solutions, prioritize multi-sector approaches, deliver intentional benefits, build community capacity, be community driven at every stage, and then establish paths towards wealth building. That’s one element, and clearly equity is a very comprehensive approach here, and it’s kind of way beyond those traditional measures of transportation. And that’s exactly the point, because traditional quantitative measures alone don’t capture transformative equity processes and outcomes. But then at the same time to complement that, just those equity standards on their own are not enough. And so, we wanted to offer very specific examples of how those equity centers I just listed can be embedded from start to finish. And for us, that means how they’re embedded into a program’s mission, the process of how its developed, the outcomes, and then it’s measurement and analysis. And so together, those pieces kind of offer all of these layers of accountability. And I think this is really came about from our previous evaluations of equity programs and policies, but we found that it was pretty common to state equity as a mission or a goal, but then those programs failed to develop a clear strategy for how to embed equity all the way through the end. I would say that the reason why this methodology is so comprehensive is that these qualitative equity measures were essentially co-created by a wide number of stakeholders who we interviewed and who are involved in the development and implementation of those mobility programs. And then based on their experiences, they were able to give very clear examples of their existing equity measures that were working well, but then also their aspirational ones that the programs did not yet meet, but they hoped to me in the future.
Jackie Grimshaw: Got it. Okay, so it looks like the questions are coming in. So let me, let me switch, unless, KeAndra I don’t want to cheat you out of the opportunity to respond about the uniqueness of your tool. Or if you want me just to go to questions, I can do that too.
KeAndra Cylear Dodds: We can go to questions.
Jackie Grimshaw: Alright, so our first question is, what is the role of public engagement in equity evaluations, and how do we do this while we’re in the midst of a pandemic?
KeAndra Cylear Dodds: There’s a very important role for community engagement in these assessments. I’ll speak broadly because we have multiple assessments that kind of require different levels of engagement, but it’s utterly important to work with communities through assessing, through planning, through development of projects and all our work, to really advance equity. They are such a rich resource and really the experts that know what they need. Finding ways during the pandemic has been a challenge for us. We aren’t doing in person events, it’s mostly webinars and with call in options. But for some of our work, we have had to go out into the world, in person. We have had some changes to our bus service. We’re adding more bus lanes and bus service within, throughout the region. Some of the ways that we’ve engaged folks is by having folks go to bus stops, with masks and protective gear, and talking directly to the people that are using the system, that would drive along that bus only lane, to understand what are different issues and concerns that we need to be aware of and consider as we develop this process.
KeAndra Cylear Dodds: Also, we work very closely with community-based organizations. They are often a great resource and connection to the community. Both because of the trust that they have within the community, and their ability to kind of serve to validate our processes, especially when you’re working well with them, but also to help connect us and help us understand the community. In addition to working directly with community members, we work with community-based organizations; some we even contract with on different programs and different projects. We work closely with our advisory bodies. We have members of the public that serve on various advisory groups throughout the agency, and I’m excited to say we know compensate them as a part of that process, because we value their time and we value their expertise. So, it’s critical and there’s lots of ways that we engage and can engage community members.
Jacky Grimshaw: Yeah, that’s awesome, compensating, commuting people are just as experts as the rest of us when it comes to transportation because they use a system, so they know best.
Jacky Grimshaw: Hana, I want to ask you a different question. Can your tool be used to consider accessibility for people with disabilities? The various programs in California, I’m not familiar with all of them but are any of them directed towards people with disabilities that that this tool can be used for? Or is it a unique perspective with some of the various programs out there in California, and how they relate to people with disabilities?
Hana Creger: That’s a great question. The Greenlining’s core is racial equity, but the six standards that I just mentioned are incredibly broad, while the specific strategies underneath are all tied back to racial equity. Just going back to prioritizing multi sector approaches, delivering intentional benefits, building community capacity, being community driven at every stage, and establishing power and wealth building absolutely are very applicable to the disability community. Although I’m sure elements would need to be tweaked or added, I think this is a helpful starting point in framing, as well as embedding equity in the mission process outcomes measurement analysis, but the specifics would need to be tailored.
Hana Creger: One other thing I wanted to mention on that previous question, completely double click on everything KeAndra just said, I also wanted to flag that it’s not fair or realistic to put all that responsibility on local agencies alone. Federal and state funds must require this community engagement, they must require qualitative equity evaluations, they must provide guidelines, build up their capacity to do so, and then again resource this with real money. I think, local agencies in partnership with communities’ organizations are the best position to do that critical in the engagement, but they must be broadly supported from state and federal funds and realigning is working to do exactly that.
Jacky Grimshaw: Got it.
Jacky Grimshaw: Amber, I’ve left you out of the conversation a little bit, but I want to bring you in and ask you, in the guide there’s a section that raises questions about when to integrate an equity framework. Can you explain to us the potential harm that can be done if valuations failed to incorporate efforts?
Amber Trout: Often evaluation historically is seen as harmful and extractive, specifically from communities of color and other communities impacted. What we want to highlight, the core commonalities of the agencies, the nonprofit, the grassroot organizations, and with the tools we reviewed, it starts with having knowledge and an acknowledgement of the past harms transportation policy has done in your community, in which communities, and understanding what the lived experience is. And though you may not have been there when that policy was put in place, you’re in that agency that continues to implement it, and/or you’re there to influence the decision making. We also saw that there’s just an understanding of equity. So, you’re understanding who has access to transportation, to go to education and go to work, to get food, and who doesn’t. Also, where does it happen more often? As we were hearing KeAndra and Hana say, “what is your definition of equity?”. When you have that definition, it’s easier to get buy in with the tool, public agency, or your organization.
Amber Trout: I’ve seen questions say, “can this be applied to other fields”, certainly. That gives you a direction of where to put your efforts and where to put the strategy. And then importantly, that foundation is a commitment. Yes, a statement of saying you’re committed to it, but a commitment means financial. What I’m hearing from KeAndra and Hana is the amount of resources, meaning staff time, resources to provide community members – who provide input to compensate them for their time, trainings, capacity to have the support system to implement the tool, and to have leadership willing to go “what is another way to approach this investment or action”. Even though it’s like, “you just want to say we always done it this way, why does it have to be so hard”? Maybe in that moment, but really it is rapid when you take the time to pause and slow down, so you can go fast when you can make decisions.
Amber Trout: And then finally that process for supporting equity. Does staff have time? What tools do they fill out? Who goes to KeAndra and has an actual unit that reviews? You can’t just say “yeah we got it it’s equitable to have these bike lanes of the community”. How so? Who did you talk to? What is that qualitative narrative that could go with the quantitative? So, when we go to make decisions, we’re clear who benefits. Those are the common features that we see and it’s harmful. If you don’t have this in your organization and you go straight to implementing the tools, or even removing questions because it makes you uncomfortable talking about race, we say “pause”. “Who is this about, is it about you doing the tool to show that you’ve done it or is it really about benefiting your community”? That’s why in the guide we say “pause” and check it out.
Amber Trout: If you don’t have these elements yet, that’s okay. Start talking about it internally, talk to peers, because it really is about getting the muscle, getting comfortable talking about racial inequities, talking about income disparities, talking about disabilities, and getting comfortable with being uncomfortable that you may not know the solution or that you must change. Also, who is in your ecosystem of your mobility justice organizations? Are you connected? Go listen and hear what they have to offer. Then become a part of a network, we offer (GARE) Government Alliance for Racial Equity as a great network to tap into others that are trying to implement equity in their public agency. For us, we’re focused on transportation, but really these questions and all the guides we highlight can be applied to many sectors, because it’s about the person, who’s the person, what’s their experience, and how can we be saying “how does it benefit them?” rather than always say “what’s the burden?”. That’s why we’re saying, “who are you acting for?”, and then make sure you have the support systems in place to then take action.
Jacky Grimshaw: KeAndra, what Amber just laid out is the broad picture down to the very specifics of making this go, if your head isn’t on straight or if you don’t have the right mindset, you might not get to that real equity evaluation. Let me ask you this, LA Metro is a huge agency and I’m sure you have 1000 different divisions with people having to do a use your rapid assessment tool. How would you support those folks in LA Metro who have the least power to advance racial equity, like they are either new or they’re in a position that is not leadership position. So, how do you go about supporting those folks in your agency to make sure that they are able to advance equity?
KeAndra Cylear Dodds: I think it’s evolving for us, the first thing that comes to mind is our program called “Equity Liaisons Program” where we have 1 or 2 people from every department across the entire agency that work with us, monthly. We meet twice a month and then there’s homework in between, but part of it is education. We’re reading books, reading articles, have discussions, watch documentaries, all kinds of things. Part of it is learning how to use these tools, testing them, especially with this cohort we were developing them as we had the co-host. They serve as a liaison within their department. The great thing about this group is 1. there’s just a great group of folks that really have a passion for this work, and 2. they have various levels of titles within the agency. Some folks have stepped into a role as an equity liaison because part of their job is to support their department, as we’re meeting certain requirements that have recently been implemented, like the board report requirement. They have a huge role and can step up, speak up, and help support their department as they move forward in a different direction and help to identify key equity challenges and opportunities within their department because we rely on their expertise, because they’re in the departments and they know them so well, to help us think through our programming, planning, etc. That’s one critical way that we’ve been able to. Also, they help expand our capacity. My team is small, we have 4 people now, we’re growing, but 4 people in an agency of 11,000 is small. The equity liaison also helps expand our capacity and reach within the agency.
Jacky Grimshaw: Hana, the tools that you have to bring money. Would you say that they are only for planning and policy decisions, or could they be applied to some of the harder sectors like engineering, or with all these electric cars that California is promoting? Could this tool be used to maybe provide some guidance on the engineering side as well as the planning and policy decisions?
Hana Creger: Yeah, absolutely. Almost from day one, we had people asking, “how do we quantify these qualitative equity measures, I would love if someone could do that for me that is well above my pay grade”. So, I do think there are ways to figure out from the more technical perspective what it actually means to build community capacity, but in order to figure out how we’re going to quantify them, I think it’s really critical to understand from a qualitative perspective, what does that definition of building community capacity even means to this specific community? What are clear examples of where this has worked? What are clear examples of gaps that need work on before we even get to that understanding of how we build this into in a more technical capacity.
Jacky Grimshaw: KeAndra, how did you go about getting buy in to use your rapid assessment tool in the first place?
KeAndra Cylear Dodds: I think the buy-in has really taken off in the last six months, with the board report requirement. The new CEO started in June, then the following month they implemented this requirement. Ever since then, it’s required and people are getting more used to it, finding it helpful, and starting to use it even more outside of the board report process. So, they’re using it as they think about new projects, new policies, in that preliminary phase. It’s become like a default tool outside of the budget process because we have another tool for that, and outside of capital projects because we have another tool for that. I think the buy in has come both from having our senior leadership being supportive and pushing for more use of our tools, and then also just as people use it more. They see the value, and they see the impact in addition to happen to do.
Jacky Grimshaw: Hana, in terms of the use of the tool you’ve mentioned earlier that you’ve been talking to agencies about how to incorporate this tool and meeting the Biden administrations Justice 40 goals, so what advice would you give to either a transportation agency or environmental protection agency, and so forth, of how to use your tool to start addressing some of the Justice 40 goals?
Hana Creger: One important element that I didn’t mention earlier, is in utilizing the many existing tools out there, it does matter who is using that tool. In some cases, it does make sense to hand the power of an equity evaluation to an outside group who has expertise in this issue, whether that’s your office of racial equity, like KeAndra leads, or a separate third party if you don’t have that internal infrastructure yet. I can provide an example of how we came to this realization. Greenlining ended up being an outside third party. Even though we were very involved in passing legislation, we’re not involved in the day to day. So, it ended up being very valuable because in our interviews and in our evaluations, we got extremely real candid feedback about the program. Previously program administrators were essentially allowed to conduct a self-evaluation. They would interview folks, their stakeholders, their grant applicants. But you can’t deny there’s inevitably a power dynamic here that may prevent a stakeholder from giving super honest feedback if they’re worried about repercussions, funding relationships, whatnot. I think this is just something to consider through the Justice board initiative, we’re going to be measuring all kinds of equity processes and outcomes. While program administrators may have great expertise in grant management or other key tasks, the reality is that they’re often not equipped to conduct an intensive unbiased equity evaluation. There are many other organizations who do have that expertise and who are a better fit to conduct those evaluations. I would hope that through this Justice Party initiative, which there’s many details that need to be hammered out, that solid funding is provided to hire external folks or the right kinds of people who should be conducting these evaluations.
Jacky Grimshaw: KeAndra, how do you balance institutionalizing equity work, versus keeping it “edgy”, or balancing the inside game outside game perspective?
KeAndra Cylear Dodds: Most folks on my team come from an advocacy or community engagement background, or in my case, government but nonprofit focused work. I think that’s always something we keep in mind is making sure we’re we figure out how to best be helpful in the agency. We’re advising and consulting but also making sure that we have good strong relationships with community members and CEOs with building upon the networks we had before. In some ways, it drove us to this work, wanting the agency to do better, and making sure we continue those. I’m pleased to be able to just have conversations with folks to hear what they’re really thinking, to hear what they might not tell another department. They may be strategic about how we help our teams internally to address those things or be responsive, but also maintain the trust and rapport we have with the community. It’s constantly a balancing act but also something important that we focus on, and we’re really committed to. If we let ourselves remain just internal, and only working and focusing internally, our work will become less effective. I think we truly must make those external relationships.
Jacky Grimshaw: Hana, how do you design professionals like engineers to value the community perspective?
Hana Creger: I think it comes down to starting with the basics to give it a thorough detailed account of how racism and injustice has been embedded throughout our transportation system, what that looks like from the perspective that that they understand that they’re working on, just really understanding the impacts on the disparities and how deeply that they are entrenched. Then starting to have that conversation like, “how does this relate to my work, what does this mean like what could I do differently”? I think it absolutely takes trained professionals to lead those conversations. People should not be expected to be flying blind and teaching themselves. This is a hiring opportunity for all of the amazing motivational racial equity experts out there, there are so many groups doing this work in these trainings and so it’s going to take governments allocating funds to do that education and learning, to do equity self-assessments to get a baseline of where are you even at? What is the baseline understanding? What are the gaps? Where do we need to grow? From there you can figure out what kinds of resources you need.
Jacky Grimshaw: It’s been a great discussion for me, and I hope for all of our attendees. I want to thank you, I want to thank the Barr foundation for funding this research, Community Science for being an awesome partner with CNT. And the transcript is available as Amber indicated and I think, as Avelyn has put in the chat. So, please get a copy of the transcript.