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The City of Portland, Oregon

Portland Parks & Recreation

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Office of Equity and Human Rights - Racial Equity Tool Kit

Equity Lens and Racial Equity Toolkit (RET) Defined

You may have heard the term "equity lens", which often gets said in sentences like "Use an equity lens on that project before you make any big decisions on it". It sounds like we can just put on a pair of glasses and see potential benefits and burdens on communities, but it's not quite that simple. It is about developing a different way of looking at things, which is why it is called a lens.

One way to operationalize the "equity lens" is to use what's called an "Equity Toolkit". There are different versions of equity toolkits available out there, and after careful consideration, the City of Portland adopted the Government Alliance for Race and Equity's version of Racial Equity Toolkit (RET). With the help of the equity staff from different bureaus, the Office of Equity and Human Rights (OEHR) later modified the toolkit and created its own version for the City's use.

OEHR piloted two trainings on the use of the RET for City staff in September 2016. Ten of our staff, including our Equity and Inclusion Program Manager and Hatfield Fellow, attended the trainings. The cohort, coming from at least eight different City bureaus, now meet at least once a month to discuss best practices and challenges in using the RET on policies, projects and programs.

The City adopted RET helps to integrate explicit consideration of racial equity in the decision-making process. In short, it is a process of seven steps:

  1. Set racial equity goals;
  2. Collect and analyze data;
  3. Understand the historical context;
  4. Engage those impacted;
  5. Refine outcomes and develop equitable strategies;
  6. Implement changes; and
  7. Evaluate and report back.

Using a data-driven approach and an equity lens, the RET ensures that our actions and decisions are designed to achieve equitable outcomes; and helps us engage communities of color in decision-making, understand the root causes of existing disparities, and identify how our work can reduce these disparities.

Additional information:

Jurisdictions of other cities and public organizations have adopted their own equity toolkits. Here are some of the examples:

The City of Seattle: Racial Equity Toolkit  is part of the City of Seattle’s overall effort to eliminate racial inequity and is a set of questions designed to guide the development, implementation and evaluation of policies, programs, projects, and budget issues with an equity lens.

The City of Madison created two RSJI tools, a comprehensive version for significant decisions and a fast track version to be used only for low-stakes decisions. As of April 2015, the toolkit, with an emphasis on stakeholder involvement, has been used on seven to eight different projects and featured in GARE’s toolkit.

Racial Equity Tools is a collection of tools, research and tips to support individuals and groups working to achieve racial equity.  

The Native American Program of Legal Aid Services of Oregon, the Indigenous Ways of Knowing Program at Lewis & Clark Graduate School of Education and Counseling, the Western States Center, the Pride Foundation and Basic Rights Oregon collaborated on this Tribal Equity Toolkit for Two Spirit and LGBT equity in Indian Country.

Western States Center developed a list of training tools and curricula on organizational development and various issues surrounding equity and inclusion.