Chicago's Equity Statement of Principles

Image above created by Chicago-based artists, Janell and Joe "Cujodah" Nelson, known as JNJ Collective, www.jnjcreative.com


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The City of Chicago defines equity as both an outcome and a process that results in fair and just access to opportunity and resources that provide everyone the ability to thrive.

PURPOSE: We seek to maintain a shared definition of equity that can be embraced by the entire City of Chicago enterprise. This definition will aid in the change process necessary to create a more equitable city.

DEFINITION: The City of Chicago defines equity as both an outcome and a process.

As an outcome equity results in fair and just access to opportunity and resources that provide everyone the ability to thrive. Acknowledging the present and historical inequality that persist in our society, equity is a future state we strive to create where identity and social status no longer predestine life outcomes.

As a process, equity requires a new way of doing business: one that (1) prioritizes access and opportunities for groups who have the greatest need; (2) methodically evaluates benefits and burdens produced by seemingly neutral systems and practices; and (3) engages those most impacted by the problems we seek to address as experts in their own experiences, strategists in co-creating solutions, and evaluators of success.

  1. Racial equity focuses on the social construction of race and how it has been used (historically and presently) to unjustly distribute opportunity and resources based on a person’s skin color, heritage, ethnicity, and/or national origin. Advancing racial equity requires an analysis of systemic racism inclusive of the ways harm is created at the individual, interpersonal, institutional, and structural levels. It also requires a commitment to dismantling systems that perpetuate racialized outcomes and rebuild systems that produce systemic inclusion.

SIMPLIFIED DEFINITION: The City of Chicago defines equity as both an outcome and a process that results in fair and just access to opportunity and resources that provide everyone the ability to thrive.

Vision for an Equitable Chicago 

We recognize that a fully equitable Chicago is a future state we must affirmatively build. Therefore, we reimagine our present reality to be a community where… 

  1. Diversity is our source of power. What makes us different is celebrated and utilized as an asset. Race is the story of our resiliency and not our oppression. 
  2. Engagement is how we do business. There is a fundamentally different style of engagement that resets the “decision-making table” to be inclusive and empowering of those who have been most disenfranchised. 
  3. Our partnerships lead to transformation. Government works in true partnership with community members to dismantle systems that perpetuate inequality and rebuild systems that drive toward greater inclusion.
  4. We are healers. We acknowledge past injustices and actively work to repair harm. We are transformed by our experiences and routinely engage in a restorative mindset. 
  5. Our prosperity is a mirror reflection of our City’s makeup. We recognize the mutuality required to gain true wealth and health of our city. The city as a whole cannot be well while any one of our communities remains unwell. We work tirelessly to ensure people have what they need to thrive and public resources are invested effectively to support our communities. 

Guiding Principles- How do we get there?

  1. Build a culture of inclusion and diversity. We must unlearn narratives and practices that promote exclusion, division, and oppression. Instead, we must nurture narratives and practices that embrace belongingmutuality, and unity. We must build the capacity to execute in ways that maximize the wealth of talent and collective genius our city has to offer.  
    1. Key Resource: Building an Anti-Racist Workplace

    2. Key Resource: How to Promote Racial Equity in the Workplace

    3. Key Resource: Moving a Racial Justice Agenda

  2. Deepen our spectrum of engagement. We must shift power at “decision-making tables” and learn how to co-create solutions with those most impacted by the problems, as they are experts in their own experiences.  
    1. Key Resource: "The Spectrum of Community Engagement to Ownership”

    2. Key Resource: Elevated Chicago Community Engagement Principles & Recommendations

    3. Key Resource: Beyond Inclusion - Equity in Public Engagement

    4. Key Resource: Stakeholder Engagement Field Guide

  3. Routinize equity impact analyses in our process and practice. We must interrogate systems that seem neutral for unintended impacts and work to mitigate harmful outputs. We must ensure that the benefits and burdens of the decisions we make flow in a fair and just manner. 
    1. Key Resource: Government Alliance on Race and Equity Racial Equity Toolkit

    2. Key Resource: Race Forward Racial Equity Impact Assessment

  4. Invest in our healing. We must acknowledge harms that have been created intentionally and unintentionally, whether by individuals, events, or systems. We must commit to repairing harm where we have agency and authority to create impact. We must learn from our past mistakes and adopt restorative practices and mindsets into our strategies and work environments.
    1. Key Resource: Racism as a Public Health Crisis in Chicago

    2. Key Resource: Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation Implementation Guidebook

    3. Key Resource: Adverse Community Experiences and Resilience: A Framework for Addressing and Preventing Community Trauma

  5. Be accountable for equitable progress. We must use data and metrics to have honest and transparent conversations about the impact of our work. 
    1. Key Resource: Racial Equity: Getting to Results

    2. Key Resource: Equity and Results

    3. Key Resource: Centering Racial Equity Throughout Data Integration

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Office of Equity and Racial Justice 

Mission Statement
The Office of Equity and Racial Justice (OERJ) seeks to advance institutional change that results in an equitable transformation of how we do business across the City of Chicago enterprise. This includes the City’s service delivery, resource distribution, policy creation, and decision-making. OERJ will do this by supporting City departments in normalizing concepts of racial equity, organizing staff to work together for transformational change, and operationalizing new practices, policies, and procedures that result in more fair and just outcomes.


There is no finish line when it comes to advancing racial equity – instead, our goal is to strengthen a “muscle” for equity that can support the continuous work to create and sustain a more equitable Chicago.

– Candace Moore, Chief Equity Officer


OERJ’s Primary Tactics:

  • Guide and support city departments in setting goals and plans to infuse racial equity strategies into processes, workstreams, and policies on a permanent basis.
  • Lead/partner with cross-cutting initiatives that provide an opportunity to advance innovative models and embed promising tools or practices.
  • Cultivate civic engagement, participation, and access amongst communities of color and those historically disconnected from City government.
  • Build an infrastructure for tracking progress, measuring impact, and developing responsive and meaningful solutions.

Guiding Framework for Organizational Transformation (see Government Alliance on Race Equity) 

  1. Normalize by identifying our role in creating and maintaining inequity, acknowledging the perpetuation of inequitable practices, utilizing clear definitions that are easily understood, creating a shared analysis of definitions of equity, and communicating important priorities with a clear and urgent plan of action. 
  2.  Organize by acknowledging and committing to the need for institutional transformation by government, developing an internal infrastructure utilizing a bottom-up approach, and creating and maintaining partnerships across disciplines with a focus on the communities most impacted by racial inequities. 
  3. Operationalize by using government resources in order to implement racial equity tools and strategies that will change policies perpetuating racial inequities, introducing new equitable policies and practices, and using data to measure and drive success toward community goals.

OERJ will support the implementation of this equity statement by... 

  1. Embedding it into foundational training for internal stakeholders
  2. Working with departments and agencies seeking to integrate it into strategic planning efforts
  3. Developing tools and resources to support accountability to the definition
  4. Maintaining the equity statement on a public website and leading periodic iterations and public review 

Conclusion

Though achieving our collective vision of a more equitable Chicago requires all of us to do our part, city government can and should be a leader. The City of Chicago commits to using this statement of principles to continuously build our equity “muscle” for our people and our processes to ensure that equity remains at the center of how we do business.

We must actively work to live up to the principles laid out in this statement. Only when we all come together and hold each other accountable can we truly move this important work forward.


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Learn How We Got Here

Click below to view the Together We Heal Initiative and lessons learned from the Virtual Summit.