A Brave Space for Equity

Equity. It seems like this word is everywhere these days, but what does it really mean, and how do you effectively approach work with an equity lens? Organizations big and small are digging into their own work to determine if they’re moving towards equity. Just this February, Reps. Leslie Herrod and Yadira Caraveo introduced a bill in the Colorado State Legislature that would require a demographic one-pager be included with future legislation so lawmakers could see if their efforts were disproportionately impacting various populations, which may be identified by race, gender, disability, age, geography, income. Notably, race, income, and geography are the top predictors of health inequity in our country.

Last month, I had the opportunity to work with two of our community partners in rural Colorado to pilot a training on creating a common understanding of health equity. Although I’ve been doing my own equity work for about ten years and supporting organizational development to help nonprofits become more equitable for the last seven years, this session gave me a new perspective on this work. I realized there are two important aspects of this conversation.

The first is getting to a common understanding of the challenges—using data, personal stories, and the lived experiences of community members to understand what inequality looks like and how it impacts everyone. In a world of 'fake news’, alternative facts, and wildly different interpretations of what words mean, this allows us to create a foundational understanding and have a shared base of knowledge and common language so we know we are all talking about the same thing. Furthermore, these initial conversations build our relationships and trust with one another—an essential, and often overlooked, part of being able to talk about difficult topics.

The second aspect is creating a space for people from both sides of the political divide to have these conversations, and to support how to have conversations across difference—which is especially important in our divisive political and social climate. Often, we seek to create a safe place for these types of difficult conversations, but I (along with many experts in the field) feel we need to create a brave space in which we are pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones and taking some risk. It is in this brave and uncomfortable space that we really learn.

The issues of inequity impact each and every one of us, whether we are aware of it or not. It is only when we are able to sit down together and really talk about the driving forces behind inequity, especially systemic racism, that we will be able to create change. It takes us all working together to eliminate inequity, no matter which side of the aisle our representatives sit on. Having real conversations to create a shared understanding of inequity is one of the foundational steps towards creating health equity. How are you working to create a shared understanding in your work?

Ona Crow