5 Ways to Increase The Equity of Your Community

Communities thrive when equity is at the forefront of its leaders’ and community members’ minds. Community equity, wherein fairness among opportunities and resources is prioritized, improves overall well-being and culture. People can live their most authentic selves when they feel respected, included, and considered. Learn how your community can create an inclusive, equitable environment for its people, increasing opportunities and prosperity for all.

1. Create Inclusive Spaces

When everyone has a place, everyone wins. Assess the current state of your community’s accessibility for all ages, abilities, and backgrounds. Traditional infrastructure may provide sidewalks in newer areas, but intentional inclusivity requires a fresh approach. 

Consider the members of your community, their needs, and norms. Communities with a larger immigrant population may yearn for walkable spaces and safe paths for pleasure or transportation. Build or retrofit paths to provide safe passage for mobility aids and across traffic areas with accessibility for all abilities. 

Inclusive spaces also encompass recreational areas like playgrounds. A well-worn metal slide and rusty swing set may have been a nice addition decades ago, but today it’s unused and dangerous. Upgrade your play spaces to provide children with a safe place to play, imagine, and learn. Add accessible swing sets with inclusive seating options to ensure everyone has a place to play, no matter their ability level. Doing so ensures that all children have space and reduces the burden for caregivers to modify ill-suited equipment themselves.

2. Establish Intersectional Representation in Leadership

Without intentionality, the leadership ranks of boards, commissions, and executive teams can begin to look the same. While qualifications are important, so too are intersectional perspectives. Intersectionality goes beyond basic demographic markers and includes nuances like socioeconomic backgrounds, community membership, and lived experiences. Remove unnecessary criteria for candidates whenever necessary to remove barriers to equity.

When it’s time to establish a committee or appoint a board member, do more than solicit for expressions of interest. Reach out to the community to identify potential leaders in spaces that may be underserved. Collaborate with community groups to get their input on who may best represent the community and offer a unique perspective. With a diverse and varied group of leaders, you’ll gain dynamic input and varied insights. You will also uncover valuable new ideas.

3. Set the Standard Proactively

Oftentimes, community members need to ask for inclusive spaces. This norm often comes as a result of years of struggle, frustration, and unmet needs. While every community will start somewhere, prioritize proactive versus reactive inclusivity. Many legal requirements spark the addition of accessible upgrades like ramps and crosswalks, but your community can do better. 

Identify opportunities to go beyond what’s required and set the standard for how your community operates. Offer materials in languages reflected among community members and staff an interpreter for the non-hearing during public forums. Learn about the community’s needs by listening, attending community events, and observing daily life. Make updates to your community infrastructure, amenities, and best practices before a policy passes or law mandates action. Doing so shows mutual respect, consideration, and care for your community members.

4. Promote Community Engagement

Leaders can’t do their best work in an ivory tower. Leaders are meant to serve their community while working in their community. Become a regular fixture at community meetings and events, varying your presence between formal and informal. Gain input on key topics to prioritize the community’s greatest need versus what you or other leaders may believe. This can help you ensure your investments are the most valuable for your community at large. 

Collaborate with community groups, religious organizations, and social sets to unearth new voices. Learn how previous efforts have performed in the community and how future efforts can improve. Empower community groups to speak up, get involved, and advocate for their needs. Then, respond to requests thoughtfully, especially if the request isn’t able to be accommodated. Personalize your approach to build rapport and relationships, keeping lines of communication open for future endeavors.

5. Foster Cultural Competency

Cookie-cutter communities might appear to offer everything a resident could want, but what most people need is connection. People from different backgrounds, communities, and religions need ways and places to come together. Leverage your relationships within community groups to identify cultural norms and desires that will influence equity-building efforts. 

Some cultures have large celebrations that demand open spaces for gathering. Make gathering easier by maintaining community spaces that groups can utilize safely and ensure permitting doesn’t present an unnecessary burden. Learn about community norms and educate others in leadership about their needs and expectations. Welcome community members to leadership forums to share their perspectives and experiences, all of which will increase equity and understanding. 

An Equitable Community Can Change the World

Increasing community equity gives people the platform to live their best, most authentic lives. When people are seen, considered, and cared for, they can focus on learning, loving, and creating. All people deserve equity, and community leaders can set the foundation for how people experience the world. When you build an equitable community, people feel valued and empowered. Create an equitable community and build a stronger, more cohesive culture that promotes opportunity for all.