Reflections from Reimagining Health Equity: Learning for Action Workshop and PolicyLink’s Equity Summit 2018

alyiaequitychicago

At Reimagining Health Equity: Learning for Action Workshop, Angela Blackwell Glover said,

We can’t deal with the health of the nation until we deal with the sickness of the nation, which manifests itself in racism and toxic inequality. This is not easy work and we may not see change in our lifetime, but we can’t afford to stop.

Since leaving the workshop, Angela’s words have been reverberating in my mind. From education to health to wealth, significant disparities exist in communities across race, gender, and class. These outcomes are unacceptable and inconsistent with our country’s democratic values of justice and fairness. Unless our society shifts how investment capital is deployed, we will not be able to produce the transformative investments needed to ensure that people can achieve their full health potential and well-being no matter where they live.

In response to Angela’s comments, Micah Gilmer, Senior Partner at Frontline Solutions, asked attendees, “what is the greatest health equity challenge that your organization is facing”, “what part of your health equity challenge do you individually control,” and “what is one thing that you could do differently to transform your work?”

In my opinion, CCI’s mission addresses one of the most pressing health equity challenges of our time. CCI is taking on how capital and investment perpetuate the disparities that lead to health inequity and how they could help to overcome them. A challenge this large has no easy, out of the box solutions. It is obvious that we need to change our systems, policies, and practices so that investment capital flows to the communities facing the greatest disparities, but figuring out the actions I can take to make a difference at CCI is daunting.

But, I refuse to be stumped by the scale of the problem and wait to act until there is a perfect solution. Moving forward, I will:

  • Be honest with myself, my co-workers, and the communities we work with about the assumptions I bring into the room. – Our biases, whether implicit or explicit, influence the feelings and attitudes we have towards other people. Reflecting on my biases, taking them into account, and working to eliminate them, will help me be clearer about my expectations, engage in more honest conversations with the people I interact with, and encourage them to confront their own bias, which will hopefully lead to better outcomes for our work.
  • Commit to learning. – There is no “magic bullet” or pre-determined set of strategies that communities can use to advance health equity. The work that is needed on the ground is shaped by local history, culture, and context. I can help by wrestling with uncomfortable but necessary questions about how issues of race and equity show up in our work and encouraging my peers to do the same.
  • Advocate for diverse voices in the room. – One of the overarching themes at the Equity Summit was: when those who have experienced the most pain get the chance to lead, it changes the conversation about what’s needed and what’s possible. I can better leverage my role to help community leaders build bridges with those experiencing the greatest inequities and engage them in discovering solutions.
  • “Make room for the awakening among the woke.” – This quote from Micah Gilmer reminds me that each of us is at a different stage in this journey. I am committed to working to be a better bridge between diverse perspectives and helping CCI create a safe space where we can wrestle with how to better operationalize racial equity in our work.

At CCI, we believe that you can’t learn what works or what will make the change if you don’t start trying. I’m not sure that any of these actions outlined above are ground-breaking, but they are my truth. They are the actions that I can take personal responsibility for.

During the opening session of the PolicyLink Equity Summit, Michael McAffee challenged the audience to “listen for the sound of the genuine inside of you, draw strength from it, and lean into it to create a more just society.” I would challenge you to do the same. Creating a more equitable society begins with me. It also begins with you. Don’t wait.

(Photo credit: Alyia Gaskins)

Transforming investment in communities

The Center for Community Investment at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy is supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the Surdna Foundation.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Follow us on Twitter