The following is a Regions Lead guest post by the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG):
The Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG), which serves as the metropolitan planning organization for nearly 19 million people – the largest metropolitan planning organization in the nation – adopted its first-ever Racial Equity Early Action Plan. This document will guide and sustain SCAG’s regional leadership in service of equity and social justice.
As in many other regions and communities that shifted attention to equity in summer 2020, SCAG’s Regional Council adopted a resolution affirming SCAG’s commitment to work in partnership with others to close the gap of racial injustice and meaningfully advance justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion. As a result, an ad hoc Special Committee on Equity and Social Justice was tasked with recommending a set of policies to the Regional Council and any necessary changes to the bylaws to the General Assembly to help SCAG meet these objectives.
The Racial Equity Early Action Plan was a critical step in ensuring SCAG’s equity-related work continues to advance and endure for years to come. The Early Action Plan details SCAG’s definition of equity and establishes goals, strategies, and a set of “early actions” to advance racial equity through SCAG’s policies, practices and activities. The Early Action Plan is a “living document,” with opportunities to identify new actions over time. The four overarching goals include:
- Shift the Organizational Culture, which is focused on SCAG’s internal work and practices.
- Center Racial Equity in Regional Policy & Planning, which refers to SCAG’s regional planning functions.
- Encourage Racial Equity in Local Planning Practices, referring to how SCAG can influence the local elected officials and planning professionals with which it works and partners.
- Activate and Amplify, in which SCAG commits to communicating more broadly its commitment to racial equity and joining with others in different fields and sectors to amplify impact.
Each of these goals is advanced through a focus on the following three strategies:
- Listen & Learn – Develop a shared understanding of our history of discrimination and the structural barriers that continue to perpetuate the inequities experienced today.
- Engage & Co-Power – Create an environment where everyone is included, able to share their experiences, and equipped to talk about racial equity and inequities.
- Integrate & Institutionalize – Focus on systems change to improve racial equity. Center racial equity in all aspects of work. This involves internal and external systems change.
The framework of the Racial Equity Early Action Plan was informed by Equity in the Center’s publication Awake to Woke to Work: Building a Race Equity Culture, which provides insights, tactics and best practices to shift organizational culture and operationalize equity, and by consultation with Mr. Charles Brown of Equitable Cities.
In support of SCAG’s commitment to “early actions,” the General Assembly voted to amend the SCAG Bylaws to include an increase in representation of “communities of concern” in regional policy conversations. More information on SCAG’s work regarding inclusion, equity, diversity and awareness, including SCAG’s definition of Racial Equity, can be found here.
Seeking a way to meaningfully engage with other metropolitan planning organizations around equity-related work, SCAG formed the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) Equity Working Group in December 2020 in response to expressed interest from other agencies on Government Alliance for Racial Equity discussion boards. Since then, the group convened nearly 40 participants from 19 MPOs and 11 states and discussed equity-related performance measurement and monitoring. The MPO Equity Working Group will discuss equity-oriented project prioritization and integrating equity into long-range plans at the upcoming May 14 meeting. For more information, email Courtney Aguirre at firstname.lastname@example.org.