Between May – October 2014, RSJI staff conducted 37 listening sessions with City employees and community members to learn which racial equity issues are most pressing and people’s ideas for how RSJI can address them. We kicked off the process in May with a community event at Seattle’s Eritrean Association Center, and held forums in the fall highlighting current community work around our key Equity Areas – Education, Criminal Justice & Public Safety, and Equitable Development. We also held a numerous informal listening sessions with various stakeholders, and drew on information from the 2013 RSJI Community Survey.
We began each session by discussing institutional and structural racism, and the reasons we work toward equity instead of equality. Participants broke into small groups to list and group their ideas and then shared their priorities with other groups in the room. At the community forums, community leaders also shared about their own groups’ work to advance racial equity.
Once typed, the notes from all these sessions amounted to 80 pages of themed ideas and statements, which we distilled into “What We Learned.” RSJI’s strategies for the next three years emerged from these ideas, as well as our own experience of working within City government and in partnership with community. Once we had a draft plan, we collected feedback from community members at a public event as well as from RSJI teams within the City.