Toolkit helps practice equity in multisector collaboration

Portrait of RocQuel Johnson

In a period marked by challenges, it has become increasingly clear that the power of collaboration extends far beyond individual efforts. Multisector collaborations, where various stakeholders bring together their resources and expertise, offer a promising way to tackle complex issues that are not within the boundaries of any single sector. Among the key drivers of success in these collaborations is the integration of equity, a concept that emphasizes fairness, justice, and the elimination of disparities. Recognizing the pivotal role that equity plays in driving positive change, Blue Shield of California Foundation in partnership with Cristobal Consulting has developed the Equity in Multisector Collaboration Toolkit

At the center of multisector collaborations is the understanding that traditional approaches often inadvertently enable inequalities, thereby failing to produce meaningful and lasting change. The Equity in Multisector Collaboration Toolkit aims to reshape this narrative by providing a comprehensive guide that encourages multisector collaborations to actively address and center equity in their work. By drawing on the wisdom of thought leaders, community organizers, and individuals with lived experience, the toolkit empowers participants to transform their collaborative efforts into vehicles for equity-driven transformation.

Practicing equity

The toolkit includes several essential components for practicing equity:

  • Assessment: This self-assessment tool enables collaborations to gauge where they stand in their equity journey, identifying areas of strength and improvement.
  • Capabilities: A collection of resources, strategies, and best practices that empower collaborations to build and enhance their equity-centered abilities.
  • Discussion guides: Thought-provoking guides that facilitate meaningful conversations about equity within collaborative teams, promoting open sharing of experiences and challenges.

The toolkit also outlines three foundational values that are crucial for fostering equity within multisector collaborations:

  • Equity-focused approach: This value highlights the importance of making equity a central and unwavering part of the collaboration's mission and goals. Equity must not be an optional addition, but a core principle that guides decision-making and actions.
  • Dismantling dominant cultural practices: Collaborations must actively identify and challenge cultural norms and practices that enable inequity. This involves recognizing how power dynamics and cultural norms intersect to marginalize certain groups, and actively breaking down these barriers.
  • Leadership by and for impacted communities: Impacted communities must be at the forefront of decision-making processes. Leadership, voice, representation, and resource distribution should be spread out equitably, ensuring that those directly affected by inequities are driving change.

Why center equity in multisector collaborations?

The limitations of centering equity in multisector collaborations is grounded in the reality of societal inequities. Communities across California face disparities that span access to opportunities, health outcomes, and safety. As Kristene Cristobal, the CEO and president of Cristobal Consulting, emphasizes, "The opportunities for a vibrant, healthy, and safe life are not distributed equally across communities and neighborhoods." With racial inequities placed at the forefront of communities by events like George Floyd's murder and the COVID-19 pandemic, addressing these issues has become an ethical and practical topic of importance.

"When we don't intentionally center equity and racial justice in our work, we're likely to kind of fall back and reinforce inequities," cautions Kristene. Solutions don’t just develop out of nowhere; the toolkit emphasizes that effective solutions emerge when the needs and experiences of marginalized communities are prioritized. This approach ensures that solutions are not only sustainable but also capable of producing far-reaching impacts that benefit a broad spectrum of people.

Our work to uproot the causes of gender-based violence is inextricably tied to uprooting the causes of all other forms of oppression, including racism. Working with Kristene, we were able to quickly and accurately assess how white supremacy culture is upheld in multidisciplinary groups, ascertain our complicity in this culture, and develop meaningful strategies and practices for interrupting these habits in real time. Additionally, we recommit ourselves to the idea that our work is at its best when it is informed by those most impacted. This means we must go to community and create authentic and trusting relationships. This truly is our work.

— Karen Tronsgard-Scott (she/they), executive director
Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence

Who should use the equity toolkit?

The Equity in Multisector Collaborations Toolkit is designed to be a versatile resource, catering to a diverse range of stakeholders committed to equitable change. Sponsors, funders, community-based organizations, government departments, residents, and all those involved in multisector collaborations stand to benefit from this toolkit. By delving into tried-and-tested strategies rooted in equity and drawing inspiration from the experiences of grassroots leaders, users of the toolkit can gain practical insights to drive meaningful change.

As TC Duong, program officer, points out, "Equitable solutions are the best solutions because they impact the most people in the deepest ways." This speaks to the toolkit's potential to serve as a catalyst for societal transformation. The toolkit is very relevant in different stages of an organization's equity journey, whether it is at an emergent stage or an advanced one. It provides a road map for practitioners to refine their equity approach, fostering a continuous cycle of learning, improvement, and positive impact.

The Equity in Multisector Collaboration Toolkit represents a beacon of hope for a more equitable future. By integrating equity into the fabric of multisector collaborations, this toolkit not only elevates the voices of marginalized communities but also empowers stakeholders to foster transformative change. With its emphasis on ongoing reflection, authentic community engagement, and the dismantling of structural barriers, the toolkit provides a comprehensive framework for driving lasting, positive change. As our world faces complex challenges, the toolkit serves as a reminder that collaboration, when immersed with equity, has the potential to reshape the very environment of social progress.

The author gratefully acknowledges Julie Richter's contributions to this blog post.

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