Mile Post 2020: Social equity is a priority in Park City
Two years ago, before Black Lives Matter protests erupted through the country and the onset of the novel coronavirus, Park City was already working on a way to make the community more equitable. City Hall had noticed changes in the community’s fabric and witnessed less inclusion for certain groups, said Diego Zegarra, Park City Community Foundation community impact director.
“To address this issue, the City Council designated social equity as a critical priority,” Zegarra said. “That summer, the city put out a (request for proposal) to find someone in the community to work with them to draw a road map that would address these issues.”
Park City Community Foundation, a nonprofit that works with other nonprofits, donors and community leaders to develop programs that benefit the area, raised its hand and was selected to start working on what would become the Social Equity Initiative.
One of the first needs of the plan was to define the differences between equity and equality.
“Equality focuses on the inputs, and begins with the idea that everyone starts in the same place and that everything should be the same for all,” Zegarra said. “For example, equality says everyone gets an apple at the lunch table.”
Equity, however, focuses on the outcomes, he said.
“In this example, the outcome would be for no one at the table to go hungry, and it acknowledges that we all start from different places and they need different accesses to resources,” Zegarra said. “So, within the group at the table, Sally didn’t have breakfast and is hungry, so she may need two apples, while Timmy had a great breakfast and isn’t hungry so he doesn’t need one.”
Still, establishing equity in the community requires more than a bushel of apples, Zegarra said.
“How do you even start to address the deep-seated and broad systemic issues that get in the way of some folks getting access to resources such as health care and housing opportunities,” he said. “To start addressing that, we needed a shared language and shared framework to move the work forward.”
So the Park City Community Foundation gathered government officials, businesses and philanthropists to jointly address this issue. It also reached out to the community and created the Social Equity Strategic Plan, which focused on three main points: affordable housing, education and inclusion.
“The lack of affordable housing was the one that folks pointed at the most as the thing that created disparities,” Zegarra said.
An affordable housing task force was created to help find solutions for this issue and its focus has been advocacy, process and the centralization of outreach and information.
The next point was education.
“We found the lack of access to early childhood education produced disparate outcomes across racial lines,” Zegarra said. “The outcomes are better for kids when there are reliable and accessible early childhood education and care for those under 3.”
The final point, inclusion, sort of encompassed all of these key points.
“Inclusion is where we’re going to see the gains and we’ll have a greater impact on the outcomes we seek,” Zegarra said.
The key point of inclusion is to understand the difference between diversity and inclusion, he said.
“Diversity is everything, visible and nonvisible, that makes us different,” he said. “Those things include social-economic status, race, religion and sexual orientation, and while diversity at the table is important, diversity without inclusion is tantamount to tokenism.”
Inclusion, on the other hand, focuses on who has power at the table, Zegarra said.
The inclusion task force focuses on social connectedness, tools and education.
“If we are truly to focus on outcomes for all — access to health care, education, housing — we need to work with people who have used these services to create programs,” Zegarra said. “I believe if you have lived through (a challenge), you can see situations in a different and more understanding lens.”
The Park City Community Foundation is currently working with the Center of Equity and Inclusion from Portland, Oregon, to help advance the work on all fronts, Zegarra said.
COVID-19 has given Park City Community Foundation a unique opportunity to increase its work in the community, according to Zegarra.
“Many jobs disappeared overnight and people lost their home,” he said. “It’s not to a point where our community can no longer look away from the disparities in the system. We’ve been prompted to have this discussion about making sure something like this doesn’t happen again.”
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