Research Report Changing Power Dynamics among Researchers, Local Governments, and Community Members
A Community Engagement and Racial Equity Guidebook
Sonia Torres Rodríguez, Mikaela Tajo, Shamoiya Washington, Kimberly Burrowes
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The systemic challenge of achieving racial equity in public policies, programs, and services is long-standing and multifaceted. By joining racial equity and community engagement processes, local governments can become intentional partners in reimagining public services for communities that have been historically underserved. By drawing on insight and expertise from community members—at the table where decisions are made—local governments can retool policies and practices and transform programs and services to ensure government accountability to all residents. It is important that researchers and local governments find ways to support each other in identifying and dismantling systemic racism in collaboration with residents.

This toolkit highlights community-based and racially equitable approaches that can catalyze equitable public policy, programs, and investments by centering a community’s expertise. Our aim is to equip local government agencies and their research partners with the tools needed to transform practices, structures, and systems by joining the highly collaborative processes of racial equity and community engagement.

Why this matters

Increasingly, local governments seek to partner with research institutions to understand and undo their legacy of racist policymaking and other aspects of structural racism. This legacy includes historical and current policies, programs, and institutional practices that have facilitated white families’ social and economic upward mobility and well-being while creating systemic barriers to the mobility and well-being of families of color.

But frequently, researchers are not familiar enough with local government processes to provide feasible and actionable guidance for effectively involving residents in equity work. Similarly, local government stakeholders may not be aware of all the areas in which researchers can provide support to improve community engagement in local government initiatives. These knowledge and application gaps can reduce the equitable impact that new and ongoing public policies, programs, and services can have.

What is included in this resource

This toolkit includes a variety of tools, resources, guidelines, and examples. It can be used at the beginning of a program or policy implementation, in legislative discussions, at the delivery of services, and/or during strategic planning efforts. The toolkit includes the following:

  • approaches to use when considering community engagement as a vehicle for promoting racial equity
  • five actionable principles that can guide local governments in using community engagement to drive racial equity in operations, research, and policy—with real-world scenarios and best practices
  • a 10-item community engagement inventory with guiding questions for government agencies, researchers, and partners
  • seven strategies for local governments, researchers, and policy experts to collaborate on racial equity using a community-engaged approach, with accompanying examples

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Research Areas Race and equity Neighborhoods, cities, and metros
Tags Community engagement State and local tax issues
Policy Centers Research to Action Lab Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center
Research Methods Community Engagement Resource Center