From the Director – February 2019

The Oregon Legislative Session is underway! Session began on January 22, and will last until mid to late June. We’re off to a fast start, and you can read more throughout the newsletter about what’s going on, what to expect in the coming months, and how you can get involved in making change.

In between work on the detail of proposals, I’ve been reflecting in these early weeks of session about the changes over the past several years in the Legislature, the legislative process, and how advocacy happens. And, as Neighborhood Partnerships has engaged in internal organizational work on diversity, inclusion and equity, we are reflecting together on how our work and the way we approach it can and must continue to change so that we can be partners and agents in shaping a more equitable future.

Our current Legislature is proof that representation matters. Representation changes the issues that get worked on, the relative priority of those issues, and it changes who gets to have a voice in decisions. Growing diversity in our elected representatives has the long term benefit of bringing more diverse staff and partners to the Capitol, which will change the nature of policy work in Oregon forever.

Representation matters as we gather together as advocates too. Strong community based voices have helped push major changes through the Legislature in recent years, and this session we hope to see huge steps forward. Our allies and partners are urging us to be impatient with incremental change, which is how much of Oregon policymaking has traditionally been done. More than ever, we now know that the pace of change in our state has been too slow. For too many of our communities and neighbors, this slow pace of change has been a luxury that we can no longer afford. We must be bold.

Neighborhood Partnerships’ work on equity and inclusion in the coming year will focus both internally and externally, and will reflect the urgency we all recognize. Internally, both Board and staff are taking on the question of representation. We are in a Board of Directors recruitment year, and representation will matter more than ever as we recruit, nominate, and bring on new Board members and officers. The Board is looking at their practices to ensure that they hear diverse perspectives and use an equity filter for decisions. The staff has shifted decision making practices, and will continue to build inclusive practices throughout our operations.

Externally, we expect and hope to learn more in partnership with all of you, as we continue to improve how we work together, how we share knowledge and influence and create equitable access to power, and how we make Oregon a better place for all of us.