In the statewide IDA Initiative, NP has worked since early 2020 to begin engaging staff from all IDA partner organizations in understanding and advancing racial equity. NP, along with other IDA partners and external consultants, have convened a series of virtually held equity trainings, that have covered topics like understanding and applying trauma-informed approaches, understanding racial equity and using equity tools, and exploring dominant and harmful cultural narratives about people living in poverty. NP has also led an effort with IDA financial educators to understand and integrate a structural lens into IDA financial education and coaching through our Financial Education Standards and the development of a 3-part Economic Legacies Matter” training series. Finally, in order to continue supporting and engaging with the equity efforts of IDA partners, all grantee organizations have been asked to develop and report to NP on programmatic equity goals throughout the year.
Hundreds of Oregonians engaged with our advocacy work. From members of the Housing Alliance, to affordable housing residents who were part of Residents Organizing for Change, to renters and homeowners who engaged in our work to pass key protections, we helped Oregonians speak directly to decision makers about policies that impact their homes.
NP uses multiple methods of collecting and using data to inform the IDA Initiative’s program design and promote accountability. We use a blend of quantitative and qualitative data to comprehensively understand IDA performance and equity outcomes. To ensure participant voices are included in our analysis, we send surveys to all participants requesting feedback on IDA program experience, barriers, and impact. We also conduct interviews, focus groups, and case studies among participants, staff, and managers to better understand IDA practices, facilitating factors, and barriers. In 2020, NP developed geographically-specific racial equity benchmarks and integrated them into the 2021 funding scoring model. These benchmarks facilitate more equitable representation in the IDA program for racial and ethnic communities across Oregon.
In 2021, NP created an implementation plan for more accurate and inclusive IDA data on race, ethnicity, language, disability, and gender, using a set of demographic questions called REALD to go into effect in April 2022. Developed by the Coalition of Communities of Color (CCC) and Oregon Health Authority (OHA), REALD will allow IDA participants to self-identify more accurately and specifically, allowing us to understand IDA program equity with greater clarity and nuance. Both our geographically-specific racial equity benchmarks and REALD data will help prevent communities from being treated as homogenous monoliths, instead helping to ensure we are meeting people where they are at and serving communities equitably across Oregon.
Events and Meetings
Whether it is virtual or in person, gathering with partners, stakeholders, leaders, or community members is fundamental to the work of Neighborhood Partnerships. That is why we’ve been challenging ourselves to more intentionally consider and plan for accessibility, all the way from our biggest event, RE:Conference, to our smaller partner meetings. What does this mean to NP? It means we first have to slow down, plan ahead, learn from mistakes, and ask ourselves the right questions each and every time we are planning a gathering. We have to be honest and transparent what we can and can’t accommodate, and budget accordingly. Finally, we have to make decisions centered on inclusivity and accessibility.
Organizational Policies and Procedures
Over the last two years, NP has taken the following internal steps: revising our hiring and onboarding practices, revising personnel policies and benefit offerings, revising our employee assessment and development practices, creating clear and transparent decision making processes throughout the organization, and sharing decision making authority. The Board has also begun prioritizing its own equity work, made changes in board composition, instituted term limits, revised board operations practices to support adding new board members of color, and last year created a Board Equity Subcommittee. This year the Board created its own equity goals with an overall goal of creating a culture of belonging at the Board.
We ask that you hold us accountable. In that spirit, we will share our goals, our outcome measures, and our progress on our web site and in our monthly email newsletters. This is still a work in progress, and we value your feedback. In the past year, this work for us has included both internally focused steps and externally focused steps.
Internally, we have: incorporated tools such as an equity lens and inclusive decision making and shared power; reworked our hiring and onboarding practices; used race and demographic data to guide resource allocation; changed board practices, established term limits, and recruited new board members; revised our procurement policy; equipped ourselves to use equity centered collaborative design.
Externally, we have: supported the launch of a network of residents of affordable housing, so that they can have a voice in policy and programs affecting their homes; continued to make Housing Alliance decision making more inclusive and elevate new leaders; worked with partners in the Oregon IDA Initiative on shared decision making and planning.
In the coming year, in addition to continuing the work listed above, our priorities will be:
Internally, we will continue work on procurement and work on our employee benefits and personnel practices; continue work on consciousness raising and on onboarding of new team members; continue to make our Board more diverse and more inclusive. Externally, we will work to develop an equity lens for use by the Housing Alliance and with assets policy; we will work with IDA Initiative partners on a strategic plan using equity centered community design practices; we will use an equity lens and disaggregated data to support resource allocation decisions.
2021 Equity Plan
In May 2021, the Neighborhood Partnerships Board of Directors approved the organization’s 2021 Equity Plan. This equity plan is intended to guide the work of the organization for the next six to twenty-four months. The plan includes internal work—strategic planning and Board equity work—as well as our external work with the Oregon IDA Initiative, Residents Organizing for Change, and Oregon Housing Alliance. Something we have been thinking more about and have been discussing at the staff and Board level is accountability. To that end, we have created goals that are more measurable to keep us accountable and transparent. We have much more to learn about this but through our strategic planning work, our goal will be to strengthen how we create and measure progress.