Building the "Equity Ecosystem” that Could
The early American fairytale of “The Little Engine That Could” has many versions, but the main plot points are the same: a small engine pulls a much larger, broken-down engine over a mountain, achieving its goal through slow and steady progress. It is a testament to optimism and hard work, and stands as a metaphorical depiction of the long uphill battle towards pulling our country and communities to the top of our mountainous goal of an equitable society.
Each community, large or small, as its own hopeful and hardworking Little Engine That Could, is pulling the weight of old systems, practices, and beliefs toward a future of shared prosperity for all its citizens.
Each community, large or small, as its own hopeful and hardworking Little Engine That Could, is pulling the weight of old systems, practices, and beliefs toward a future of shared prosperity for all its citizens. In order for a little community engine to reach its destination, it needs to be a well-oiled, finely-tuned machine with all its parts working in harmony.
External pressure to communities, namely the most current COVID-19 pandemic, put extra strain on the machine and cranked the transmission into high gear. While it feels like we’re putting out fires everywhere, the pandemic offers a remarkable opportunity to more clearly see just where exactly our engine is out of sync. Coming out of the pandemic, we can better identify the gaps in our supportive systems, as we are called to provide assistance to those most vulnerable in our communities. When we are let out of quarantine and life returns to its usual pace, those gaps will still exist.
The EQUITY ECOSYSTEM
The parts of the equity ecosystem include:
Community leaders and organizations who most directly engaged with those who are in need. People such as residents and community activists help to inform decision makers of the issues at hand and what resources are needed, amplifying the concerns of the community.
Individuals and organizations who specialize in partnership, bridging the gap between private and public actors, and ensuring residents are engaged and heard.
From small think tanks or universities, research partners ensure policies and strategies are well-aligned to address the needs of the community. Research partners uncover truths about the realities of a community’s lived experience.
Private actors, such as businesses and corporations that hold immense political and economic clout can tip the scale on action around community issues with their support.
Funders, such as philanthropic partners, support innovation and community progress.
Policy makers and local government agencies often enable action and intervention, especially with systemic issues. Elected officials can either be catalysts or bottlenecks toward growth.
Questions to Ask Your Community
Are you prepared to face those missing pieces in your system and figure out why your “check engine” light is on?
Where is your ecosystem lacking? What parts of your engine need a tune up?