Abstract: Applying a Racial and Ethnic Equity and Inclusion (REEI) Lens in Two-Generation Service Design and Evaluation (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

Applying a Racial and Ethnic Equity and Inclusion (REEI) Lens in Two-Generation Service Design and Evaluation

Sunday, January 19, 2020
Independence BR C, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Amelia Coffey, MS, Research Associate, Urban Institute, Washington, DC
Families of color often face added barriers to achieving success, tied to discrimination and structural racism. These barriers include historical lack of access to wealth-building vehicles like home ownership; hiring discrimination; disparate impacts of mass incarceration; and growing up in neighborhoods with concentrated poverty. Addressing these barriers requires acknowledging the additional challenges that families of color face and adapting services to address their needs.

Recognizing the role that inequity and exclusion play in the economic and social conditions in communities where it funds community development work, Casey has emphasized fostering what it calls Racial and Ethnic Equity and Inclusion (REEI). As part of this effort, Casey provided FCCC stakeholders with trainings on REEI.

This paper describes Casey’s own journey confronting the realities of racial inequity and how it came to see grant-making as a platform for influencing grantees and contractors to take the journey as well. We draw on document analysis and interviews with staff at Casey and evaluation partners. 

The paper also describes the three communities’ experiences confronting issues of REEI, and the lessons they have learned about what it might take to walk the path toward consistent, intentionally inclusive practices. It explores what the communities have learned as they attempted to apply REEI in their work with families, and how they plan to continue fostering REEI in FCCC. This analysis draws on interviews with staff at all levels across partners in each of the communities and analysis of REEI training documentation.

Staff at Casey, evaluation partners, and in the FCCC communities have encountered challenges, discomforts and insights through learning about and attempting to carry out REEI. The community teams, like Casey, have considered big questions like how to do this work, where to begin, and how to track progress. Casey’s theory is that encouraging the FCCC teams to use an REEI approach will help the teams be more effective in supporting families. But, translating the trainings and increased awareness into action will take time and will require defining a series of discrete actions. For example, an REEI approach might mean engaging community members to co-design programming, co-facilitate programming, and engage in decision-making around priorities and budgeting. Engaging other key stakeholders, including local policymakers, is likely critical to tackle inequality and exclusion across major systems. 

Communities beyond FCCC can draw key lessons from the initiatives’ efforts, including the need to 1) invest sufficient time in engaging and including all stakeholders in the process; 2) create shared definitions and language for discussing topics of racial and ethnic equity and inclusion; 3) invest in ongoing trainings and learning opportunities; 4) collect and use data to track progress and improvements; 5) know the intended audience and stakeholders and how to frame what role they play in building racial and ethnic equity and inclusion; and 6) do the work by starting with themselves and practicing what they plan to preach to others.