The Regional Equity Network and partners organized a Puget Sound Equity Summit in November 2013. This action-oriented Summit promoted equitable development and healthy communities and brought together communities, policy makers, funders, and other partners to identify shared issues and key equity strategies to build upon and advance.
Puget Sound Equity Summit goals were to:
- Identify shared issue areas and further develop key strategies to achieve healthy communities, building upon community organizing and work underway.
- Create a structure for community, policy makers, philanthropy to jointly identify key issues and problem solve.
- Connect various efforts and people in the region focused on equity/ equitable development and create a platform for community leadership.
A key component of the Summit was to ensure that it reflected community priorities and elevated effective community-driven efforts already underway. Community convenings leading up to the Summit helped to shape the agenda and frame a broader conversation with policymakers, philanthropy, and other community stakeholders about what equity means for this region. Mother Africa was chosen as a partner community organization for the pre-convenings, and was provided with support to host 4 community convenings with funding through the Growing Transit Communities Equity Grant Program.
Our 4 community convenings were:
- Arabic speaking group of Sudanese and Moroccans
- Young women’s group of Kenyans and Somali Bantu
- West African Women in Seattle (WAWA) made up of women from Mali, Sierra Leone, Burkina Faso and Cote d’Ivoire
- French speaking group of mostly Congolese
For this process, we conducted informal meetings, very similar in process to focus groups, for three of the communities. The project coordinator facilitated conversation using questions provided by Impact Capitol. We had a note taker to capture the statements of each community on a flip chart, as well as an interpreter from the community to translate between the language that the participants felt most comfortable speaking and English. The fourth convening was different by request of the community (French speaking Africans- mostly Congolese), and we met with them in their church to share about the Equity Summit and conduct outreach into their larger community. We provided financial support for a babysitter to be on site if needed, translation and interpretation if needed, and food was prepared by community members for each pre-convening with financial support from Mother Africa.
We marketed our pre-convenings by word of mouth and phone calls, working closely with a community leader for each pre-convening to identify participants and organize the logistics for the meetings. We have seen this approach to be very successful in our past events and saw work well in this setting again. For each of our pre-convenings, there were strong connections with community partners, whether the partner organizations are formally or informally organized.
The 3 key priorities that came out of each pre-convening that we shared at the Equity Summit were:
- Arabic speaking group: Housing, employment, adult education (ESL and jobs skills training)
- Young women group: Healthcare, education & business, family/culture (relationships, home culture and US culture)
- WAWA: Healthcare, employment, adult education (jobs skills)
- Congolese group: Healthcare, adult education (ESL and basic skills), employment
In summary: Adult education (Including ESL and jobs skills) 4 votes, healthcare 3 votes, employment 3 votes, housing 1 vote, family/culture 1 vote.
In order to eliminate barriers in attendance at the Equity Summit, we facilitated transportation to the event through stipends for carpooling and identified translation and childcare needs for community members. We also hosted a table at the resource fair to connect with other organizations and individuals, which was staffed by community and board member volunteers.
Key outcomes included:
- African women came together to discuss equity challenges they face in the SKC cities where they reside
- Each of the 4 groups developed a collective community voice to advocate for their key priorities to put forward at the Equity Summit
- Women were empowered to attend the summit, have a voice in the sessions, and engage decision makers from around the county in discussions about equity