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Government

This consultant wants Dallas to deliver the 'boldest commitments' to racial equity possible

Dallas City Hall BLM-5.jpg
Keren Carrión
/
KERA News
The Black Lives Matter mural can be seen in front of Dallas City Hall on Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020.

Harold Hogue and his team of consultants are working with the city to craft an ambitious racial equity plan that will truly reflect the needs of communities of color.

As the city of Dallas drafts its first racial equity plan, a team of consultants is asking residents whether the city's goals are audacious enough.

The city has retained CoSpero Consulting to work with more than 40 internal departments to set new "progress indicators," data-specific benchmarks that'll signal whether the city is actually delivering and improving equitable outcomes for communities of color.

Advocates in the arts community have shared some of their expectations for the city and the Office of Arts and Culture. You can read their thoughts here. Residents can offer their own feedback on the racial equity plan at weareonedallas.org.

Meanwhile, Harold Hogue, the manager partner at CoSpero, says there's still a lot of work left to do before the city starts drafting a plan. He stopped by KERA to talk about his team's community engagement efforts.

Headshot of a man
CoSpero Consulting
Harold Hogue, managing partner at CoSpero Consulting

Broadly speaking, how will this plan address racial equity in Dallas?

"We really started with looking at various data sets that demonstrate where the greatest needs are across our city because we can't know where we want to go until we know exactly where we're at.

So that's step number one. Step number two is working across the 40+ city departments to say, if this is what you do every day, from infrastructure projects to working on affordable housing, what is it that we can be measuring that delivers better equitable outcomes for the residents of this city?"

Can you explain how this work looks like within the Office of Arts and Culture?

"Some of the things we were working through in the development of racial equity plan with this office is really taking a historical look at who has received funding and whose organizations and work has been at the forefront of both the city's funding but also the philanthropic community.

So, we have really got to look at which groups have been historically marginalized, the greatest in the longest."

So, the crux of racial equity is that it recognizes the unique challenges faced by different racial groups. Will this plan recognize and address the historical challenges faced by black and Latino residents in Dallas?

"Yes, it will. We're still at the early stages in drafting the plan, but it certainly will have a piece that acknowledges why this plan is even needed.

I think one of the most innovative things about the racial equity plan ... is that we're talking about disaggregated measurements. That's a key strategy to advance racial equity. If you're going to set a goal, you have to name the people group or the community that you're hoping to impact. We've got to know where dollars are going, where they're targeted to, because that's the only way we can hold anybody accountable."

How do you plan to reliably measure progress over time? Does the city currently keep track of the demographic data necessary for that?

"That's a really great question. There are some places where that's happening. There are other places where it's not. There's 40 plus departments. There are some departments that already are capturing data in a very systematic way. They've got their systems in place. 3-1-1 is a great example. They've got incredible data tracking, and there's other departments where there's just opportunity to improve it.

The other piece of that is we're asking the community, how do you want to follow the implementation of this? What's the best way to do that? Is it a dashboard? Is it monthly town halls? Is it a combination of both?"

Tell me about CoSpero's community outreach efforts. What have you done to get the adequate input you need from residents?

"We're not asking folks to check our work after we've done it, but we're doing it in a way that honors and respects that folks have been talking about what they need to see change their community. We've got to act on it.

We tried to diversify the types of engagement that we offer and to make sure that we are capturing folks wherever possible. So, you might have called our team tabling at local community events. We set up a website. That website has a few options. There's a public forum board. We have a phone line that anybody can dial in and access it in any language. There's a prompt and you just respond and you tell the city what it is you want to see from this racial equity plan."

As you have been reaching out to the community, what have been some key takeaways? Especially the arts and culture aspect. What are people saying that they want from the plan?

"One of the things is around just access. It's still pretty hard for an artist to apply and receive funding, to go through the grant making application or the funding application. There are application systems that present barriers and that is an equity issue.

The amount of funding. There have been some minority-led arts nonprofits that have expressed to us that yes, we're getting some dollars, but we're still not getting the level of investment that we think we should because we didn't get that grant for years and years and years."

Some arts advocates in the city have expressed skepticism over how effective project-based goals can be at addressing equity. For example, increasing the number of public artworks. Is the goal for all of these measures to work in tandem across the board?

"Yes, absolutely. There's a thin line there, right? Because if everybody's in charge of everything, then nothing's going to get delivered. But, we also know the intersectionality of the department is also critical, where one department's work might pick up where the other one ends.

But to your point, the feedback on that measure you just shared, I think is really critical. Our job is to continue to champion internally what's being shared with us externally and move the needle as fast as we can."

At what point in the development of the plan are you and what are the next steps?

"So, the point in the plan that we're at right now is we are really working hard internally to ask the question you just raised: is this enough?

Are these the biggest, boldest, most feasible, audacious commitments we can make to help make our city a city that works for all of us and not just some of us."

Got a tip? Email Miguel Perez at mperez@kera.org. You can follow him on Twitter @quillindie.

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