Our Health in All Policies Task Force (HiAP) has partnered with the Center for Social Inclusion / Race Forward to organize a Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE) training across 19 state-level departments and agencies, forming the Capitol Cohort. This is the first time that a coalition of state agencies has ever come together to address racial equity on a statewide level through the GARE program.
GARE’s California Project Manager, Leslie Zeitler praised this initiative, saying “What makes the Capitol Cohort so exciting is that not only are several city and county jurisdictions in both Northern and Southern California engaged in this work, but now State agencies are involved in this work – which provides a foundation to support synergy and collaboration for racial equity work across California in a whole new way.”
When the GARE program first launched, it quickly found support in California, establishing cohorts in the Bay Area and Southern California in January 2016. Two years later, GARE has grown immensely, having assisted 96 jurisdictions nationwide. Inspired by the positive impact of GARE’s tools and resources on local governments, the State of California decided to expand its racial equity efforts by creating the Capitol Cohort, which includes the participation of 170 state employees. As the SGC’s Executive Director Randall Winston explained, “The GARE Capitol Cohort is a unique opportunity to coordinate equity-focused efforts across state government to maximize our impact.”
The agencies and departments participating in the Capitol Cohort include:
- California Arts Council
- California Coastal Commission
- California Department of Public Health
- California Department of Housing and Community Development
- California Department of Transportation
- California Department of Education
- California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
- California Department of Community Services and Development
- California Department of Social Services
- California Environmental Protection Agency (including the Air Resources Board, CalRecycle, Department of Pesticide Regulation, Department of Toxic Substances Control, Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, and State Water Resources Control Board)
- California State Lands Commission
- California Strategic Growth Council & Governor’s Office of Planning and Research
The agency employees selected to participate in the 50-hour curriculum have met three times since the Capitol Cohort Pilot was launched in January 2018. In the first meeting, they were introduced to core racial equity concepts such as race versus ethnicity, structural and internalized racism, and white privilege. In the second, participants refined a racial equity statement for their department, and discussed the steps that need to be taken to ensure that the State of California is inspiring change by leading the way and taking meaningful action. The third meeting focused on results-based accountability, during which participants were encouraged to work as a team to analyze their organizations and break down issues to form manageable solutions.
Kelsey Lyles, Program Coordinator and Equity Specialist for the Health in All Policies Task Force, pointed out that “since government plays a role in perpetuating inequities, there is an important collective responsibility to analyze the impacts of our policies and correct them. The Capitol Cohort pilot is one example of State departments’ commitment to transforming their policies and practices to promote justice for all Californians.”
The Cohort will meet four more times throughout the year for training sessions and technical assistance. By the end of the program, participants will develop a Racial Equity Action Plan, to be used to address organizations’ specific needs moving forward. They will also brainstorm organizational, financial, and procedural changes that can be made within the state agencies, and possible legislative action that can be taken to impact all Californians directly. Additional gatherings take place between meetings in the form of leadership briefings and an Advancing Equity Speaker Series, featuring presentations on topics such as implicit bias and trauma-informed workplace strategies.
SGC Team Lead Suzanne Hague summed up the importance of this work, saying: “Government has an important role to play in advancing racial equity. Government policies and practices have historically often inadvertently perpetuated racial inequity, but we are working to reverse that trend and be a positive and purposeful force for change -- examining our role in advancing racial equity so that all of California may benefit.”