Policy & Practice | April 2022

president‘smemo By Tracy Wareing Evans

Shifting Structural Power to Advance Race Equity

T he work of advancing race equity to achieve social and economic mobility, the theme of this month’s issue, is undeniably multifaceted and complex. It requires a long-term com- mitment to continuous and intentional learning at individual, organizational, community, systemic, and societal levels. While there is no single way forward nor quick fix, there is a clear path for leaders seeking to accelerate the journey— we must simultaneously commit to shifting structural power. To do so requires that we under- stand what we mean by structural power and be able to name and under- stand where and why it exists in our daily work. To illuminate where the imbalances lie, we have to understand the dynamics of power structures better, especially between government services and people who have been historically disenfranchised and mar- ginalized. We have to talk openly about who benefits from structural power and who does not.

have also taken steps to learn from people who have or are receiving services by including them on advisory councils (and compensating them for that service) or hiring them as agency staff. As Sixto Cancel from Think of Us implores system leaders, we need to be able to “hear the unvarnished truth.” While these have been important steps to take, it is not enough to bring people with lived expertise to the table if we do not also create the conditions to act on what we hear, and, in turn, shift our

A few years back, there was a lot of energy on creating “shared governance structures” to improve outcomes for families by connecting multiple systems together more seam- lessly. These were complex endeavors requiring leaders from adjacent sectors like education, employment, health, and justice to come together through formal data-sharing and shared resources. In hindsight, these efforts missed the fact that the most meaningful shift we could make as public leaders was on the ground with people and communities. In other words, creating shared governance across systems does not, in and of itself, create more balanced power structures. Over the past decade, many public-sector agencies

See President’s Memo on page 24

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April 2022 Policy&Practice

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