Racial equity is a popular buzzword these days. But what does it mean to approach a project or initiative with a racial equity lens? NCECF has been working with racial equity consultants CounterPart Consulting to “learn while doing” for the last few years, primarily through our Pathways to Grade-Level Reading initiative, which employs an explicit, but not exclusive, racial equity lens. A new report outlines the strategies used to center race in another body of work — our 2019 engagement with the Preschool Development Grant, a federal grant administered by the NC Division of Child Development and Early Education.
The goal was to bring a racial equity lens to three projects NCECF was leading for the grant:
- the Child Development at Kindergarten Entry Data Workgroup (workgroup)
- the Early Childhood Data Advisory Council (Council)
- gathering local early childhood professional and family feedback to the B-5 Strategic Plan
More specific objectives included to:
- Bring a racial equity lens to the creation of the workgroup and the Council and ensure the inclusion and amplification of the voices of people of color serving on them.
- Build racial equity capacity among all workgroup and Council members, including learning a common language and a framework for analysis of how race is operating in driving outcomes for young children and families.
- Apply a racial equity framework to the Council’s work of improving the collection and analysis of early childhood data in the state and workgroup’s work of discerning how to best track children’s development at kindergarten entry at the population level.
- Infuse strategies to build racial equity into the recommendations coming out of the workgroup and Council.
- Use a racial equity lens to influence the outreach, design process and interview protocol for collection of input on the B-5 strategic plan from stakeholders – both family members and local early childhood professionals.
Check out the short report that outlines the strategies used to ensure that the “slippery fish of race” stayed on the table during the work of these three projects over several months. There were many positive outgrowths of using a racial equity lens for the work, culminating in better, more informed and useful deliverables.
We are especially excited about the ripple effect of this work that extends far beyond the results of a given project — and it’s why we’ll continue to use this lens in our work at NCECF. Due to participating in workgroups and projects like these and like the Pathways to Grade-Level Reading Initiative, that are focused explicitly, but not exclusively, on race, there are more and more leaders in the field of early childhood development who are building their capacity to center racial equity in their individual institutions. They are learning why this lens is important and useful, and they are gaining skills to center race in their own work. The following quote from a partner sums it up:
“I have really enjoyed the process. More importantly, I have begun working very deliberately within my own organization to think about a racial, socioeconomic, abilities, and gender lens when tackling work planning and implementation. For example, in five-year strategic planning, trainee recruitment, engaging potential trainees in pre-training activities to address differences in core competencies, drafting implementation strategies, and more. I have definitely changed my practice.”
The more the ripples happen, the more accepted and natural it will be to ensure that equity is centered in every process.