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How to put racial equity at the center of your business decisions? This tool might help

By now, virtually every business has weighed in on our new national dialogue around racial equity. Brands big and small have made public statements, launched social campaigns, and announced major giving initiatives around the topic.

It’s incredible to see how widespread those efforts have become - which sets this movement apart from virtually any other during my lifetime.

But after those first, broad strokes, how do you take the next step? How do you move from taking a stand to making racial equity a part of your daily discussions and basic business strategy? There’s no single answer, but our local school system has a strategy that offers some solid cues.

Jefferson County Public Schools, here in Louisville, recently adopted a new racial equity policy and, along with it, a tool called the Racial Equity Analysis Protocol (REAP). The idea is to make sure that every time a particular policy, program or initiative is discussed, the stakeholders think about how it could impact various communities differently.

There’s a lot to like here, including the fact that it works equally well for other underserved groups: English language learners, special needs students, and students with interrupted formal education. What’s more, you could also adapt the process easily to just about any business setting.

Here are my biggest takeaways:

  1. Make sure there are multiple perspectives to the table.

  2. Ask what inequities exist around the issue at hand, and then ask whether your plan would lessen this inequities or deepen them.

  3. Once you’ve had that discussion, ask yourself again if your plans should go forward - and in what form.

None of those should come as a surprise, nor should any of the other steps in the process. We’d all like to believe that we’re already taking these questions into account during all of our business discussions. The tool simply makes it mandatory to communicate about these tough issues - directly, transparently, and with a focus on taking action.

We have a long journey ahead of us, but virtually every business I know of could use this kind of help taking the next steps.


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