Key Milestone Update
In initial Core Team interviews, many applicants mentioned needing and wanting equity training for themselves and for County leadership, and, thus, elevated the critical need for the Office of Equity to offer Racial Equity training within the organization. In alignment with GARE’s Strategic Approach to Institutional Change, which identifies normalizing conversations about race equity and developing shared understanding of those concepts through foundational training as a requisite first step towards achieving equity, the Office of Equity entered into a contract with Equity and Results, LLC in June 2021, employing the consultant’s support to launch a Racial Equity Learning Program for Core Team members.
The Racial Equity Learning Program, which has been first of its kind in the County organization, included the creation of affinity and learning spaces, as well as trainings for members of the Core Team to develop technical expertise in Anti-Racist Results-Based Accountability (AR RBA) and to develop facilitation expertise in conversations about race equity. The work began with the creation of a learning and healing community of Core Team members.
In designing for the Office of Equity’s first training offerings, the Office centered the experiences of Black, Indigenous and people of color) BIPOC staff in the County and recognized the need for supported and safe spaces that could facilitate healing and community building. Organizing early race equity efforts in affinity groups is a widely used tool to support safety and community building. As stated in the Learning Program Assessment currently being finalized by our learning consultants, “Racial affinity work helps participants understand that the roles and responsibilities of BIPOC and White people are different in advancing racial equity, and mitigates predictable patterns of harm in racial equity learning spaces where learning for White participants often happens at the expense of BIPOC participants.” Based on the advice of our training consultants’ experience in other jurisdictions nationwide, the Office of Equity chose to offer the County’s first Phase of its Learning Program in three Affinity Groups: Black, Non-Black People of Color, and White.
Beginning the Fall of 2021, facilitated Race Affinity Groups created spaces in which participants were able to listen, support, and build trust around each other, grounded in their shared experiences as employees of the County of Sonoma. While in Affinity, Core Team members also received Racial Equity foundational training and developed a common language and shared understanding of key equity concepts, an ability to identify and overcome predictable barriers in racial equity work, and an understanding of their shared responsibility to disrupt racial inequities as public servants. The Affinity and Foundational learning spaces, part of the first phase of learning, concluded after 12 weeks of work. The three Affinity groups came together in one final multiracial meeting before the start of the 2021 holiday season, where the Office of Equity presented options to further application of equity principles and concepts.
The feedback received at the end of the Affinity and Foundational training helped the Office of Equity understand the deep impact and critical need for facilitated affinity spaces for healing and continued learning. When asked about the most impactful part of this experience across all three Affinity Groups, the most common theme was having the ability to connect and discuss with others in similar learning or healing paths. The Office of Equity consistently surveys participants after training, and survey data demonstrates that the organization is experiencing positive impacts from these early efforts. Of the responses received, 74% of participants “agreed” or “strongly agreed” that their learning in the affinity sessions was applicable to their day-to-day work, and 70% of participants “agreed” or “strongly agreed” that they acquired skills and built relationships that helped them discuss and implement Racial Equity principles relevant to their work. There is still space for improvement and refinement of training content and manner of delivery, and the Core Team members will be continuing to work on developing a Race Equity 101 foundational training for all County staff as a result of their work and learning, currently expected to be completed by May, 2023.
Following the end of the Foundation Series, the OOE launched a series of different professional development offerings for Core Team members: an intensive facilitators training – “Train the Trainer” – and an Equity-Centered Results Based Accountability training series.
Train the Trainer Sessions
This three-day intensive learning experience took place in June 2022 and was designed to expand Core Team members’ toolbox of facilitative moves and to build greater muscle and practice to navigate and lead race conversations in groups.
A total of 20 Core Team members representing 9 departments participated in this training. Participating Departments include: Agriculture/Weights & Measures, Board of Supervisors (District 3), County Administrator’s Office, Community Development Commission, Health Services, Human Services, Permit Sonoma, Sonoma Water, and the Office of Equity.
A common theme that arose in the feedback received included the importance of continuing to build a community of equity champions and the importance of developing hard skills to further equity in the County. Survey results of that training experience include that 88% of participants responding to the survey found the tools and methods shared during the training “applicable” or “very applicable” to their jobs, and 100% of participants responding to the survey reported being “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with the training.
After having received this training, trained Core Team facilitators participated in the creation and delivery of a Racial Equity Training for County Department Heads in October 2022. 19 Department Heads attended the day long training in which newly-trained facilitators showcased their skills and continued to expand their comfort in leading conversations and teaching concepts about race. 87.5% of Department Heads responding to our post-training survey found the content of the training “very relevant,” and 75% reported being “very” (5 -max score) satisfied with the overall training. County Core Team facilitators will continue to work together to deliver training to participating departments and key stakeholders as part of the creation of a County Racial Equity Action Plan (REAP), as well as to support implementation of equity tools through department-level training, training on conducting race equity impact analysis for program and policy Board recommendations, and supporting departments to identify other opportunities for equity work, to the extent feasible and allowed by their Departments.
The Affinity, Foundational, and Train the Trainer parts of the Racial Equity Learning Program were supported by the Office of Equity’s training consultants, Just Process, who have experience delivering race equity training in many jurisdictions nationwide. Just Process is currently finalizing its assessment of its time in Sonoma County and will provide an in-depth assessment of Sonoma County’s current stage in its equity journey with recommendations to continue this work in a positive and productive direction. As of FY 22-23, there is no ongoing funding to continue to provide facilitated spaces to support training development or coaching; however, the Office has again submitted requests for Strategic Plan funding (to be decided in the Spring of 2023).
Anti-Racist Results-based Accountability
Early in its visioning process, the Office of Equity identified an opportunity to both support and leverage the excellent work of Upstream Investments’ Results-Based Accountability work (https://upstreaminvestments.org/) by injecting a critical focus on race equity into these results driven methodology. By bridging the gap between a commitment to racial equity and the day-to-day work through this data-rich and rigorous seven step process, the County is able to move from intention to transformation and to achieve equitable outcomes. By focusing on addressing whether outcomes have improved for communities of color, this methodology begins by teaching participants to analyze the real impacts and harm of systemic racism on communities of color, and then backs into solutions that strategically address the roots of the inequities of most consequence. This iterative methodology requires people to ask whether Black, Indigenous and communities of color are better off in response to those solutions.
Following the close of the Foundational training, 31 Core Team members representing 12 Departments chose to participate in training and implementation of Anti-Racist Results-Based Accountability. Participating departments/agencies include: Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District, Board of Supervisors (District 3), County Administrator’s Office, Community Development Commission, Child Support Services, Emergency Management, Department of Health Services, Human Resources, Human Services, Probation, Sonoma Water, and the Office of Equity. This learning space is supported and facilitated by our lead consultant, Equity & Results. The consultant has worked with Core Team participants by helping to identify the roots of inequities pertaining to their departments and areas of expertise and to visualize strategic solutions to those inequities as critical pieces of a Countywide effort to establish accountability for the policies and programs that continue to perpetuate inequities among local communities of color.
This piece of the Racial Equity Learning Program is funded through December 2022. However, OOE’s ARPA-funded staff and the Human Services’ Upstream Investments team continue to work with Equity & Results to measure the impact of the distribution of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Funds to the communities most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and we hope to continue to support our partners at Upstream Investments in their work with the Safety Net departments currently implementing and expanding some aspects of the Anti-Racist Results-Based Accountability methodology. The Office of Equity has requested support from Strategic Plan funding to expand our capacity support Upstream Investments with ongoing race equity training, technical assistance, data analysis, to be determined in the Spring of 2023.
Over the last 15 months of work (July 2021 – October 2022), Core Team members have reported more than 3,110 hours of training together. Unfortunately, while the Office has seen most Core Team members thrive and get more comfortable with their skills having and leading conversations about race, the Core Team has also lost 19 members. Some of the most common reasons for attrition in the Core Team include lack of capacity for participation, leaving the County for other employment, and retirement. Currently, the Core Team is made of 57 participants representing 15 County departments and agencies:
A total of 20 Core Team members representing 9 departments participated in the Train-the-Trainer program. Participating Departments include: Agriculture/Weights & Measures, Board of Supervisors (District 3), County Administrator’s Office, Community Development Commission, Health Services, Human Services, Permit Sonoma, Sonoma Water, and the Office of Equity.
19 Department Heads attended the day long training in which newly-trained facilitators showcased their skills and continued to expand their comfort in leading conversations and teaching concepts about race.
Following the close of the Foundational training, 31 Core Team members representing 12 Departments chose to participate in training and implementation of Anti-Racist Results-Based Accountability. Participating departments/agencies include: Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District, Board of Supervisors (District 3), County Administrator’s Office, Community Development Commission, Child Support Services, Emergency Management, Department of Health Services, Human Resources, Human Services, Probation, Sonoma Water, and the Office of Equity.
Coordination and Partnership Update
The following pillars and their goals and objectives are connected to and have outcomes that are contingent upon having leadership and staff fully trained on principles and key concepts of race, racism, and equity.
The Learning Program was designed to be responsive to Sonoma County’s history, current reality, and organizational needs. We used the Strategic Plan as the guiding document to ensure that our consultants’ training content is directed to meeting the following goals and objectives.
Goal 1: Strengthen operational effectiveness, fiscal reliability, and accountability
Goal 3: Become an employer of choice with a diverse workforce that reflects our community, and an employer with a positive work culture that builds engaged and developed employees.
Healthy & Safe Communities
Goal 1: Expand integrated system of care to address gaps in services to the County’s most vulnerable.
Goal 2: Establish equitable and data-driven distribution of services
The Office of Equity was involved in the design and implementation of the American Rescue Plan Act funding allocation process, and in that capacity, formed community partnerships in the ARPA Equity Work Group to set priority areas and assist the County in its work to ensure that those community members most impacted by the pandemic are served through this equitable recovery effort. Outside of ARPA, the Office of Equity has no capacity to support leadership and staff to activate their learning and to deepen those connections in their daily work.
Community, Equity, and Climate Update
The Equity Learning Program is funded with General Fund dollars through FY 22-23. Human Resources received funding to support the production of the LMS video to be available to the County workforce and new hires. The estimated costs of that video are unknown at this time, but are unlikely to exceed $30,000.
The expenditures to develop and deliver a two-Phase Racial Equity Learning Program for one cohort (Core Team staff) are one-time; however, departments have identified and requested ongoing support in the form of updates to training, facilitation, mediation, and strategic planning for ERG related to Race Equity & Social Justice.
Consistency in content, focus, and core values in a trainer/consultant is critical, and the Office of Equity is working to centralize and coordinate training efforts across departments. However, the Office of Equity staff are not trainers, and in order to support our forward motion, we need to continue to have the support of consultants and trainers who bring a regional, state-wide, and national perspective to our work in Sonoma County. These ongoing Professional Service Agreements will need continued support. Thus, there is a need for funding throughout the entirety of the Strategic Plan, which goes beyond FY 22-23 and through FY 25-26. The OoE has again put forth application for funds to support the Learning Program, Affinity facilitation, and full Core Team facilitation.