Summary of Objective Implementation Status
Initial timelines were pushed back by almost a year while the OoE was securing funding through the American Rescue Plan Act, as well as trying to secure staff capacity to conduct this work. Because earlier requests for staff were unfulfilled, initial timelines were not met. The OoE intends to hire a Department Analyst to manage this project in early February, 2023.
Key Milestone Update
In September, 2022, the OoE went to the Board for approval of a consultant to develop a Community Engagement Plan. That work will go through March, 2024, for presentation to the Board of both fiscal and substantive recommendations to support successful community engagement efforts by the County.
Coordination and Partnership Update
Community, Equity, and Climate Update
On September 20, 2022, the Board approved a contract with Equity First Consulting for a not‐to exceed amount of $450,000 for an 18‐month term ending in March 2024 to support the creation of a Community Engagement Plan.
While the County recently expanded its Communications Office to support County departments, the CAO, the Board of Supervisors and the County in communicating with the public and the media, the community engagement function remains a County‐wide challenge. Currently, many departments do not have the experience, capacity, or funding, to conduct culturally sensitive and responsive community engagement that results in equitable public participation in government processes and services. The recent disasters that residents of Sonoma County have faced including wildfires, floods, and the current pandemic, have deepened the already existing inequities, and highlight the imperative need to center communities, particularly those historically marginalized by governments, and their experiences in the way in which we deliver services and create policies. This work cannot be done without a clear roadmap of how to effectively and consistently eliminate institutional barriers that prevent communities of color and other historically marginalized communities from engaging with their local government processes.
Different from traditional one‐way communications distributed through mainstream systems and methods, such as press releases and social media, a County‐wide Community Engagement Plan will provide guidance and best practices for facilitating culturally responsive spaces for connection between and among County departments and the wisdom and lived experiences of community members, community‐based organizational partners, and other institutions and sectors with whom we partner to dismantle racial inequities in Sonoma County.
The Community Engagement Consultant will support the creation of a Community Engagement Plan for Board of Supervisors’ consideration to achieve equitable participation and access to County government services and resources for underserved communities of color and other communities that have traditionally experienced marginalization from government processes and services. The Consultant will do this through a three‐phase process grounded in a culturally responsive approach that captures the expertise and responds to the lived experiences of the different communities for which Sonoma County is home.
The Community Engagement consultant will start by assessing the County’s existing Community Engagement plans, processes, and capabilities through a series of focus groups with staff. The second phase will involve a series of focus groups and interviews with external key stakeholders and partner organizations servicing communities of focus to support further refinement of the County’s capabilities and gaps in service delivery for communities of color and others marginalized from government systems. The consultant recognizes the importance of understanding the cultural nuances when communicating with local Black, Indigenous, and other Communities of Color and will work with and compensate leaders of those communities to seek the feedback needed to understand the County’s gaps in services while utilizing a trauma‐informed approach and the familiarity of having a member of one’s own community reach out to the communities of focus. The final phase of the project will include presenting the plan to the different internal stakeholders and members of the communities of focus to seek further feedback and finalize a Community Engagement Plan that includes a set of standard community engagement operating guidelines or “best practices,” and resources that are culturally responsive and can be used by all County Departments to close gaps in services, with corresponding fiscal impacts for consideration by the Board of Supervisors.