Racial Equity and Social Justice

Achieve racial equity in County service provision and ensure a workforce reflective of the community we serve.

Goal 4, Objective 3

Begin implementing strategies for regular community engagement to guide racial equity efforts.

Updated: January 2024

Summary of Objective Implementation Status

  • Identify community members and stakeholder groups and/or build on ARPA work group’s community partnerships
  • Document lessons learned from fires and other projects
  • Outline a process for engagement, starting with emergency response, by May 2022. This initial goal was shifted to include consideration of information collected during implementation of SB 160 with the Department of Emergency Management.
  • Potentially use ARPA time-limited position to look at County community engagement efforts. The ARPA-funded Community Engagement Analyst was shifted away from the Community Resilience Program implementation to assist with the Community Engagement effort. In November, 2021, the Office of Equity, using largely existing funds, was approved for an additional allocation of a limited-term Department Analyst to support the implementation of this project.
  • Identify and retain Consultant to work with the County Communications Team and the ARPA time-limited position to look at existing community engagement efforts, reviewing models for County community engagement and partnerships, and aiding in the development of a robust community engagement strategy for the County.
  • Hire consultant in late 2022 with initial analysis, research, and community feedback gathering work projected to begin in early 2023. The project would be required to be completed and live to the public by the mid 2024, culminating with a cost and legal analysis presented to the Board of Supervisors for future steps or investments.

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

  • Board-approved Community Engagement principles established (could be part of the framework).
  • Community Engagement Framework including strategies, models and processes for inclusive engagement finalized and approved by Board.
  • Community Engagement Framework Implementation Plan developed.
  • Annual Community Engagement Plan to align with Significant Items developed (what does the year of community engagement efforts look like?)
  • Gather existing data such as Portrait of Sonoma, community assessments, and other data to identify starting and goal indicators/measures.
  • Data crucial to this work includes access to information, media availability to communities, engagement of members in the diverse communities, especially hardest-hit communities.
  • Enlist community-based organizations to assist in gathering data where gaps exist.

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

  • This goal and related objectives intersect primarily with objectives under the Organizational Excellence pillar, and objective leads in common from HR and CAO. Additionally, this objective intersects with the Healthy and Safe Communities pillar, objective 5.5 and the objective leads in common from CAO.
  • Partnerships can be formed with local jurisdictions and community-based partners to leverage their contact with the public, especially in target communities. For example, the City of Santa Rosa has the Community Engagement initiatives, as do other jurisdictions. Many community-based partners focus their work in diverse geographic areas of the County, facilitating our need to reach all residents.
  • Currently the Office of Equity does not have any staff capacity to support actual engagement efforts. It is likely that the Board item culminating in the presentation of the Community Engagement Plan will include a request for staff.

Community, Equity, and Climate Update

  • This goal and related objectives are focused on community and equity. The public will be engaged both virtually and in person through staff and community-based organizations.
  • The success and effectiveness of the engagement approach and plans will be measured by subsequent community assessment surveys and by other methods including the Portrait of Sonoma, Los Cien Scorecard, etc.
  • An equity lens will be applied in the development and implementation of the goals by centering community throughout the process and by including community-based organizations at all steps. Centering the community is essential at crucial steps of the process and the inclusion of community voices in the decision-making process.
  • Vitally important is to geographically identify partners in all areas so that the engagement and information is disseminated in the broadest manner possible.
  • Where possible, we will ensure that climate impacts are considered in meetings and information sharing, including holding virtual meetings, limiting printing of collateral, and offering other ways of providing useful information.

Funding Narrative

  • $300,000 received in Year 1 Strategic Plan funding to support all Goal 4 objectives, which includes funds to support translation and stipend costs in the development of the Community Engagement and Language Access Plans.

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.