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UVA program to promote equitable policies, practices in local government

Published: Nov. 25, 2021 at 10:58 AM EST
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - The University of Virginia is launching a program designed to create a more equitable Virginia through local government action.

Through a combination of data, conversations, and guest speakers, more than a dozen local governments are represented at the Inaugural Equity Cohort, which has a vision of improving the commonwealth.

“So many leaders throughout the commonwealth were saying, ‘we know we need to do this, we just don’t know how. We don’t know where to start,’” Virginia Institute of Government Interim Assistant Director of Leadership Development Molly Harlow said.

That sparked the idea of the Equity Cohort, a shared project between the VIG and the UVA School of Data Science.

“The core of local government is public service, of course, but there’s also the question of service for what?” Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Siri Russell said.

The 15 cities and counties involved all face different challenges, but have a common goal of equity.

“The fact of the matter is, I’ve never lived in an equitable community,” Russell said. “I’ve never been able to see it. It’s almost like a thing that you’re aspiring to. This dream where your race, your ethnicity, your age, your gender, your income does not define your outcomes.”

Trying to make that dream a reality is a tough challenge, but Harlow says this collaboration shows a commitment and is a step in the right direction.

“Even though they’re coming from different localities with different experiences and different focuses, they’re still able to connect and to learn because they want to promote equity,” she said.

As for what would make the project a success, Harlow said it’s two-fold: She wants to see more governments creating and staffing equity offices, as well as implementing more equitable policies.

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