Social Equity & Inclusion

The blog this week was written by Deborah Warfield, Community Broker at The Arcadia Institute

“Social equity implies fair access to livelihood, education, and resources; full participation in the political and cultural life of the community; and self-determination in meeting fundamental needs. “ Reliable Prosperity: A Project of Ecotrust 2012

Social equity not only benefits communities, it is vital to the sustainability of humanity. Let’s take a short look at the difference between equity and equality. Equality implies legislation and coercion while equity implies organizational or systemic intention towards access and participation.

What happens when systemic inequities exist and continue to be perpetuated? Individuals, groups and entire cultures become marginalized. Resources shrink and needs increase for those members. Our fists tighten. Walls go up as false protectors that end up becoming individual, group or cultural prisons. Whether we agree or not, when one individual, group or culture suffers, it eventually affects everyone. Many believe in the lie that says contained communities insulate and provide safety. NOT. What we refuse to deal with and avoid will eventually show up at our doorstep until we confront it.

Equity goes beyond race, class, gender and abilities by offering participants in community new ways to level the playing field. Organizations who commit to assess themselves and identify areas that could be re-thought and re-educate themselves around issues of social equity will have a much longer shelf life. Expect that the work towards equitable will be hard and take more time, but the payoff will cultivate safer environments in which to continue to grow. Power takes a backseat to participation and becomes shared. A greater level of individual value transforms the ways in which policies and procedures are created.

The Arcadia Institute exists “ to create opportunities for persons with disabilities to participate fully in community life and to make decisions about their own future.” However, all too often, persons with disabilities and their priorities, values and concerns land at the bottom of the barrel of priorities when we, as a society in general, talk about jobs, housing and community. In order to move towards that “Beloved Community” (where everyone not only belongs but co-habitates in ways that are inclusive, respecting and valuable) society must decide to educate themselves about the power and purpose of equity.

An inclusive society looks like a community restored. Closed fists begin to open their hands and ally with each other to address systemic issues that oppress all of us. Carpe Diem! I say, rather than simply numbering our days before we totally self-destruct as a society currently stuck in our own excluding lanes.