Community Change

Many groups focus their work on a particular set of outcomes, for example, decreasing infant mortality in a city – knowing that, infant mortality disproportionately affects some racial groups more than others. The work toward building trusting relationships and collective action might be a response to hate crimes, or as part of an effort to organize for political action.

Regardless, groups who do this work share some common lessons. They note that community change work often includes engaging formal and informal leaders who will invest in the process, and serve as messengers and catalysts for change. They also note that part of designing a complex community change effort or supporting an organic community change process involves understanding the community’s history and culture, and the areas where change can be leveraged. They attend to the processes of their work – trying to mirror equity, and identifying ways t [...]

Community Practices and Cases

Dismantling Racism. Reimagining Richmond.
Richmond Racial Equity Essays
The Guide to Advance Racial Justice and Health Equity
Boston Public Health Commission
How to Make Sure City Budgets Prioritize Racial Equity
K.A. Dilday
FUSE Corps; CityLab
A Minneapolis Neighborhood Vowed to Check Its Privilege. It’s Already Being Tested
Caitlin Dickerson
The NY Times
A New Community Vision for Dallas
Dallas Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation
Building a Foundation for Change: Canada’s Anti-Racism Strategy 2019–2022
Government of Canada
Maps Show the Real Picture of Race and Equity in Oakland
Margot Bordne and Clinton Johnson
Anchor Richmond: Community Opportunity and Anchor Strategies for the Berkeley Global Campus at Richmond Bay
Eli Moore, Nadia Barhoum, and Alexis Alvarez Franco
Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society
Boston Busing/Desegregation Project for Truth, Learning, and Change: Key Findings from Data Collection to Date
Union of Minority Neighborhoods
Building the We: Healing-Informed Governing for Racial Equity in Salinas
Jamilah Bradshaw Dieng, Jesús Valenzuela, and Tenoch Ortiz
Race Forward; National Compadres Network; East Salinas Building Healthy Communities, City of Salinas
City of Madison Equity Initiatives
City of Madison, Wisconsin
City of Portland Racial Equity Toolkit
Danielle Brooks, R. Curren, K. Dessou, A. Horne, J. Mowry, et al.
Office of Equity and Human Rights; City of Portland
Communities Creating Racial Equity: Ripple Effects of Dialogues to Change
Deloris Vaughn
Everyday Democracy
Community Change Processes and Progress in Addressing Racial Inequities
Maggie Potapchuk
The Aspen Institute Roundtable for Community Change; MP Associates
Community Equity Initiative: A Collaborative for Change
PolicyLink; CRL
Equity and Social Justice Annual Report
King County, Washington; Place Matters
Erase Racism NY: Eliminating Barriers to Racial Equity
Long Island, NY
Getting Ready for Racial Equity Work: Lessons Learned for City Governments from the Racial Equity Here Initiative
Deryn Dudley, Nour Elshabassi, et al.
Living Cities, Racial Equity Here (REH); GARE; Provoc; Albuquerque, Austin, Grand Rapids, Louisville, Philadelphia
Greater Buffalo Racial Equity Roundtable
Buffalo, NY
Inclusive Dubuque
Dubuque, IA
Lessons from 5 Cities Operationalizing Racial Equity
Hafizah Omar
Living Cities
Looking Back: Project Change from 1991-2005
Sally Leiderman, Shirley Strong, and Mark Patrick George
Project Change; CAPD
Loving Cities Index
The Schott Foundation
Monterey County: From Disenfranchisement to Voice, Power, and Participation
Race Forward
One Fairfax: A Brief History of a County-Wide Plan to Advance Equity and Opportunity
Kyle McCarthy
Center for the Study of Social Policy
Race and Social Justice Initiative
Seattle, WA
The Racial Justice and Health Equity Initiative: 2015 Overview
The Boston Public Health Commission
When Baltimore Awakes: An Analysis of the Human and Service Sector in Baltimore City
Dayvon Love
Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle
A Community Vision for Health & Justice 25 Years After the 1992 LA Uprising
South Los Angeles Building Health Communities
Advancing Racial Equity in Communities: Lessons for Philanthropy
Mary Virtue
Cornerstone Consultants

Concepts and Analysis

The Power of Communities in Uncertain Times — Part 2
Sahana Chattopadhyay
Network Weaver
Building Communities of Belonging in the Face of Othering — Reflections on My Conversation With john a. powell
Kevin John Fong
From the Roots: Building the Power of Communities of Color to Challenge Structural Racism
Julie Quiroz-Martinez et al.
Akonadi Foundation
Community Change Initiatives to Address Racial Inequities: Building a Field of Practice
Maggie Potapchuk
The Aspen Institute Roundtable for Community Change; National League of Cities Institute; MP Associates

Tools and Practices

Racial Equity Governing Agenda
Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE)
Race Forward; Othering & Belonging Institute
On Bridging Evidence and Guidance From Real-World Cases
Rachel Heydemann & john a. powell,
Othering & Belonging Institute
15 Tools for Creating Healthy Productive Interracial/Multicultural Communities: A Community Builder’s Toolkit
Institute for Democratic Renewal; Project Change Anti-Racism Initiative
Advancing Racial Equity and Transforming Government: A Resource Guide to Put Ideas Into Action
Julie Nelson, Lauren Spokane, Lauren Ross, Nan Deng, et al.
Government Alliance on Race & Equity (GARE); Haas Institute; Center for Social Inclusion (CSI)
Bringing Human Rights Home: How State and Local Governments Can Use Human Rights to Advance Local Policy
JoAnn Kamuf Ward, Risa Kaufman, et al.
Columbia Law School; Human Rights Institute
Community Strategies to End Racism and Support Racial Healing: The Place Matters Approach to Promoting Racial Equity
Paula Harris-White, John Capitman, and Gregory Townsend, et al.
Place Matters, National Collaborative for Health Equity; CommonHealth Action
Community Tool Box
KU Center for Community Health and Development
Facilitator’s Guide for Continuous Improvement Conversations with a Racial Equity Lens
Shanee Helfer and Hafizah Omar, et al.
Living Cities
Key Race and Social Justice Initiative (RSJI) Documents
City of Seattle
Measuring Love in the Journey for Justice: A Brown Paper
Shiree Teng and Sammy Nuñez
Metathemes: Designing for Equitable Social Change
Design Impact
Movement Mic Check: Rapid Response to Racial Disasters
Within Our Lifetime National Network
Strong, Prosperous, And Resilient Communities Challenge - SPARCC
Enterprise Community Partners; Low Income Investment Fund; Natural Resources Defense Council
What Happens When Communities Organize?
Alexa Kasdan and Manuel Miranda et al.
New York Foundation; Community Development Project

“All that you touch, You Change.
All that you Change, Changes You.
The only lasting truth is Change.”

~ Octavia Butler, Parable of the Sower


From Protest to Power: Why Movements Matter and How They Work – Leah Hunt-Hendrix, Taj James, Jackie Mahendra, Thenjiwe McHarris, Carlos Saavadra, and Tamara Shapiro, Ford Foundation

Also in this section:
  • Individual Transformation

  • Organization Change

  • Leadership for Racial Equity

  • Accountability

  • Networks, Alliances, and Coalitions

  • Movement Building



In the context of racial equity work, accountability refers to the ways in which individuals and communities hold themselves to their goals and actions, and acknowledge the values and groups to which they are responsible.

To be accountable, one must be visible, with a transparent agenda and process. Invisibility defies examination; it is, in fact, employed in order to avoid detection and examination. Accountability demands commitment. It might be defined as “what kicks in when convenience runs out.” Accountability requires some sense of urgency and becoming a true stakeholder in the outcome. Accountability can be externally imposed (legal or organizational requirements), or internally applied (moral, relational, faith-based, or recognized as some combination of the two) on a continuum from the institutional and organizational level to the individual level. From a relational point of view, accountability is not always doing it right. Sometimes it’s really about what happens after it’s done wrong.

SOURCE:  Accountability and White Anti-Racist Organizing: Stories from Our Work, Bonnie Berman Cushing with Lila Cabbil, Margery Freeman, Jeff Hitchcock, and Kimberly Richards (2010). 

Related Resources:  Accountability

Location: PLAN / Change Process

Black Lives Matter

A political movement to address systemic and state violence against African Americans. Per the Black Lives Matter organizers: “In 2013, three radical Black organizers—Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi—created a Black-centered political will and movement building project called #BlackLivesMatter. It was in response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer, George Zimmerman. The project is now a member-led global network of more than 40 chapters. [Black Lives Matter] members organize and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes. Black Lives Matter is an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise. It is an affirmation of Black folks’ humanity, our contributions to this society, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression.” 

SOURCE:  Black Lives Matter, “Herstory” (accessed 7 October 2019).


When people act to perpetuate oppression or prevent others from working to eliminate oppression. 

Example: Able-bodied people who object to strategies for making buildings accessible because of the expense.

SOURCE:  Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice: A Sourcebook, edited by Maurianne Adams, Lee Anne Bell, and Pat Griffin (Routledge, 1997).

Institutional Racism

Institutional racism refers specifically to the ways in which institutional policies and practices create different outcomes for different racial groups. The institutional policies may never mention any racial group, but their effect is to create advantages for whites and oppression and disadvantage for people from groups classified as people of color.


  • Government policies that explicitly restricted the ability of people to get loans to buy or improve their homes in neighborhoods with high concentrations of African Americans (also known as “red-lining”).

  • City sanitation department policies that concentrate trash transfer stations and other environmental hazards disproportionately in communities of color.

SOURCE:  Flipping the Script: White Privilege and Community Building by Maggie Potapchuk, Sally Leiderman, Donna Bivens, and Barbara Major (2005).

Related Resources:  Racism (scroll down alphabetically to the box for “Institutional Racism”)

Location: FUNDAMENTALS / Core Concepts

Movement Building

Movement building is the effort of social change agents to engage power holders and the broader society in addressing a systemic problem or injustice while promoting an alternative vision or solution. Movement building requires a range of intersecting approaches through a set of distinct stages over a long-term period of time. Through movement building, organizers can:

  • Propose solutions to the root causes of social problems.

  • Enable people to exercise their collective power.

  • Humanize groups that have been denied basic human rights and improve conditions for the groups affected.

  • Create structural change by building something larger than a particular organization or campaign.

  • Promote visions and values for society based on fairness, justice, and democracy.

SOURCE:  Julie Quiroz-Martinez, From the Roots: Building the Power of Communities of Color to Challenge Structural Racism (Akonadi Foundation, 2010), citing the Movement Strategy Center, which offers these further definitions.

Related Resources:  Movement Building

Location: PLAN / Change Process


The systematic subjugation of one social group by a more powerful social group for the social, economic, and political benefit of the more powerful social group. Rita Hardiman and Bailey Jackson state that oppression exists when the following 4 conditions are found:

  • the oppressor group has the power to define reality for themselves and others,

  • the target groups take in and internalize the negative messages about them and end up cooperating with the oppressors (thinking and acting like them),

  • genocide, harassment, and discrimination are systematic and institutionalized, so that individuals are not necessary to keep it going, and

  • members of both the oppressor and target groups are socialized to play their roles as normal and correct.

Oppression = Power + Prejudice

SOURCE:  What Is Racism?” − Dismantling Racism Works (dRworks) web workbook.

Racial Inequity

Racial inequity is when two or more racial groups are not standing on approximately equal footing, such as the percentages of each ethnic group in terms of dropout rates, single family home ownership, access to healthcare, etc.

SOURCE:  Ibram X. Kendi, How To Be An Antiracist, Random House, 2019.

Racist Policies

A racist policy is any measure that produces or sustains racial inequity between or among racial groups. Policies are written and unwritten laws, rules, procedures, processes, regulations, and guidelines that govern people. There is no such thing as a nonracist or race-neutral policy. Every policy in every institution in every community in every nation is producing or sustaining either racial inequity or equity between racial groups. Racist policies are also expressed through other terms such as “structural racism” or “systemic racism”. Racism itself is institutional, structural, and systemic.

SOURCE:  Ibram X. Kendi, How To Be An Antiracist, Random House, 2019.

Related Resources:  Laws and Policies

Location: FUNDAMENTALS / History of Racism and Movements

For specific topics, also see PLAN / Issues


States have a legal duty to acknowledge and address widespread or systematic human rights violations, in cases where the state caused the violations or did not seriously try to prevent them. Reparations initiatives seek to address the harms caused by these violations. They can take the form of compensating for the losses suffered, which helps overcome some of the consequences of abuse. They can also be future oriented—providing rehabilitation and a better life to victims—and help to change the underlying causes of abuse. Reparations publicly affirm that victims are rights-holders entitled to redress.

SOURCE:  International Center for Transitional Justice.

Related Resources:  Reparations

Location: PLAN / Issues

Structural Racism

  1. The normalization and legitimization of an array of dynamics – historical, cultural, institutional, and interpersonal – that routinely advantage Whites while producing cumulative and chronic adverse outcomes for people of color. Structural racism encompasses the entire system of White domination, diffused and infused in all aspects of society including its history, culture, politics, economics, and entire social fabric. Structural racism is more difficult to locate in a particular institution because it involves the reinforcing effects of multiple institutions and cultural norms, past and present, continually reproducing old and producing new forms of racism. Structural racism is the most profound and pervasive form of racism – all other forms of racism emerge from structural racism.

  2. For example, we can see structural racism in the many institutional, cultural, and structural factors that contribute to lower life expectancy for African American and Native American men, compared to white men. These include higher exposure to environmental toxins, dangerous jobs and unhealthy housing stock, higher exposure to and more lethal consequences for reacting to violence, stress, and racism, lower rates of health care coverage, access, and quality of care, and systematic refusal by the nation to fix these things.


  1. Chronic Disparity: Strong and Pervasive Evidence of Racial Inequalities by Keith Lawrence, Aspen Institute on Community Change, and Terry Keleher, Applied Research Center, for the Race and Public Policy Conference (2004).

  2. Flipping the Script: White Privilege and Community Building by Maggie Potapchuk, Sally Leiderman, Donna Bivens, and Barbara Major (2005).

Related Resources:  Structural Racism

Location: FUNDAMENTALS / Core Concepts

White Supremacy

The idea (ideology) that white people and the ideas, thoughts, beliefs, and actions of white people are superior to People of Color and their ideas, thoughts, beliefs, and actions. While most people associate white supremacy with extremist groups like the Ku Klux Klan and the neo-Nazis, white supremacy is ever present in our institutional and cultural assumptions that assign value, morality, goodness, and humanity to the white group while casting people and communities of color as worthless (worth less), immoral, bad, and inhuman and “undeserving.” Drawing from critical race theory, the term “white supremacy” also refers to a political or socio-economic system where white people enjoy structural advantage and rights that other racial and ethnic groups do not, both at a collective and an individual level.

SOURCE: “What Is Racism?” − Dismantling Racism Works (dRworks) web workbook.

Related Resources:  System of White Supremacy and White Privilege and Addressing Hate and White Supremacy

Locations: FUNDAMENTALS / Core Concepts and PLAN / Issues