“Turning Commitment into Action” with Racial Equity Learning Cohorts for Seattle’s Arts and Culture Organizations

Seattle enjoys a high standard of living and is a hub for innovation and creativity; yet racial disparities persist in our region. According to 2010 Census data, Seattle’s population is predominantly white (69.5%), with people of color accounting for just under a third of the total population. The City of Seattle has worked for years to eliminate overt racist policies and practices in housing, employment, and other areas; however people of color in our community continue to be impacted by systemic race-based inequities.

This is why the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture, in conjunction with the Office for Civil Rights (SOCR), is offering arts and cultural organizations the tools they need to begin to eliminate institutional racism and build racial equity through the learning cohorts Turning Commitment into Action. Part of the Community Institute for Racial Equity, these learning cohorts – there will be three of the same curriculum offered in 2015 – include intensive training on skills to address perceived and actual barriers to racial equity within arts and cultural organizations and the sector as a whole. The goal of these cohorts is to help arts and cultural organizations create realistic racial equity action plans.

“Our Office works hard to ensure that Seattle’s arts and culture sector thrives, but that is only possible if the arts scene represents, is relevant to, and includes all those who live, work, and visit the city,” says Kathy Hsieh, Cultural Partnerships and Funding Manager. “While none of us created the structural racism that exists, we can all play a role in dismantling it, but first, we need to understand what’s holding it in place and learn how we can be change agents in this work.”

The first Turning Commitment into Action cohort began in May and included 35 participants from 12 organizations: Artist Trust, Cornish College of the Arts, Densho, EMP Museum, Frye Art Museum, Office of Arts & Culture, On the Boards, Pratt Fine Arts Center, The Greater Seattle Bureau of Fearless Ideas, Youth in Focus, Seattle Opera and Intiman.

“Since racial inequity is woven into many aspects of our society, we all need to make conscious efforts to overcome it in our own lives, including in the work we do,” says Natasha Varner at Densho. “This training is giving me and my organization concrete tools for identifying racial inequity, working to move beyond it in constructive ways, and being better allies for communities of color.”

“As the director of my organization I believe it is necessary for me to better understand racial equity, the barriers that currently exist in my organization, and how I can best lead us through a process of change,” states Sarah Wilke, Director of On the Boards “I believe this is important enough that it requires me to step out of my day-to-day responsibilities and personally explore the issue.”

Registration for the first cohort filled quickly, demonstrating the desire of so many arts and culture organizations to actively work toward racial equity. To meet demand, this will become an ongoing program: a second cohort will begin this summer and a third this fall. For more information or to register visit Turning Commitment into Action. {Insert Link}

To create change, institutions and groups in our community – government, businesses, non-profits, schools, faith-based, parent, youth and neighborhood groups and more – need to work together and share a similar sense of urgency. The arts and cultural community has key roles to play in advancing racial equity within its organizations, and through partnerships, programs, and works of art. Only by joining together in a broad partnership with common goals and strategies can we hope to realize racial equity in arts and culture, as well as in jobs, education, health, development, housing, criminal justice, the environment and philanthropy.


Photo credit: Youth Space Summit, courtesy the Office of Arts & Culture

Racial Equity Learning Cohort – Turning Commitment into Action

Registration opens April 13 at 9 a.m.; closes April 21 at 5 p.m.

The Office of Arts & Culture in conjunction with the Office for Civil Rights (SOCR) is offering arts and cultural organizations the tools they need to turn their commitments to building racial equity – both within their organizations and through their work in and with community – into actions for tangible change. Part of the Community Institute for Racial Equity, this  cohort will include intensive training on  skills to address perceived and actual barriers to racial equity within arts and cultural organizations and the sector as a whole.

“One of the priorities of our Office is to ensure that the arts and culture sector thrives in Seattle,” says Kathy Hsieh, Cultural Partnerships & Funding Manager. “This vision is only possible if the arts and cultural scene is relevant and meaningful and inclusive of all the people who live and work and visit the City. But currently, because of the structural racism that exists, arts leaders, artists and arts and cultural organizations aren’t even aware of how we’re all holding this inequity in place. The workshops we’re offering are in direct response to the desire of many in our community to learn how we can all work together to create racial equity. Talking about it isn’t enough. We need to act upon our talk in order to make change happen.”

Pre-registration Checklist

  1. Read the registration requirements carefully.
  2. Share the cohort description and registration requirements with your executive director or group leader. Make sure the executive director or person with that level of authority signs the Organizational Commitment Form. (For groups with a horizontal leadership structure, please designate someone to sign the form on behalf of the group.)
  3. Select and confirm which two – three individuals from your group will participate before completing the registration form. Make sure each person is able to attend all hours of each of the first two training dates and the follow-up session six weeks later. If someone is not able to attend all the sessions, we ask that you select another person or wait to participate in a future cohort. Additional cohort dates will be announced soon.

Who: Representatives of arts and cultural organizations. No previous training is required. Groups must meet all of the registration requirements. Each participant must complete their own registration form. Only 12 – 15 organizations will be able to participate. For a full list of requirements visit Turning Commitment into Action.

  • Each organization must send 2-3 people who work in different parts of the organization, and are able to participate in the entire training and work together for up to 3 hours in-between the sessions. These people will need to be able to support each other’s work as change agents within the organization. These people must include:
    • At least one organizational decision-maker in a leadership position who is able to authorize implementation of planned changes and hold accountable all levels of the organization.
    • One-to-two others who are situated in different areas of the organization with access to complementary resources and levers to make change.
  • Organizations must complete an Organizational Commitment Form. This states that the organization will fully participate in the training sessions and develop, implement and track progress on the racial equity plan created through this learning cohort.
  • Participants must be able to meet together for a total of 3 – 4 hours (not necessarily consecutive) during the two weeks between the first and second training sessions.

What: During the training participants will build their analysis of racism and racial equity, learn how to use a racial equity assessment to identify personal and organizational power, and develop targeted strategies to achieve racial equity. They will then create a plan to build racial equity within their organizations and through their work with artists, audiences, partners and communities.

Dates: The cohort includes these required sessions:

  • Two full-day training sessions with 3 – 4 hours of work in-between, the bulk of which will be done with the other people from your group: Friday, May 15, 8 a.m. – 6 p.m.; Friday, May 29, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., at El Centro de la Raza
  • A check-in session to explore tools and learn from peers’ successes and challenges: Wednesday, July 15, 1 p.m. – 5 p.m.
  • A final session to assess progress and plan adjustments to strategies and tactics: 4 hours, fall 2015, TBD.

El Centro de la Raza
2524 16th Ave S.
Seattle, WA 98144

Register: Register and read all registration requirements at: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/TCAARTS1


Between April 7 – 15th at 12 pm Diana Falchuk – diana.falchuk@seattle.gov 206.684.5282

Between April 15th at noon and April 21st at 5pm Kathy Hsieh – Kathy.hsieh@seattle.gov 206.733.9926

Photo by Jenny Crooks

Report highlights how Seattleites use technology

SEATTLE 5/23 At a launch event last night, the City of Seattle released new findings on technology access, adoption and interaction by Seattle residents. These findings are based on feedback from 2,600 residents via online and phone surveys and in-person focus groups in multiple languages about their use, concerns, and barriers to using the Internet, social media, cable TV and online government services.

“This data shows that we’re making great strides in technology, but a digital gap still exists between our neighbors,” said Mayor Ed Murray. “We’re already using the data in this report to influence how the City of Seattle interacts with our neighbors and to better target our outreach and engagement strategies.”

Every four years the City of Seattle conducts community research to find out how Seattle residents are using technology.The technology adoption study findings were detailed at the interactive launch event, and are available online at www.seattle.gov/tech/indicators. The summary of findings and recommendations are available in multiple languages.

“The continued rise of smart phone and tablet use provides outstanding opportunities for government to reach more residents,” said Councilmember Bruce Harrell, chair of the Council’s Public Safety, Civil Rights and Technology Committee. “The information from the focus groups will help us improve services and how we reach all communities. We will take action on improving access to web services by making them available in multiple languages.”

Since 2000, the City’s Community Technology Program has been collecting extensive and statistically valid data on residential use of cable TV, broadband adoption and uses (including health, work, education, finance and civic engagement), barriers to broadband adoption, use of online city services, and customer service needs. The measures used were based on goals for a technology-healthy city developed in collaboration with the City’s volunteer Technology Advisory Board.

Nine focus groups were also conducted to help understand the needs of communities who are often under-represented in the online and phone surveys or may be technologically-underserved.

Findings of the report include:

  • The report finds that 85 percent of Seattle residents have Internet at home and that more residents now own laptops than desktop computers.
  • Since 2009, Seattle has seen mobile phone ownership grow by 11 percent (80 to 89 percent), and has seen a 66 percent growth in the number of residents with smart phones (35 to 58 percent).
  • Broadband and cable TV prices continue to be of concern, but increasing broadband speed is important to those surveyed, with high interest in using higher bandwidth applications.
  • Cable subscribership has dropped 13 percent in the past four years as options for viewing video over the internet have grown.
  • Lower income residents have lower-speed broadband service, though a broad cross section of Seattle residents are interested in using higher speed internet services for activities like medical appointments or taking classes.
  • The study funds that there is still a significant gap in access to internet and the skills to use it, though the digital equity gap is more focused in skills and uses of the internet than on basic access.
  • Email was noted as the preferred way for residents to give their opinion to a community group or the City.
  • Education and age are the most significant factors differentiating technology access and adoption, but the data also shows important differences based on the income, ethnicity, and abilities of those surveyed.
  • The research also found that those with less education tend to make less use of the internet than users with more education.

For more information, visit www.seattle.gov/tech/indicators or contact communitytechnology@seattle.gov or 206-386-9759.

City Light Finalizes RSJI Work Plan for 2014

City Light has finalized its Race and Social Justice Initiative (RSJI) work plan for 2014. As part of its RSJI plan for the year, Seattle City Light will focus on the equity areas of education, equitable development, housing, jobs/economic justice, the environment, and service equity.

The work plan is part of a larger citywide effort to achieve racial equity and advance opportunities for all people, regardless of race or socioeconomic status. Seattle City Light is committed to removing the barriers that prevent all people from attaining the same access to opportunity in its hiring practices and customer service, as well as creating a community enriched by Seattle’s diverse cultures with full participation from all residents. City Light strives to implement outreach and engage with the public in a manner that reflects the diversity of the customers in its service area.

The city’s initiative is led by the Seattle Office for Civil Rights and various city staff, and is supported by all City of Seattle elected officials. More information about the initiative can be found on the city of Seattle’s RSJI website.

A few highlights from the Seattle City Light RSJI 2014 Work Plan include the following:

  • Seattle City Light will continue its efforts through the Powerful Neighborhoods program to reach seniors, non-English speaking households and low-income residents.  This program includes the direct installation of efficient lighting and water-saving showerheads in multifamily properties. Special emphasis is placed on outreach to affordable housing providers and their residents, with a goal of reaching at least 3,500 multifamily households.
  • City Light will partner with Seattle University to sponsor engineering projects for racially diverse teams of students to develop their skills, provide the opportunity to exhibit their work, and advance their education with real-life projects.
  • City Light’s 2014 goal is to reach 150 families with its HomeWise low-income weatherization program.
  • City Light will continue to partner with tribes in the implementation of cultural and natural resource protection and restoration in its work on the Boundary Project as well as the Skagit Project. In addition, the utility will assure communication on cultural resource issues as well as contracting opportunities are available for the Kalispel and Skagit River tribes.
  • In an effort to achieve equity in access to living wage jobs, City Light will increase opportunities for internships in the Seattle Youth Employment Program, as well as promote its Tuition Reimbursement Program and develop specific targets for closing any gaps in diversity in its workforce.
  • City Light is dedicated to building a workforce that reflects or exceeds the racial demographics of the communities it serves. In order to achieve that goal, the utility requires all staff members involved in hiring processes to be trained on Workforce Equity and Human Resources RSJI Best Practices. Furthermore, its 2014 plan includes deepening ties with diverse community and educational organizations to recruit interns and job candidates.
  • In addition, City Light actively seeks to work with Historically Underutilized Businesses (HUB) and Women and Minority-owned Businesses (WMBE).  Its RSJI 2014 Work Plan includes specific outreach event commitments, as well as target goals for spending on consulting and purchasing expenditures with these firms.
  • Seattle City Light is prioritizing streetlight upgrades in historically underserved areas such as the Holly Park SHA residential neighborhood in order to provide safer electrical systems and to ensure streets are well-lit at night.
  • The utility also provides free interpreter services for customers as well as offers translated printed information in Spanish, Vietnamese, Chinese, Somali, Tagalog, Korean and other languages commonly used among City Light customers. As part of the RSJI 2014 Work Plan, City Light will continue to host community meetings and focus groups designed for historically underrepresented communities, all of which are supported by interpretation and translation services.

City Light supports a number of other programs and initiatives designed to alleviate inequity including the Utility Discount Program and Project Share.

The Seattle Race and Social Justice Initiative began in 2004. At the time, no other US city had so directly focused on institutional racism and working to improve racial equity. Seattle was the first city in the nation to explicitly focus on undoing institutional racism. Institutional racism is defined by the city of Seattle Office for Civil Rights as the policies, practices and procedures that often unintentionally or inadvertently work to the benefit of certain groups and to the detriment of others.

More information about Seattle City Light’s Race and Social Justice Initiative efforts can be found on our website. For more details about the City of Seattle’s efforts to achieve racial equity, please click here.