Our Work

Participant holding a sign that says "Education"On a Saturday morning in mid-May, a hundred community members gathered at the Eritrean Association Center to begin planning the future of the Race and Social Justice Initiative. Participants split up into groups to discuss priorities for work in education, equitable development and criminal justice.

2014 marks the last year of the Initiative's current 3-year plan. Between now and October, the Seattle Office for Civil Rights will be holding a series of listening sessions to chart the Initiative's direction in 2015-17. We plan to meet with all of RSJI's key stakeholder groups, including RSJ Community Roundtable member organizations, faith-based groups, Seattle Public Schools, community groups, businesses, government agencies, and Seattle City departments and interdepartmental teams.

In late fall, we will share a broad outline of the Initiative's 2015-17 Plan in order to hear additional comments and ideas from the community. We will present the final Plan by December 2014.

3-Year Plan timetable

  • May-October: Listening sessions with key stakeholders
  • Late fall: Public presentation of draft RSJI 2015-17 Plan for additional comments
  • Late 2014: Plan finalized for implementation in January 2015

Would you or your group like to be part of the planning process? We also need
volunteers to facilitate listening sessions with stakeholder groups about the 2015-17 Plan.
For more information email diana.falchuk@seattle.gov or call 206-684-4500.



2012-14 plan focuses on community partnerships

The City of Seattle's 2012-14 RSJI Three-Year Plan expands the Race and Social Justice Initiative (RSJI) to focus on ending racial inequity in the community. The plan was the result of an extensive assessment in 2011 involving City employees and people from the community. The City's 2009-2011 RSJI Accomplishments Report, details some of the many ways that RSJI is making a real difference in the lives of Seattle residents, businesses and City government.

The 2012-2014 RSJI Three-Year Plan asks all City departments to:

  • Continue working internally by applying racial equity to departmental programs and projects.
  • Build racial equity into policies and citywide initiatives.
  • Partner with other institutions and the community.

Across City government, departments are adopting the same set of strategies:

  • Use community-level racial inequity data to drive our strategies and track our progress over time to measure our success.
  • Measure progress with the same dedication as we measure problems.
  • Strengthen partnerships across institutions and the community.

For more information about the plan, contact elliott.bronstein@seattle.gov or call 206-684-4507. 

The Race and Social Justice Initiative is making a real difference in the lives of Seattle residents, businesses and City government. In the sections below, please click on one of the topics for more information.

Our Goals

Goal One: Racial Equity in City Operations

PDF Version of Goal One
Equity begins at home. The City of Seattle is committed to getting our own house in order by achieving racial equity in City government operations. RSJI focuses on three key indicators of success:

Fairness in contracting

The City of Seattle spends millions of dollars annually in contracts - everything from large construction projects to office supplies. These capital expenditures form part of the lifeblood of the city. If government limits circulation to some communities, it's not just those communities that suffer - inequitable investment affects the financial and social health of the whole city.Historically, businesses owned by people of color have had limited opportunities to compete for the government's business because of racism, as well as by policies and practices that tend to put small businesses at a disadvantage. RSJI has begun to achieve racial equity in contracting by adopting a set of strategies to ensure that City procedures create equitable opportunities for all businesses:

  • Dividing large bids into smaller contracts.
  • Encouraging a higher level of subcontracting.
  • Removing internal barriers to consulting and purchasing contracts.
  • Improving outreach and recruitment to ensure equitable access to information about contract opportunities.

Fairness in hiring and promotions

At first glance, the City of Seattle's workforce appears to reflect our community's diversity. The City is not a perfect mirror, however - management and top professional positions reflect the results of historical race-based inequities. The Race and Social Justice Initiative is creating workforce equity so that City of Seattle employees at every level reflect the residents they serve.As part of RSJI, departments are reviewing and improving their employment practices, including recruitment, hiring procedures and layoff policies. Departments also will include effective implementation of race and social justice strategies in the performance evaluations of managers and supervisors throughout City government.

Knowledge and tools for City employees

What is Seattle City government ... Your water and electrical service? The roads you navigate? The new apartment complex on the corner? The senior and child care programs you and your family rely upon?Thanks to its employees, the City of Seattle is all these services and more. Every day, City workers make decisions that affect the lives and well-being of thousands of Seattle residents. To implement the Race and Social Justice Initiative, employees need to acquire the skills and tools to work toward racial equity.Now that three-quarters of all City employees have received basic RSJI training, new RSJI skill-building will focus on tools to help managers and line staff implement the Initiative in their specific lines of business.

RSJI accomplishments in City operations

RSJI's accomplishments have begun to change how City government conducts its business.Contracting equity:

  • Since the Initiative began, the City has increased its City purchasing dollars to women and minority-owned businesses from $11 million to $34 million. Targeted outreach and other strategies have helped small businesses compete for contracts more effectively.
  • A 2010 Executive Order strengthened the City's commitment to utilize women and minority owned businesses, and outlined specific accountability steps for departments to ensure more equitable contracting results.

Workforce equity:

  • A new rule for out-of-class (temporary) assignments has created greater consistency and increased opportunities across departments.
  • Departments are developing upward mobility strategies for low-wage workers who are disproportionately people of color.

Knowledge and tools:

  • Key managers in departments have been trained to use the Racial Equity Toolkit to conduct comprehensive reviews of programs, policies and budgets, resulting in hundreds of changes to increase racial equity.
  • Over 8,000 City employees have participated in training on race and social justice.
  • By using a train-the-trainer approach, RSJI has created training teams throughout the organization that support skill-building within individual departments.

Goal Two: Racial Equity in City Services and Engagement

PDF Version of Goal Two
The City of Seattle holds a lot of public meetings - but do the participants reflect the diversity of our communities? The City operates and funds numerous programs and services - but do those programs equitably serve communities of color?

Government and our city benefit when the whole community is better informed and engaged. With RSJI, Seattle City government recognizes communities' different needs in order to increase people's access to information and resources. 

Inclusive outreach and public engagement

Despite staff, public dollars and good intentions, the City's outreach and community engagement efforts often have appeared uncoordinated, inconsistent and exclusive. Communities of color frequently view the City's efforts as "a waste of time" or "not for us."With RSJI, a toolkit for inclusive outreach and public engagement guides departments to ensure equitable participation in local government by all Seattle residents. The toolkit helps elevate the voices of communities of color as part of any public planning process.

Fairness in City services

Some City programs and services are less accessible to communities of color. Immigrant and refugee communities experience additional barriers to accessing City services and having their voices heard. To achieve racial equity in local government services, City departments have begun to ask themselves a simple question: "How does this action further racial equity?" City employees are using a racial equity toolkit to write budgets, evaluate programs and shape new initiatives. The toolkit builds racial equity into the City's work from the outset, instead of as an afterthought.

RSJ Equity Toolkit

RSJI accomplishments in City engagement and services

Inclusive outreach and public engagement:

  • To update neighborhood plans in Southeast Seattle, City staff dramatically expanded outreach to historically underrepresented communities. Hundreds of residents who had never attended a public meeting helped write new development plans for their communities. The effort received the Governor's Smart Communities Award for outstanding achievement in creating livable and vibrant communities.
  • Department representatives meet regularly to coordinate the City's new engagement strategies and share what's worked in different neighborhoods.

Immigrant and refugee access:

The Immigrant and Refugee Advisory Board provides ongoing guidance to the Mayor, City Council and departments.

Goal Three: Racial Equity in Our Community

PDF Version of Goal Three
Race and racism play a huge role in determining the quality of life for Seattle residents. Deep and pervasive racial disparities in Seattle cut across all indicators of success - including health, education, economics, the environment, and the criminal justice system.

The City of Seattle cannot achieve racial equity on its own. It requires a true community-wide effort.To advance these efforts, Seattle City government is taking two approaches:

  • Including racial equity as a key baseline component of important citywide initiatives like the Seattle Youth and Family Initiative and the Seattle Jobs Plan. City departments are finding ways to incorporate racial equity wherever their own work impacts community health, education, economics, environment, and criminal justice.
  • Joining with community members, organizations and public and private institutions as the Race and Social Justice Community Roundtable.

RSJI accomplishments in our community

  • Racial equity has been built into the planning and implementation structure of City initiatives, including the Seattle Youth and Family Initiative, the Seattle Jobs Plan, Engage Seattle and Walk-Bike-Ride.
  • City departments have incorporated a racial equity analysis so that their work is better able to impact community indicators of success.
  • The RSJ Community Roundtable is developing strategies to end racial disparities in high school graduation and school discipline rates.
  • Roundtable members have worked with state legislators to promote a statewide agenda on racial equity in education.
  • Roundtable members also have used the Racial Equity Toolkit to review their own organizations' programs and policies.