Advancing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in NNIP

Urban Institute   (NNIP Coordinator)

December 2019

NNIP’s mission is to ensure all communities have access to data and the skills to use data to advance equity and well-being across neighborhoods. From NNIP’s founding in 1996 to today - Partners’ efforts focus on democratizing data to include communities that have been marginalized in decisionmaking and community building. To continue this work, it is critical that our organizations reflect the diversity in our communities and are inclusive of all people. This will result in higher-quality analysis and stronger and more effective collaborations, and, ultimately, expand the influence NNIP has on local and national policy. Over the past several years, NNIP HQ has been intentionally thinking about how to center diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) within the activities of the network and its partners.

NNIP HQ began providing more specific guidance and training at a Spring 2018 workshop on "Communicating with Data to Advance Racial Equity." Partners learned about implicit biases in how people interpret data and strategies to account for that. For example, indicators can inadvertently reinforce the very stereotypes and inequities that NNIP Partners are dedicated to addressing and harm the people and neighborhoods we are trying to support. The session featured Julie Nelson, a senior vice president of Race Forward and the director of the Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE), who shared a framework for talking about racial equity and facilitated discussion among partners on their own experiences with communication and data focused on racial equity.

In addition to centering racial equity in Partners' external-facing products and services, NNIP wanted to support internal DEI efforts within Partner organizations and the network. In fall of 2018, NNIP HQ surveyed Partners about the racial, gender, country of birth, and age of staff, board, and advisory committees to understand the diversity of the network and establish a baseline from which to track progress. NNIP HQ also asked staff Partner organizations about their experiences with diversity and inclusion efforts at their organizations, asking about human resources responsibilities, hiring practices, board development, outreach, overall commitment to DEI work, and challenges to incorporating more equitable practices in their organizations.

NNIP HQ staff presented the early results of both surveys at Fall 2018 training on "Advancing Racial Diversity in Your Organization for Better Services." The purpose of the session was to provide expert advice on how Partners can diversify their staff, boards, advisory committees, and outreach networks and to encourage them to reflect on their policies and practices at home. The training was facilitated by Ellie Tumbuan, the principal of ET Consulting and the chief strategy officer at The Justice Collective, a consultancy that supports strategic initiatives, organizational development, and leadership nurturance. Ellie explained key concepts, discussed reimagining hiring and outreach efforts, and suggested ways to advocate for change at one’s organization. Partners then workshopped changes to two sample job descriptions to help attract a more diverse pool of applications.

In "A Look at the Diversity of NNIP," we report the diversity in NNIP in 2018. We also outlined initial short-term and long-term DEI goals for NNIP, including facilitating ongoing conversations, opportunities for trainings, and collecting resources to serve as best practice guidelines. Moving forward, the Network will continue to prioritize opportunities to learn about and use equity-centered organizational development and practices that will reframe how data can be used to take on structural and systemic challenges.