Monterey County: From Disenfranchisement to Voice, Power, and Participation

In the midst of community trauma brought about by decades of institutional and structural racism, the Building Healthy Communities (BHC) East Salinas Collaborative—one of 14 sites participating in The California Endowment’s 10-year, $1 billion initiative to address local health inequities across the state—took on the challenging yet essential work of redefining partnership and shifting the paradigm of what a true community-driven collaboration between government, community organizations and philanthropy looks like.

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In 2017, Race Forward released Building the We: Healing-Informed Governing for Racial Equity, which highlighted the ongoing work leaders from across different sectors were doing to address mounting racial and economic tensions in Salinas. Going through a collaborative decision-making process between community leaders and government agencies led to deeper racial justice considerations throughout some city agencies. However, residents knew this was only the beginning of the deep transformative work that needed to be done to address community needs.

In the two years following the release of Building the We, the BHC Collaborative learned that closing racial equity gaps will take an ecosystem approach that works across sectors for better alignment, trust-building and program implementation. Through this process, collaborative partners have identified three essential elements of systems change:

  • Community Accountability, which holds local institutions accountable for making progress with tools like Racial Equity Impact Assessments and processes like participatory budgeting to ensure that government leaders are held to a standard of progress instead of merely paying lip service to racial equity goals;
  • Culture Shift, which calls for greater transparency and vulnerability from institutional partners, and which centers the values, needs and cultural diversity of the community, and;
  • Authentic Partnership for Real Solutions, in which institutional partners are grounded in the root causes of the challenges that community members face, in order to authentically engage in the collaborative development of solutions.

This report explores key questions that can be used to inform racial equity efforts in other communities across the country. What does it take to engage in authentic collaboration? How do government agencies repair the harms they’ve exacerbated in Black and Brown communities to build a new path towards the future? Monterey County: From Disenfranchisement to Voice, Power and Participation offers lessons from the ongoing process in Salinas, and shows one community’s model for contending with historical disinvestment and inequities perpetuated by government systems and other institutional players.

If you have questions about this report, please email [email protected].

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Also Available: Building the We: Healing-Informed Governing for Racial Equity in Salinas