Equity in Action: How leaders can champion inclusive policymaking  

Multiethnic Group of People attend a Seminar

By Connie Allsopp, PlanH Delivery Lead  

What is the difference between equality and equity? What are the root causes of inequities? What makes a policy equitable? These and many other questions were answered in a PlanH webinar on November 8, 2023. Here are some key highlights.  

Praxis, defined as the art, science, and skill of blending theory into practice, is the essence of knowledge mobilization, which is the practice of transferring academic research into practical situations. Our third Healthy Public Policy webinar in 2023 showcased personal stories of equity in action with partnerships between academics, health authorities, elected officials and local government staff. The 60-minute session outlined how leaders can champion inclusive policymaking for equity. Tools, resources and strategies were shared to help communities implement equity. One example was using an Equity Continuum to help Leaders self-assess how far they have progressed with implementation in the context of the City of Kelowna’s Equity Framework.  

 “Diversity is fact, inclusion is the work and equity is the result of that work”

Shelley Sim, municipal councilor, District of Clearwater

BCHC’s PlanH Delivery Lead Connie Allsopp hosted five speakers from the City of Kelowna who received a PlanH grant in 2021.  Their work illustrated the journey from theory into an actionable framework. Panelists were Danielle Noble-Brandt (Manager, Dept of Policy and Planning, Kelowna), Arlene Janousek (Professional Planner, Kelowna), Kelly MacDonald (Community Health Facilitator, Interior Health) and Drs Katrina Plamondon and Sana Shahram (UBC Okanagan). All speakers shared experiences that contributed to the development of the City of Kelowna’s Equity Framework. Shelley Sim, a municipal councilor from the District of Clearwater’s 2022 PlanH grant community, contributed her perceptive on local leadership in the province.  

Sana shared a funny yet powerful visual in which two fish discuss water – one asks the other “How’s the water?” The other replies, “What water?” The point: everyone is “swimming” in systems that may provide unearned privileges, power and access to resources. Understanding this concept shines light on the essence of equity work. Sana also touched on key points such as humanity, justice, excellence and the sociopolitical climate. Then Katrina featured principles from her dialogue research and how scaffolding learning is optimal for alignment and coherence at all levels. This ensures everyone understands how to operationalize equitable interactions for identified problems with solutions.  

Kelly gave examples of how local/regional health authorities can partner with elected officials and local government staff to provide supports, evidence and resources to implement equity. She explained that it was challenging yet rewarding work and that partnerships were key to success. Arlene and Danielle discussed how the City of Kelowna was using an equity framework in housing and policy planning. Finally, Shelley Sim spoke about her strategies for change at the local council table and admitted that the fear of getting equity work wrong can be almost paralyzing at times. She also shared her experiece taking part in BCHC’s online equity curriculum as part of the 2023 PlanH Equity Cohort for Leaders. Shelley believes equity work is asking the tough questions of ourselves and others. She closed with an insightful quote: “Diversity is fact, inclusion is the work and equity is the result of that work”.    

During the Q&A we shared: how to begin, what resources and/or supports are needed, who to contact and so forth. The key message: it takes a village to embed equity in the mindset of all, from the bottom up to top-down partnerships. For more information, please watch the video or email Connie@bchealthycommunities.ca  

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