Peer-to-peer trainings strengthen city’s commitment to racial equity

Last month, a group of racial equity leaders from local governments across the country gathered for a learning session led by City of Boulder staff.

Ana Silvia Avendaño Curiel, the city’s Racial Equity Policy Advisor, kicked off the session advising other communities to identify allies. “This is the work of many,” she said. “Who is in that network of people within your organization that you can tap into?”

Over the last two years, Avendaño Curiel has been steeped in the city’s efforts to identify and recruit staff racial equity champions. She, along with several other city staff members, has been tasked with implementing a key component of the city’s Racial Equity Plan: developing staff training to boost understanding of racial equity concepts across every city department.

Normalize. Operationalize. Institutionalize.

Advancing racial equity is a priority for our community. This means the city seeks to close gaps, so that race no longer predicts one’s success. This work is guided by the city’s Racial Equity Plan, adopted in 2021.

On the call, which was organized by the Government Alliance for Racial Equity (GARE), Avendaño Curiel cited the first goal of the plan: “everybody gets it.” As a part of the plan, the city seeks to “normalize and operationalize understanding of institutional and structural racism.” Ensuring staff, city council, boards and commissions receive the same information is an important step.

“In all of it, we’re normalizing and accepting the fact that race does matter,” said Avendaño Curiel. “We have to be explicit, but not exclusive [about race].”

Training all of Boulder’s nearly 1,500 employees is no small feat. To do it, the city has appointed about 30 “equity ambassadors” to facilitate three training courses. On the call, Avendaño Curiel outlined the steps the city took to recruit passionate staff at all levels.

“If this work excites you, we want you,” she said, but noted that enthusiasm alone didn’t get people to sign up. They needed support from their supervisors and city leadership. “The time and commitment is a big ask, but it was incredibly supported by leadership across the city.”

The result of all this effort: significant progress in staff training. Since 2020, the city’s equity ambassadors have led 114 trainings and supported the learning and development of 1,014 staff members.

“We have reached a tipping point in people being more aware of the concepts,” said Avendaño Curiel.

The Power of Peer Learning

As a member of GARE, the city has access to a network of similarly situated communities to share knowledge and learnings on their racial equity journeys. The workshop highlighted one of the ways the City of Boulder is leading racial equity work across the country.

“Conversations like these help move racial equity forward in local governments across the country,” said Nikko Viquiera, GARE’s racial equity training strategies director. “I truly appreciate the labor in creating this space to share and support each other.”

Boulder’s equity ambassador program inspired attendees from communities across the country, from Washington to Vermont.

“Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom and resources,” said Yolanda Sánchez, Portland’s equity training manager. “It makes a huge difference for other cities that may not have that foundation of support to start something.”