To advance equity, we must develop a liberatory consciousness to inform our actions. Barbara J. Love characterizes liberatory consciousness as reclaiming choice in our values, attitudes, and response patterns that would allow for “greater flexibility and propensity for change” from systems & institutions. One way to bring liberatory consciousness to life in the policy cycle is by utilizing an equity lens. In this post, we’ll examine what an equity lens is and how you can use it to advance equity and justice in your work in the policy process.
An equity lens is a protocol that a government agency, school district, school board, or organization uses to provide a common language for evaluating decisions, policies, programs, and practices. Specifically, an equity lens protocol provides a process for analyzing the impact that policies can or do have on marginalized individuals and groups. These protocols are designed to support leaders in intentionally breaking with status quo practices and mental models that are the source of educational inequity.
In its district equity framework, Chicago Public Schools differentiates between a historical lens, which perpetuates inequitable outcomes for students, and an equity lens, which mitigates opportunity gaps:
(Source: Chicago Public Schools Equity Framework)
An organization or agency’s equity lens protocol is a set of questions that leaders ask themselves to make sure they are paying attention to how their decisions might impact marginalized groups. Policy leaders may use the equity lens to examine options and decisions when designing, implementing, or evaluating policies.
When exploring these areas, leaders should be sure to include the voices and perspectives of those most impacted by the inequity the policy is designed to address, including students, families, and community members.
Examples of questions posed in equity lens protocols include:
Additionally, the Center for Urban Education at USC has a protocol for assessing equity-mindedness in state policy, which includes a set of prompts for reviewing policies for equity that can be useful to policy leaders at all levels seeking to build an equity lens framework for their organization.