Liberatory Consciousness in Action: Using an Equity Lens in the Policy Process

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.

What is an Equity Lens?

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)

How can civic leaders use an equity lens? 

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:

  • Who are the marginalized groups most affected by this policy, program, practice, decision, or action? 
  • What are the potential impacts on these groups?
  • What equity gaps currently exist for these groups?
  • How might this policy, program, practice or decision have the potential to create, ignore or worsen existing equity gaps, or produce other unintended consequences? 
  • What are the barriers to more equitable outcomes that we have identified (e.g., legal, political, emotional, financial, programmatic or managerial), and how can we mitigate or eliminate them? 
  • How have we intentionally involved stakeholders who are also members of the communities impacted by this policy, program, practice or decision? 

Check out examples of equity lens frameworks from a state, a district, and an advocacy organization

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.


  • What are some questions that you currently ask yourself when assessing a policy for equitable impact?
  • Where have you seen the impact of leaders successfully assessing a policy for equity? Where have you seen the impact when leaders fail to do so?
  • How might an agreed-upon equity lens protocol support you in advancing equity-focused policy in your role?

Related Resources

Skip to content