Under the Kenney Administration, the City of Philadelphia is pursuing a comprehensive approach to dismantle institutional racism, advance racial equity, and improve outcomes for all Philadelphians. In signing Executive Order 1-20, among the first actions of his second term, Mayor Kenney mandated that City government focus on true equity—rather than just fairness or equality—as a core imperative to ensure that the City’s policies, services, and distribution of resources account for the different conditions of the communities we serve.
Government plays a critical role in creating and maintaining long-standing racial inequities through laws impacting voting rights, housing, criminal justice, education and more. Despite progress in dismantling explicit forms of discrimination, Philadelphians continue to experience significant racialized disparities across key indicators of success.
By centering racial equity, the Administration is advancing an intentional strategy to dismantle internal institutional barriers that are repeating patterns of exclusion and perpetuating disparate outcomes for our residents today. Through this strategy, the City is also applying resources to other areas of marginalization, including based on gender, sexual orientation, ability, age, and more
By 2023, all City departments will complete a racial equity action plan, identifying strategies to produce greater racially equitable impact relevant to each agency’s mission. Over the past year, with assistance from the City’s consulting partner Equity & Results, the first ten City departments participated in the multi-year strategy to identify root causes of disparate outcomes and implement customized strategies for implementation based on departmental capacity and vision consistent with the Mayor’s directive for a more racially equitable Philadelphia.
These ten departments include:
- Office of the Mayor
- Department of Commerce
- Department of Licenses and Inspections
- Department of Planning and Development
- Department of Public Health
- Department of Records
- Department of Revenue
- Philadelphia International Airport
- Philadelphia Parks and Recreation
- Procurement Department
As the first cohort of departments focused on specific drivers of racial inequality, several key themes emerged. First, several departments identified shifting agency culture toward one that is supportive of, and accountable for, racial equity in data systems, authentic community engagement, and resource allocation.
A number of departments also elevated workforce equity and the dismantling of barriers to inclusive hiring outcomes, particularly internal promotions, as a necessary strategy to achieve racial equity in City government. Another key theme focused on executive leadership and decision-making, with a focus on investing in leadership capacity to help ensure that the City’s values and actions are aligned around racial equity.
In addition to these themes, departments focused on improving core services. For example, the Department of Revenue focused on expanding auto enrollment in tax and water assistance programs and collaborating with community organizations for more outreach and education. And the Department of Records focused on addressing deed fraud as a contributing factor to the racial wealth gap requiring enhanced measures to guard against stolen wealth.
Going forward, the Mayor’s Office will meet with departments regularly to support implementation of strategies that seek to make Philadelphia a more racially equitable city. The next cohort of 12 additional departments are working to complete equity action plans, and the City remains focused on budgeting with a racial equity lens. These actions will provide for a more measurable impact and sustainable progress.
To truly be transformative, however, City government cannot realize a more equitable Philadelphia alone. Greater change requires partnership with community and cross-sector collaboration with elected officials, the business community, foundations, non-profit sector and other key institutions. To advance more equitable outcomes, consider investing in racial equity training in your own organization and establish more alignment or partnerships with other groups advancing racial equity as a strategic core imperative. To learn more about the City’s efforts, or how you can employ these strategies in your own organization, reach out to the City’s Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer, Nefertiri Sickout.