Incorporating Community Engagement into the Albemarle County Equity Impact Assessment

Authors:Drumheller, Anna, Urban and Environmental Planning GraduateUniversity of Virginia Heller, Ansley, Urban and Environmental Planning GraduateUniversity of Virginia Hu, Naitong, Urban and Environmental Planning GraduateUniversity of Virginia Le, Christine, Urban and Environmental Planning GraduateUniversity of Virginia Naworol, Katarina, Public Policy GraduateUniversity of Virginia Webber, Landon, Public Policy GraduateUniversity of Virginia

This report examines community engagement as it is incorporated into local government equity impact toolkits. The aim of this analysis is to identify opportunities for the Albemarle County Office of Equity and Inclusion (OEI) to incorporate community engagement into their existing Equity Impact Assessment tool. This work was completed as part of the Spring 2021 PLAN 6020 Methods of Community Research and Engagement class taught by Dr. Barbara Brown Wilson, and in partnership with Siri Russell, the Director of Equity and Inclusion at Albemarle County’s OEI. During the initial work session, we worked with Ms. Russell and the Albemarle County Public Engagement Specialist, Serena Gruia, to identify an initial list of potential cities, and planned to conduct preliminary research on their respective community engagement strategies. We identified and interviewed city officials in Portland, Oregon; Burlington, Vermont; Asheville, North Carolina; and Decatur, Georgia. Based on our analysis of the four interviews and additional background research into the community engagement practices, equity-oriented tools, and assessments used in each city, we have identified the following recommendations for Albemarle County:

1. Make the Equity Impact Assessment/Toolkit a requirement for city policymaking and initiatives via county
ordinance or resolution
2. Require community engagement as part of equity impact assessment
3. Become a member of the Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE)
4. Ensure community engagement methods are creative and accessible
a. Use various methods (such as postcards, social media, community newsletters) and make meeting
times accessible
b. Ensure outreach materials and methods are translated to the language needs of the community
5. Follow-up with the public after program implementation/initial engagement

Though OEI currently has an Equity Impact Assessment framework in place that it can recommend County departments use when they are contemplating potential policy changes, there is still a need to think about ways to enable greater enforcement of the use of this tool. Our findings and recommendations are limited to the cities that were available to be interviewed, level of proficiency in qualitative analysis coding software (i.e., Dedoose), and challenges communicating with officials in multiple cities during the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. For further research, we suggest reviewing additional case studies that have concrete examples of incorporating community engagement as a requirement in equity impact assessments, asking community members their preferred method of engagement, additional case study review, and testing out and re-evaluating different community engagement methods to best suit the needs of the OEI.

Community Engagement Methods, Albemarle County, Charlottesville, Equity, Inclusion
University of Virginia
Published Date:
May 10, 2021