Making Racial Equity Real in Research

Executive Summary

The research field has come a long way since the days of explicit exclusion, exploitation and experimentation on communities of color and other marginalized populations. Today we see increasing interest and available funding both for the study of racial equity and for conducting research in more equitable ways. While this certainly represents significant progress, the research field still struggles to overcome its legacy of White supremacy and structural racism.

While research is a powerful tool to advance racial equity, progress remains stubbornly slow due to a multitude of structural barriers that prevent research from truly benefiting marginalized communities, and in some cases harming these communities. Even well- intentioned research practices can be nonreciprocal, tokenizing, extractive and culturally insensitive

The imbalanced power dynamic can distort trust between researchers and community partners, which works against meaningful partnerships and hampers the ability to turn research into actionable policy change

While many researchers and research institutions are recognizing and confronting inequities and power dynamics that are deeply rooted in their fields’ culture and practices, this is not yet standard practice. The structures upholding racial injustice in research are so deeply entrenched that players at every level must work to dismantle them. This report offers recommendations for a wide audience, including research funders, academic and non-profit research institutions, individual researchers and community partners.

Audience for this Report

While we envision these recommendations to be applicable to a wide variety of research, it is particularly relevant for applied, policy-oriented research. Research takes many forms. For a few—like strictly mathematical modeling of climate impacts—the concepts presented here may have less applicability. For others, such as clinical drug trials, some ideas will be applicable and others may need to be adjusted. Part of our purpose is to encourage those involved in all forms of research to think seriously about equity and community impacts. Recognizing these differences, for the sake of brevity, in this report we refer to all sorts of research and evaluations under the umbrella term of “research.”

In addition to researchers, this resource is also geared towards community-based groups, equity-centered organizations, government agencies, research funders and other groups who play an integral role in the research field. More explicitly this report is intended for: 1) researchers studying racial equity; 2) researchers who may not be studying racial equity, but wishing to conduct their research in a more equitable, partnership-based way; 3) research institutions aiming to support these efforts; 4) research funders seeking to embed racial equity and community engagement requirements into their grant guidelines;

Instructions for Using This Report

The learnings, reflections and discussion questions presented here should be thoughtfully addressed before the research scope and questions are finalized and funded, and continually referred to throughout the process. This is the process that Greenlining will now follow when forming a partnership with research institutions that wish to embed racial equity principles into their work. This approach has enabled our team to maintain more trusting and transparent partnerships with researchers while producing more credible and accountable racial equity research.

This report offers five key steps to creating partnership-based research:

  1. Understand the context of racism in research in the past and present
  2. Review the challenges, best practices, and opportunities available for centering racial equity in research
  3. Conduct an internal equity assessment of your research institution, department, or team 
  4. Partner with and pay a community partner 
  5. Co-create the research questions and scope of work with a community partner

The Greenlined Economy Guidebook

Executive Summary

Before the COVID-19 pandemic started, our system was already broken. The racial wealth gap, displacement and gentrification were destroying communities of color, and climate disasters were already a predictable part of the national news cycle. Now, on the verge of the worst economic downturn in decades, we have a collective moral imperative to reimagine the purpose of our economy: This is our time to build a new economic system that radically meets the needs of the people who have suffered the most under our current paradigm, particularly people of color. Reimagining our economic system in this moment is not opportunistic; it is our responsibility if we want to have a truly just, resilient and anti-racist world.

For real, transformative change, we need to think bigger than individual industries or actors. The COVID-19 pandemic, crisis of police terror, and oncoming recession have underscored what we already knew: For true growth and resilience, we need to rebuild in a way that ensures communities of color thrive for generations. We need to shape a new anti-racist economy, not rebuild the old one. We need to greenline the entire economy. 

The Greenlined Economy we envision is: 

    • Cooperative: Our current system is highly individualistic, with wealth and ownership concentrated among just a few people. In a greenlined system, wealth is equitably generated, shared and distributed by communities.
    • Regenerative: The existing economic paradigm has profited off the extraction and destruction of our natural resources. A greenlined system is non-extractive, sustainable and ecologically resilient.
    • Democratic: Everyone has the right to shape the decisions that impact their lives. A greenlined system is participatory, democratically governed, and led by those who historically have been shut out of decision-making power.
    • Non-exploitative: The exploitation of labor and resources that anchors racial capitalism cannot be carried into our future. A greenlined system is anti-racist and rooted in justice and equity for marginalized communities.
    • Inclusive: Our current system is deeply segregated and defined by systems of oppression such as racism, classism and patriarchy. A greenlined system enables everybody to participate in shared prosperity.

At the center of this vision, community anchors these five principles. Together, these principles help communities build power and advance equity in every piece of the system. This framework forms the pillars of our long-term vision for an economic system with racial equity at its core.

Our current economic system is built on a basis of maximizing profit,
racism, and concentration of power. However, in a Greenlined Economy, the community’s needs anchor the other pillars of the system.

Community Investment Standards

One of our approaches to making a Greenlined Economy possible is by establishing rules or standards for equitable community investment. Of course, community investment is just one small piece of a much larger economic system. Over the past three decades, the Greenlining Institute has helped to redirect billions of dollars into the communities we represent, but always within the confines of an extractive and exclusionary economic system. The standards in this section are intended to address the system-level barriers outlined in the Findings section of the guidebook.

We use the phrase “community investment” broadly to refer to community-oriented projects in disinvested communities across many different sectors, including housing, real estate, infrastructure, transportation, parks, food and nutrition, health and small business, to name a few. In this guidebook, we focus on large-scale community investments, particularly those that have the potential to accelerate or catalyze significant change in a neighborhood.

To greenline community investment, we have developed a set of rules to govern funds and programs intended to address poverty and inequity. Without standards, we end up reinforcing the structures that caused these problems in the first place. These standards are meant to address failures of equity in our current community investment model. We imagine that these standards could be applied to community investments by diverse actors, including public agencies, philanthropic organizations, private investors or community-based organizations advising or developing their own investment strategies.

Six Standards for Equitable Community Investment

    • Emphasize race-conscious solutions. Race-conscious policies like redlining and urban renewal got us to this point, and race-neutral approaches can’t fix the underlying inequities. Investment needs to target and prioritize the most impacted communities.
    • Prioritize multi-sector approaches. Programs may be siloed, but problems are not. We need to prioritize approaches that address multiple issues and sectors at once.
    • Deliver intentional benefits. Benefits cannot trickle down to communities; they need to go directly to the people in the most impactful ways, while avoiding increasing or creating new burdens.
    • Build community capacity. Long-term disinvestment and discriminatory policies can erode a community’s capacity for leadership, organizing or political capital. Acknowledging the ways that structural racism has impacted the capacity of communities of color to undertake community development projects is a key part of improving investments.
    • Be community-driven at every stage. Lifting up community-led ideas and sharing decision-making power is an important element of truly community-centered investment. Community members and organizations should be part of every phase of the project or policy, from goal-setting to analysis.
    • Establish paths toward wealth-building. We need community ownership of assets and opportunities to continue building wealth. In a Greenlined Economy, as many people as possible should be able to participate in wealth building, which will include a broader set of pathways beyond homeownership with lower barriers to entry.

We imagine that these standards could be applied to community investments by diverse actors, including public agencies, philanthropic organizations, private investors or community-based organizations advising or developing their own investment strategies.

Policy Recommendations

Greenlining our system and making community investment equitable will require ambitious changes in how we operate. Our recommendations fall into two categories: policies to advance the Community Investment Standards, and policies to support high-level systems change. The expanded policy recommendations are listed in the full report.

  • Advance the Community Investment Standards: Government, philanthropy and private investors should work on shifting values, redistributing power and advancing culture change within the community investment sector. This includes implementing policies that shift and grow community power, making equity a core piece of any project rather than an add-on, and requiring program applicants and investors to articulate how equity shows up in community investment projects. We also need policies that infuse equity into the process and implementation of the standards, such as setting criteria for equity beyond demographic targeting, accountability for spending, and strong value capture mechanisms.
  • Make lasting systems change: We need to pave a road for race-conscious investments at every level of government. This includes reparations for Black and Indigenous people, progressive restructuring of our tax code, more pathways to community ownership and wealth-building, and the creation of an Office of Racial Equity at the local, regional and state levels. Finally, we need to change our financing system, particularly for community investment. This would mean divesting from extractive and exploitative industries and proactively investing in justice, democratizing our funding processes through participatory budgeting and Green Public Banks, plus requiring banks to accurately quantify risk and to report on the economic or environmental externalities of a project.

Opening Pathways for Youth of Color: The Future of California’s Health Workforce

Executive Summary

California is experiencing compounding public health crises. The health professional shortage and the COVID-19 pandemic have left the state physically and financially distressed, without the health workforce needed to care for it. Decision-makers must take bold action to meet this need in a manner that is equitable and honors California’s rich diversity. Programs that assist youth of color in accessing health careers can play a major role.

Together with the Alameda County Health Pathway Partnership, The Greenlining Institute researched the effectiveness of health career pathway programs as a means of building a larger, more diverse health workforce. Alumni of Alameda County Health Pathway Partnership program, nearly all youth of color, were recruited to share their experiences navigating towards a career in health. From January to May of 2020, researchers used a focus group and a series of online surveys to capture participants’ stories. Through this research, Greenlining was able to identify major supportive factors and barriers for young people of color. From this, we developed a series of targeted recommendations that we believe will fortify the health workforce and ultimately, mitigate harm to the physical and economic health of California residents.


While Black, Latino and Native American communities are projected to make up 62 percent of California’s population by 2030, only five percent of the state’s practicing physicians are Black and just 5.9 percent are Latino. This makes it difficult for large portions of the state’s population to receive culturally competent care, and represents a significant economic obstacle to these communities, as the health workforce offers a variety of well-paying, family-sustaining careers.

Report Findings

Participation in an ACHPP career pathway program increased the desire and confidence of youth of color to pursue a career in health.

Primary supportive factors:

  1. Exposure to different health careers and professionals built the skills and confidence of pathway alumni.
  2. Social support and mentorship were essential for first-generation and low-income youth.
  3. Financial assistance minimized the financial burden of choosing pathway opportunities over holding a current job.

Primary challenges included:

  1. Finances: Expenses associated with pathway programs, college applications and tuition were cost prohibitive without significant financial assistance.
  2. Transportation: Participants often engaged in riskier, less expensive transportation methods to travel the great distances from school, work or home to career pathway opportunities.
  3. Barriers to Higher Education: Participants shared anxiety about getting into, paying for and navigating higher education without support systems and experienced mentors from their communities.

Experiences of Young Women

Young women who participated in the focus groups and surveys shared negative experiences specific to their gender relating to safety, gendered stereotypes within the profession, familial expectations and mentorship.

Policy Recommendations

We propose four areas of policy implementation to build a more diverse and robust health workforce. Interwoven into each of these recommendations is the need for race, ethnicity and gender-specific initiatives that are accessible to undocumented populations. California needs a disproportionate and explicit investment in communities of color, as broader attempts to expand the health workforce have not provided sufficient resources to enable youth of color to enter the field in large numbers. Recognizing the financial scarcity brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, we believe that these investments are a needed, equitable and efficient means of improving both health and economic outcomes in California.

  1. Pass Proposition 16. By repealing California’s 1996 ban on affirmative action, Prop. 16 would facilitate the sort of targeted programs California needs to diversify its health workforce.
  2. Increase financial support to individuals pursuing careers in health. At present, cost presents a nearly insurmountable obstacle for many youth of color.
  3. Increase funding for pipeline programs. A number of excellent programs exist, but they need to be scaled up and replicated.
  4. Expand higher education programs. California does not presently train enough health professionals to meet the state’s needs. Programs should be expanded, with targeted efforts to enroll underrepresented groups.

Factsheets: California’s Electric Vehicle Equity Incentive and Mobility Programs

State funded EV programs can help all Californians access safer, cleaner and more reliable transportation and improve our air quality.

California’s transportation sector is the number one source of greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for 40 percent of the state’s climate-altering pollution. Pollution from cars, trucks and buses disproportionately impacts low-income communities of color and create compounding negative health and income externalities for the most vulnerable.  For these disadvantaged communities the opportunity to own or lease clean, reliable electric vehicles can be life changing and transitioning from fossil-fuel powered vehicles to zero-emission vehicles is a crucial step toward improving air quality in our most burdened communities. State leaders should prioritize zero-emission vehicles to clean our air, fight climate change and further economic opportunities.

To learn more about California's equitable electric vehicle, mobility, and transportation programs, download one of our factsheets:

2019 Annual Report

With the release of our 2019 Annual Report, we invite you to reflect on this past year with us as we take a moment to celebrate the progress made, lessons learned and victories won. In 2019, The Greenlining Institute celebrated its 26th anniversary in 2019, and the organization’s commitment to fighting for better opportunities and increased investments in communities of color has never been stronger. 2019 also marked a number of changes, principal among them the announcement of Debra Gore-Mann as President and CEO of Greenlining. We are inspired by her vision and dynamism, and are honored to welcome her as the first woman of color President in Greenlining’s history.

In 2020, the effects of racial disenfranchisement and systemic othering have become further exacerbated by the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic. At the very same time, our country is now facing a long-overdue reckoning with the public health crisis of anti-Black violence and police brutality, and the culpability of institutions that perpetuate the system of racial hierarchy in our society.

Although we have our work cut out for us, over the course of Greenlining’s history we have seen the impact of strategic research and innovative policy advocacy to codify equity and influence outcomes in communities of color for the better. This ability to shine a light and illuminate the truth for others is a testament to Greenlining’s model and impact. With this intergenerational, multi-ethnic and community-centered focus, Greenlining will continue to operate as a key player in these critical policy conversations—and work to meaningfully improve the livelihoods of our target communities for generations to come. We look forward to building this future together and extend our sincerest thanks for your ongoing support of Greenlining.

2019 Supplier Diversity Report Card

Incremental Progress in a Swiftly Changing Landscape

As our country tackles problems that disproportionately affect communities of color, from income and wealth inequality to climate change, we must face the origins of these challenges head-on. Historically, when public utilities contracted with outside suppliers, they did so using an “old-boy” network, which denied economic opportunity to businesses owned by people of color and by other historically marginalized groups.

Always on the cutting edge, California and many of the companies that operate here have long recognized that diversity is integral to good business, and that a diverse workforce and diverse procurement investment can help companies venture into new markets and increase shareholder value. Nowhere is this culture more apparent than in the groundbreaking supplier diversity efforts taken on by utility companies under the guiding principles of the California Public Utilities Commission’s General Order 156. The California Public Utilities Commission’s model for promoting supplier diversity in the industries it regulates has withstood the test of time and, when the policy is made a priority by the sitting commissioners, it has generated unprecedented results.

Summary of Findings

California’s energy, telecommunications, and water companies remain at the forefront of supplier diversity achievements, with a “class average” well above their peers nationwide. However, there is still progress to be made. In 2018, figures reported by the companies to the California Public Utilities Commission show that:

  • Most companies improved their percentage of procurement dollars spent with Minority Business Enterprises in 2018. However, a broad gap remains between high performers and low performers.
  • The cable industry continues to neglect supplier diversity, with Comcast and Cox both receiving grades of F. Comcast’s contracting with minority suppliers dropped sharply this year.
  • With the exception of Verizon, Cox, and Sprint, the companies’ spending with African American Business Enterprises continued to be a challenge.
  • The companies’ spending on Asian American/Pacific Islander suppliers slipped.
  • While over two thirds of the companies saw improvement in their spending with Latino suppliers, overall spending with those suppliers was still unacceptably low.
  • The companies’ spending with Native American suppliers saw some improvement, with 50 percent of companies reporting increased spending.
  • The companies’ spending with women-owned suppliers stayed relatively flat in 2018, and the companies’ spending with minority women-owned suppliers remained markedly lower than spending with women-owned suppliers overall.
  • The companies’ spending on LGBT-owned suppliers saw some improvement, but still has a long way to go.
  • The companies’ spending with disabled veteran-owned suppliers continued to slip.

This year, three companies exceeded 30 percent procurement with minority-owned businesses. In addition to the overall strength of 2018’s results, companies spent a combined $39 billion with businesses owned by people of color, an $8 billion increase over 2017.

While these results are impressive, several companies report internal pressure to reduce or eliminate their supplier diversity programs. In the face of leadership changes, budget cuts, shifts in corporate strategy and other internal changes, the benefits of supplier diversity remain relevant and necessary in the 21st century global economy.

Companies that report strong support from executive leadership and concerted efforts to include diversity at all stages in the procurement process continue to show strong results. In particular, companies that embrace supplier diversity best practices demonstrate strong results in traditionally underutilized categories. These industry leaders show that strong performance and consistent progress are, in fact, possible and set a strong example for their reporting peers.

It is particularly encouraging that 2018 saw overall strong results at a time when the energy and communications industries underwent significant shifts in the landscape. Utilities have grappled with the emergence of more community choice aggregators online1 and serving customers, as well as more frequent, larger, and more devastating wildfires across the state; these changes in the energy landscape raise necessary questions about the electrical grid’s reliability, affordability, and resiliency. Wireline and wireless companies have experienced a shift from regulation at the federal level to regulation at the state level, which may result in those companies having to adjust their business models in response to state-level regulation. Despite these challenges, many of the companies in those industries maintained or increased their supplier diversity spending

About Our Report

The Greenlining Institute’s Supplier Diversity Report Card grades California’s energy, communications, and water companies based on the supplier diversity reports the companies file with the California Public Utilities Commission. Our rankings are based on performance and improvement: Grades are primarily determined by the companies’ percentage spending, with adjustments made for significant increases or decreases compared to the previous year. We break down spending by ethnic categories, as well as minority women-, disabled veteran-, and LGBT-owned suppliers. We make recommendations based on what we see in the numbers and what we hear from the companies themselves about their programs and practices. We advocate for supplier diversity because it creates economic gains on all sides: It promotes economic development in diverse communities, and by increasing competition and diversity in the supply chain, generates a better return on investment for companies that meaningfully engage in it.

2019 Bank Board Diversity

Executive Summary

The Greenlining Institute regularly examines corporate executive board diversity.1 Our 2019 study zeroes in on the gender and racial makeup of bank executive boards, and occurs just as federal policymakers push for diversity in banking and financial inclusion, including the recent creation of a Subcommittee on Diversity and Inclusion within the U.S. House Committee on Financial Services and a June 2019 hearing on “Diversity in the Boardroom.”  Greenlining supports efforts in Congress to increase board diversity by requiring disclosure of corporate board demographics (H.R. 3279 and H.R. 1018) and identifying diverse board candidates (H.R. 281).

Our analysis of the 10 largest depository banks in California, defined by deposit market share, found that on average, people of color make up 30 percent of board composition, while making up over 67 percent of California’s population. Bank of the West topped the rankings with a board containing 75 percent people of color.

Why Board Diversity at Banks Matters

When companies are intentional about creating diverse, equitable and inclusive work environments, they help to disrupt the income disparities that inform broader economic conditions in marginalized communities. For financial institutions in particular, the leadership should reflect the communities they serve in order to effectively build trust with consumers and make capital and financial services accessible. And ultimately, a diverse board improves an institution’s bottom line.3

Executive boards are the ultimate decision-makers in financial institutions and drive policies that trickle down to communities. Boards are accountable for the actions and behaviors of their institutions. In order to fight redlining and promote economic development in communities of color, boards need to reflect the diversity of the population they serve. In the United States, people of color make up 41.8 percent of the population. California’s population is more than 67 percent people of color.

Greenlining Standards for Equitable Bank Boards:

  • Consider the racial demographics of the United States as a benchmark for representation.
  • Consider the gender demographics of the United States as a benchmark for representation.
  • Include at least one person of color and one woman for consideration in board candidate searches.
  • Publicly disclose executive board members, disaggregating by race and gender.
  • We believe that executive boards of national banks that meet Greenlining’s standards for equity will be more likely to create equitable and inclusive policies and have a greater commitment to diverse communities.

Report Findings

Board diversity among California’s largest banks still has room for progress. Overall, the boards of the banks we analyzed fail to mirror the racial and gender diversity of California and most also fail to reflect the demographics of the United States overall. Although Bank of the West ranks highest, with 75 percent of its board made up of people of color, the majority of the banks we studied had fewer than 40 percent people of color on their boards and, on average, people of color made up 30 percent of board composition.

Strategies for Building Diverse Boards

Bank boards should reflect the diversity of California and the nation. We believe that the following strategies will lead to greater racial equity within banks and in their investments in communities. Diverse leadership will help banks understand and meet the needs of their diverse customer base and prioritize reinvestment in currently underrepresented communities.

  • Establish a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion
  • Disclose board demographics and policies
  • Set goals for representation on boards
  • Expand qualifications for board members
  • Professional development of bank leadership

Equitable Building Electrification: A Framework for Powering Resilient Communities

The momentum to usher in a new era of cleaner, healthier, all-electric new homes and buildings has gained steam in California. With more than 50 cities either considering or having passed measures to accelerate all-electric buildings, the gas industry is working overtime to stoke fear around building electrification. In partnership with the California’s Energy Efficiency for All Coalition, The Greenlining Institute studied the challenges and opportunities that building electrification presents for low-income communities – 70 percent of whom are renters  caught up in a housing and energy affordability crisis.

Executive Summary:

Greenlining’s Equitable Building Electrification Framework addresses the opportunities and challenges that electrification presents for low-income communities – 70 percent of whom are renters. The framework finds that electrification can be a transformative force for low-income residents and it explains the steps the state must take to ensure that electrification helps close the clean energy gap in California and provides relief to millions of residents facing energy insecurity in the current system.

Electrification provides low-income communities access to major benefits such as cleaner air, healthier homes, good jobs and empowered workers, and greater access to affordable clean energy and energy efficiency to reduce monthly energy bills, while helping the state meet its climate goals, including a net-zero carbon economy and 100 percent clean electricity by 2045.

Meanwhile, the cost of safely maintaining California’s gas system is set to escalate dramatically in coming years as increasing infrastructure costs and safety upgrades combine with a decline in demand as the state transitions away from fossil fuels to hit its climate targets.

The result will be higher costs spread around fewer customers – leading to significantly higher gas bills and prompting those with the means to do so to move off the system for financial, health, and environmental reasons. As this trend continues, gas customers who face barriers to electrification will need assistance to move to cleaner electric appliances to help shield them from the rising cost of gas.

What Is Building Electrification?

Building electrification means eliminating use of fossil fuels for functions like heating and cooking and replacing gas appliances with alternatives that use electricity. In California, 25 percent of our greenhouse gas emissions come from the buildings we live and work in. As our electric grid gets steadily cleaner, building electrification can play a big role in fighting climate change.

Moreover, electrifying our homes has major health benefits. Burning gas releases nitrogen oxides and particulates, which can have serious health consequences.

Our Framework:

This five-step framework presents a start-to-finish recipe for how the current goals of building electrification can be aligned with producing healthy homes, creating high quality, local jobs that cannot be outsourced, and establishing stronger connections between everyday Californians and our climate change policies and goals.

  • Step 1: Assess the Communities’ Needs. This should include understanding barriers preventing community members from electrifying their homes, residents’ knowledge levels regarding building electrification, and their specific needs, wishes and concerns.
  • Step 2: Establish Community-Led Decision-Making. Rich community input and engagement strengthen the overall program design quality with stronger cultural competence, ensure local buy-in and investment, and deliver tangible local benefits rooted in the lived experiences of everyday people. Partner with community-based organizations to develop a decision-making process that ensures that decisions are based on community needs and priorities.
  • Step 3: Develop Metrics and a Plan for Tracking. Metrics should include both clean energy benefits like greenhouse gas reductions and community benefits such as local hires and residents’ ability to pay their energy bills without sacrificing other essential expenses.
  • Step 4: Ensure Funding and Program Leveraging. Current low-income energy programs often fail to deliver maximum benefits to all qualifying households due to short and unpredictable funding cycles, poor program design that inadequately reaches qualifying customers, or lack of coordination and integration with complementary programs.
  • Step 5: Improve Outcomes. Using the tracking and metrics plan described above, ensure that there is a continuous feedback loop to improve current and future programs’ reach and impact in ESJ communities. Consider adjustments to ensure the program reaches the people it seeks to reach and delivers the intended benefits. Together we can create the foundations needed for a just transition within the work to come on building electrification, but it will require deliberate and inclusive actions. This document can be used by anyone interested in solving problems with a fresh perspective, removing barriers to participation in the clean energy economy, and bringing communities together around shared goals.


Making Equity Real in Climate Adaptation and Community Resilience Policies and Programs: A Guidebook

California is a leader in climate policy and has modeled an unprecedented statewide effort to fight climate change. However, climate change impacts do not affect all communities in the same way. Frontline communities including low-income communities, communities of color, indigenous peoples and tribal nations, and immigrant communities suffer first and worst from climate disasters. This is due to decades of underinvestment and unjust systems that have left these communities with disproportionately high costs for energy, transportation and basic necessities, limited access to public services, high levels of poverty and pollution, and outdated and weak critical infrastructure.

Climate change exacerbates these injustices that frontline communities face, making climate adaptation and community resilience essential priorities. Strategies to tackle climate change must prioritize the most impacted and least resourced communities. California must develop programs and policies that truly center social equity in climate adaptation efforts and uplift frontline communities so that they do not simply “bounce back” to the unjust status quo after climate disasters strike but are able to “bounce forward” as healthy, resilient and sustainable communities.


To prioritize the climate adaptation and community resilience needs of frontline communities and address the historical neglect they have experienced, California must move beyond embracing equity to making it real. This requires centering community needs and building social equity into the very fabric of policies and grant programs that focus on climate adaptation and resilience. To get there, this Guidebook offers policymakers a blueprint on how to operationalize equity in policies and grant programs.


  1. Embed Equity in the Mission, Vision, & Values: Policies and grant programs should explicitly state a commitment to equity and specifically identify the vulnerable populations they seek to benefit. The effort must aim to create comprehensive climate strategies for communities that not only build the resilience of physical environments but address other health and economic injustices that climate impacts exacerbate.
  2. Build Equity into the Process: Processes should deeply engage community members so as to learn about their priorities, needs and challenges to adapting to climate impacts. The information gathered should inform the development and implementation of the policy or grant program.
  3. Ensure Equity Outcomes: The implementation of the policy or grant program must lead to equity outcomes that respond to community needs, reduce climate vulnerabilities, and increase community resilience. Outcomes can include improved public health and safety, workforce and economic development, and more.
  4. Measure & Analyze for Equity: Policies and grant programs should regularly evaluate their equity successes and challenges to improve the effort going forward.

Making Equity Real in Climate Adaptation and Community Resilience Policies and Programs:

Making Equity Real in Climate Adaptation and Community Resilience Policies and Programs – A Guidebook.  The Guidebook provides specific recommendations on how to operationalize social equity in the goals, process, implementation and analysis of policies and grant programs focused on climate adaptation. The report includes examples from existing policies and grant programs to illustrate what the recommendations look like in practice. The Guidebook is intended for policymakers who develop policies (bills, executive orders, local measures) and agencies that develop grant programs. Communities and advocates may also use this Guidebook as a tool to assess how social equity shows up in climate adaptation and resilience proposals.

Related Research from APEN:

Greenlining released this report jointly with a report from the Asian Pacific Environmental Network, “Mapping Resilience: A Blueprint for Thriving in the Face of Climate Disasters.” APEN’s work shows a path forward for identifying the people and regions most impacted by climate change. Taken together, the two reports can guide policymakers in identifying vulnerable communities and providing them the climate adaptation resources they need.

Making Equity Real in Mobility Pilots Toolkit

Equity is transforming the behaviors, institutions, and systems that disproportionately harm people of color. Equity means increasing access to power, redistributing and providing additional resources, and eliminating barriers to opportunity, in order to empower low-income communities of color to thrive and reach full potential.  Low-income people of color often face financial, technological, physical, or cultural, barriers to accessing shared mobility and transportation services (i.e. bikeshare, scooter share, Uber, carshare, etc.). When mobility projects are not implemented with equity in mind, they reinforce the inequalities baked into our systems and can often deepen those inequalities.

Increasingly, equity is becoming mainstream in mobility. Yet this could turn into an empty promise without a clear strategy and understanding of how to put equity into action to achieve that promise. Equity is not just a commitment – it is a practice. Our Environmental Equity team has compiled a set of resources and tools intended to guide government agencies, companies, and other entities in the planning, development, implementation, and evaluation of equitable mobility projects.

Greenlining’s definition of equity is specific to racial equity, given the legacy of institutionalized racism by government. Our emphasis on race is not about excluding other marginalized groups. These equity approaches are intended to also be applicable to creating equitable outcomes for other groups such as the elderly and people with disabilities. This resource outlines four key tools to help guide teams on the various ways to embed equity during each phase of the process. The following is an overview of the four different documents included in the toolkit:

  1. Overview: 4 Steps to Making Equity Real

This document is an overview of the four steps needed to operationalize equity within a pilot project based on our report, “Mobility Equity Framework: How to Make Transportation Work for People.” The following documents provide supplementary information to complete these four steps in an equitable, inclusive, and culturally appropriate way.


  1. Equity Considerations

Before developing an equitable mobility pilot project, read these “Equity Considerations” and think about whether and how your mobility pilot addresses the questions. These considerations are a starting point to operationalizing equity within a pilot project and answering them will give you a baseline for how your project centers and embeds equity. Going through these considerations will also help you identify areas in your pilot concept that are strong in equity, and areas that need improvement. Keep this list of questions and your responses for reference as you complete the four steps to developing an equitable mobility project.


  1. Community Engagement Best Practices

This document outlines best practices on for meaningfully engaging and empowering communities at all stages of project development and deployment. It provides examples of community engagement activities and lists various cultural considerations to bear in mind when conducting community engagement.


  1. Mobility Pilot Project Worksheet

Once you read the previous documents, filling out this worksheet can help kickstart a list of specific activities and tasks to develop and deploy an equitable project. As needed, reference the other documents as you fill it out.