This type of open communication with government is 100% effective and respected by residents within the community. Great summit, truly appreciated.
— Summit Participant
On a Saturday in June, most people might be sleeping late, starting chores, or heading out to run errands. In West Palm Beach, Florida, 379 people chose instead to come together to build racial equity. They included parents, local small businesses owners, Spanish and Creole speakers, and African American seniors who’d lived in the area for decades. Many other local stakeholders attended, too, like urban gardeners and teens.
Facilitators at the Action Summit.
The Action Summit of the Mayor’s Taskforce for Racial and Ethnic Equality was held via Zoom, with six additional in-person satellite locations across the city. As a consultant to the City of West Palm Beach, Justice & Sustainability Associates organized, produced, and facilitated this convening. It took place on Saturday, June 12, 2021.
About the Task Force
The mission of the Mayor’s Task Force for Racial and Ethnic Equality is to identify and help address issues of racial and ethnic equity. It has three primary goals:
- educating the public about racial and ethnic inequities;
- research of best practices; and
- issuing policy and funding recommendations for the City of West Palm Beach.
The Task Force also has five subcommittees (working groups), each of which focuses on a different policy area:
- criminal justice;
- education and workforce development;
- finance, banking, and business;
- health; and
- real estate and housing.
Goals of the Action Summit
A primary goal of the Summit was to integrate the voice of community members into the development of Task Force recommendations. Task Force subcommittees also wanted to ensure that they are heading in the right direction with their draft priorities. These priorities were identified based on citizen suggestions shared at the first Action Summit, held in December of 2020.
Task Force members also wanted the Action Summit to:
- create an accessible, transparent and inclusive space for learning and sharing knowledge;
- increase knowledge about the Task Force, policy areas, stakeholder impacts, and root causes of present-day racial disparities;
- build trust and participation in the civic engagement process;
- facilitate connections across race, socioeconomics, sector, and primary interest area; and
- foster interest in ongoing engagement with the work of the Task Force and its subcommittees.
In multiple small breakout sessions – held in Zoom and at satellite locations – participants shared their ideas, opinions and suggestions regarding each policy area and the priority ideas of each subcommittee.
They then had an opportunity to vote on the breakout themes they considered most critical to the Task Force’s work.
The event also included presentations by each subcommittee and a brief segment on historical root causes linked to present day racial and ethnic disparities.
“Participants Felt Included”: Summit Outcomes
According to Maricela Torres, “Summit participants at the Esperanza Community Center shared feedback that truly touched my heart and made all the work we put into the summit worth it.” Torres is executive director of the Esperanza Community Center, where locals could participate in all-Spanish breakout sessions. She added:
Participants felt included, like their opinion and feedback mattered. Almost every single person attending the summit had never participated in anything similar. It was gratifying to see how each one participated and shared their personal experience on the various topics with the group.
By the end of the summit:
- 87% of participants said that the Summit had increased their trust that that their voice and contributions matter to the City of West Palm Beach.
- 95% said it was well organized.
- 89% felt it had offered enough good quality, relevant information, instructions and answers at the right level of detail and in a useful format.
In the evaluation form and in the Zoom chat, other participants also wrote enthusiastic comments about the event. Many felt inspired and motivated to stay involved and nurture connections with others they had met during the Summit.
One long-time resident wrote:
Kudos to Mayor James and the Task Force. These topics are a clear indication that the right conversations are being had during your collaborative meetings. As a native of West Palm Beach I appreciate these type of forums and look forward to doing my part to support the development of my city.
JSA looks forward to continuing to design and facilitate hybrid in-person/virtual events that help build more beloved communities.