We are working to ensure that our commitment to accelerating progress on issues of racial equity and inclusion at the systems level is reflected in all of our work. To do this, we have adopted new value and culture norms and are working to take action to operationalize racial equity in everything we do. See more from Racial Equity and Inclusion 

Values and Culture Norms

We are an organization that is working to close the racial income and wealth gaps in America’s cities. Racism is at the root of so many of the problems we are trying to solve, so addressing racism must be squarely at the center of how we work. In this, one of our greatest assets is our diverse staff who are committed to learning about and working towards undoing structural racism in America’s cities. We cannot address racial inequality in America unless our staff reflects the diversity of America. Yet, we know that diversity is not, in and of itself, sufficient. We rely on each other to hold the organization accountable to moving the needle on racial equity and inclusion, including through living the following culture norms. We hold these values and norms as an aspiration for who we want to be, aware that we are not there yet, and that getting there will require daily commitment, nurturing, and practice from us all:

Work to Understand History and Ongoing Legacy of Racism

We are a country founded on the genocide of one people and the enslavement of another. We have yet to reconcile the impact of this inheritance on us all. The experiment of America is over two centuries old. Throughout our history, systems were designed that isolate and separate us, and that empower a select few—based on the invention of race—with the privilege of innovation, creativity, and power. These systems made it so that misunderstanding, fear, and ultimately hate, are in our groundwater. They have made it so that race and poverty are solidly intertwined. Racism and inequity are products of design. They can be redesigned. As we work to close the income and wealth gaps, we honestly and openly reckon with this history and its implications on the current context. We know that this is ongoing work and requires consistent effort and a striving for learning and for unearthing deeper truths, even if they are difficult truths.

Interrogate Our Own Biases

We acknowledge that we all carry with us embedded biases that heavily influence our decision-making, even without our conscious knowledge. These biases can render us unwilling or unable to solve problems of racial inequity. In order to challenge structural racism as an institution, both internally and externally, we must be committed to and equipped to change our own individual beliefs and patterns of behavior. We work to enhance our awareness of our own racial bias by listening to others, rejecting the notion that we are objective while others are not, reflecting on our roles and interactions, and imagining ourselves in others’ shoes. As we work through complexity, we remember that a truth is not the truth. And, we support our colleagues, with kindness, in doing the same through feedback.

Extend Mutual Acknowledgement and Respect; Challenge Damaging Power Norms

We work to earn the respect of our colleagues by acknowledging the fullness of their humanity, from their professional accomplishments to their lived experiences. In our engagements with each other, we aim not only to point out blind spots but also to celebrate strengths. We ask each other to trust our good intent, and we are willing to acknowledge the impact of our words and actions on others. We are intentional about using our voices to name and address blind spots, inequities, and opportunities, and about making space for others’ voices. We are committed to challenging damaging power norms, including those associated with white institutional culture. On this, we are open to critique, responding with humility, curiosity, and grief, rather than blame, shame, and guilt. We expect and ask our colleagues to do the same for us.

Be Open to Vulnerability and Risk

We are willing to put our own power and social capital on the line to learn together about racial equity, to hold the organization (ourselves, collectively) accountable, and to take action to close the racial wealth and income gaps. We are also willing to show vulnerability, admitting when we are wrong and striving, always, to do better.

Commitment to Operationalizing Racial Equity/Taking Action

We know that values and culture are vital for organizations working for racial equity, but we are also committed to operationalizing racial equity and to taking action. At Living Cities this means focusing on the following elements, among others. On these, we are by no means perfect, but we are working to make progress every day:


We must work to ensure that our hiring, orientation, compensation, benefits, training, evaluation, and promotion policies and practices are designed with racial equity in mind, and that they are applied consistently and fairly.

Brand and Messaging

We must work to ensure that our commitment to diversity and racial equity and inclusion is reflected in who speaks for Living Cities and what they are saying.

Training and Competency Building

We must recognize that working on racial equity and inclusion is a competency that is necessary for all staff to build in order to be successful at Living Cities and to do work that improves the lives of low-income people. We also recognize that while some staff might have higher levels of skill in this area, everyone has room to grow and learn. Towards supporting all staff in building that competency, we must provide training and resources at all levels. We also acknowledge the psychological toll that this work can take on staff and seek to create psychological safety for all.

Racial Equity in Outcomes and Performance Measures

We must ensure that racial equity and inclusion is named in expressions of our organizational outcomes, team performance measures, and individual staff objectives so that we can hold ourselves accountable to this value and to our mission in a rigorous way.

Racial Equity and Inclusion Tool for Decision-Making

We must adapt and/or adopt a racial equity and inclusion decision-making tool and provide guidance to staff so that it is consistently used across the organization in making decisions about everything from staffing to budgeting to making tradeoffs to taking on new work.

Disaggregated Data

We must ensure that we, and all of our applied research partners, are disaggregating data by race and ethnicity, and that future decisions, including the deployment of resources, reflect what the data tells us.

Challenging White Institutional Culture and Inequitable Power Dynamics

We must adopt ground rules and practices that enable us to productively challenge white institutional culture and inequitable, racialized, power dynamics within Living Cities, including through engaging in respectful debate and being willing to be uncomfortable.

New Member Compact/Spread and Adopt

As part of the new member compact and our Spread and Adopt work, we must push members and the broader field to adopt/adapt this value and culture norms, to take calculated risks on racial equity and inclusion, and to make more investments in racial equity and inclusion.

If you have any questions or want to share your story on your racial equity journey, please email racialequity@livingcities.org