Civic and public institutions that structure social and economic opportunities in this nation are failing low income and disadvantaged communities of color disproportionately. The Jane Addams Hull House Association Center for Civil Society (CCS) employs an ongoing systemic examination of inequality to interrogate the value assumptions behind public policies that negatively impact low-income communities of color with the goal of reducing structural barriers in the lives of individuals, families and communities. CCS now proposes the Closing the Gap Project, an effort to create a community based racial equity agenda. The project uses community engagement and resource building to remediate problems for young men and women of color as they navigate their way through childhood, adolescence and move into adulthood. By focusing on seven opportunity shaping systems (income, employment and wealth; education; housing; transportation; health; criminal justice and family supports) the project uses a racial equity lens to examine these systems and structures to develop feasible strategies that strengthen the opportunity grid in the lives of these young people and their families.
Specifically, the project will convene Community Accountability Councils of policymakers and policy influencers, agency executives, community leaders, youth leaders and others to examine racial disparity data in each system, analyze the related public and social policies, review current reform efforts in these systems, recommend structural change efforts and work in alliance with others to make those changes; engage members of other community change and reform efforts to educate them on and help them implement a racial equity lens; and provide ongoing public education about structural racial inequity.
Ultimately, using the structural racism framework, the Closing the Gap Project re-imagines, re-frames and re-directs public policies and practices so that they are no longer impediments in the lives of youth of color and their families.