King County’s Journey in Institutionalizing Equity and Social Justice

Source: Matías Valenzuela, Public Administration Review, Volume 77, Issue 6, November/December 2017
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….What happens when local government decides that a top priority is addressing issues of racial justice, equity, and opportunity—especially when progress is stalled at the national level? The story of King County, Washington, offers one illustration.

King County provides local and regional services to more than two million people across 39 cities and unincorporated areas in transportation, criminal justice, public health and human services, natural resources, and more.

Building on Isett, Head, and VanLandingham’s (2016) work on how evidence can better inform public administration, this article considers evidence in several important ways. King County’s approach to equity and social justice has been driven by both data and values. Almost a decade of experience within King County—as well as other jurisdictions around the country with equity initiatives1—has made addressing equity and racial justice increasingly a discipline based on evidence and promising practices.

In addition, this article lays out the evidence for why governments should focus on equity and social justice. King County’s theory of change—backed by the evidence of working “upstream” and addressing root causes—provides a how that is more effective than many traditional government approaches and interventions that focus “downstream” at the individual level…..