Smart City PDX tests new model for engaging community leaders, equity experts

Smart City PDX wants to engage community leaders and equity experts in our program development and ongoing operation. Community leadership and equity expertise can come from a variety of lived experience. Creating an Equity Consulting Advisor group is one innovative way to support and learn from that expertise. 

Why create an Equity Consulting Advisor Group?

Smart City PDX saw a “missing middle” when it comes to gathering knowledge and expertise from communities. Community expertise can come from conventional community outreach. This type of outreach is often unpaid. It also may primarily use information-sharing and minimal two-way conversations. We fully appreciate that community engagement fatigue can occur from community outreach. Engagement fatigue is a complex issue with many symptoms and causes. Limited resources to support participation, particularly for low-income communities, is one factor. 

On the other end of the spectrum, equity expertise comes from formal City consulting contracts. Consultants are traditionally respected as ‘experts’. These paid contracts come with burdensome requirements such as registration and certification. They also often involve lengthy request for proposal responses. 

The Equity Consulting Advisor group is a response to try to work with that missing middle. We want to provide compensation for expertise gained from a variety of experiences. This expertise is then applied to a scope of work. In our Request for Qualifications (RFQ), equity expertise could come from any combination of:

  • lived experiences.

  • leadership roles.

  • experience in and with communities.

  • volunteer activities.

  • work history.

The RFQ process

Over 70 amazing candidates responded to our Equity Consulting Advisors RFQ. People shared an impressive range of experiences and perspectives rooted in equity. 

The Equity Consulting Advisors RFQ approach is a new, evolving practice for Smart City PDX. We want to learn if this practice can improve our ability to tap into and support community expertise. This approach is the result of a collaboration with Jeremy Hays and Desiree Williams-Rajee of Kapwa Consulting. Both work as experienced strategic equity consultants and facilitators. 

Our review committee had five members. Two from the Smart City PDX team, Christine Kendrick and Hector Dominguez. Three from our collaboration consulting team, Jeremy Hays, Minna Toloui, and Desiree Williams-Rajee. We reviewed all materials submitted for the minimum and additional desired qualifications. Assessing the desired qualifications included looking for complementary skills across the group.

Selecting finalists from an impressive and competitive pool of over 70 candidates was not easy.  The team looked for a range of experiences and skill levels. We are looking to create capacity and build experience for participants in this new approach.

To learn about the three Equity Consulting Advisors Smart City PDX selected to join the team, read our introduction and their biographical statements.