Addressing health equity is central to Common Ground Health’s mission. Over a decade ago, we established the African American and Latino health coalitions to focus community attention on racial disparities in health outcomes and to find collaborative solutions for eliminating those inequities. Many members of our coalitions and staff are also members of the Black Agenda Group. As a result, responding to the declaration was a natural evolution of our work on regional health.
Common Ground Health issued two endorsements of the BAG declaration: one from staff and three coalitions and a second from our Board of Directors.
The former’s response was a bottoms up effort emerging from staff desire to respond not only to the BAG declaration, but also to death of George Floyd and to the racial inequities that were emerging during the COVID epidemic. We drafted a statement, shared it first with staff for feedback and edits, and then endorsed the statement during an All Staff meeting. We then shared the statement with our Healthi Kids, African American, and Latino health coalitions and they chose to join us.
To provide the time and consideration needed for a board resolution, a special meeting was called solely to discuss racism as a public health crisis—the first time the board had called a special meeting in recent memory. The declaration was intended not only as a public statement but as a commitment by our board to prioritize anti-racist policies at Common Ground and in their respective organizations.
Common Ground is on a long journey to become an anti-racist organization through work plan initiatives, research priorities, staffing, convening, vendor relationships, and employment policies. Please see below for a breakdown:
Research priorities: Much of our data analysis is focused on racial inequities and identifying how these disparities can be prevented. We consciously seek community involvement in the creation of solutions and community voice in our qualitative data.
Staffing decisions: Common Ground staff has grown from an all-white staff more than a decade ago to a diverse organization. One third of our employees are now people of color, including our CEO, several analysists and numerous community engagement specialists. This hiring approach involved a conscious decisions to tap into our volunteer and partner network to diversify our employment pool and to recognize lived experience and community leadership.
Convening: We have redefined leadership for our collaborative tables to ensure diversity in race, geography, and gender.
Vendor relationships: Common Ground is increasingly committed to using minority and women owned businesses. The diversity of our staff helped us identify and establish relationships with new companies and freelancers. We intentionally invite minority owned firms to respond to requests for proposals and view their connection to communities of colors as a competitive advantage for many of our projects.
Employment policies: Common Ground has adopted more supportive employment practices, including flexible work from home policies, generous PTO, competitive salaries, parental leave and support for breast-feeding to create a work environment that is welcoming for all and supportive of a healthy work/life balance. We participate in the Great Place to Work survey, employee training and other initiative to improve our work culture.