March 22, 2016

How Do You Imagine Equity?

As philanthropy has begun to shift the conversation from equality towards equity, we've seen (and experienced at Meyer) the challenges of accurately conveying the complex goals of equity in a way that is simple and easily understandable.

Equality is focused on giving all people the same things. By providing the same input, equality expects similar outputs. While equality can work well in binary situations, the concept has proven to be unsuccessful in more complex settings.

Take Meyer’s office plants, for example. All of our plants receive the same amount of sunlight, water and attention. But most remain stagnant and a couple have actually begun to wilt. When I think about botanical diversity, these outcomes are more than just plausible, they’re expected. The solution to our wilting problem isn’t new plants, its plant equity.

Which seems pretty simple right? You don’t give a diverse group of plants the same thing, you give each plant the proper care and resources it needs in order to reach its full potential. If we treated our plants equitably, they’d all have the chance to thrive.

People are more complicated than plants. To reach their full potential, people need systemic barriers that stand in their way to be removed.

Even in the foundation world, where people like myself are actively engaged in equity work, it can be a difficult concept to articulate. Graphics like this commonly shared one have been immensely helpful at moving the conversation forward, by providing an image that can be easily interpreted by a broad audience.

In this recent blog post on LinkedIn, Aasha M. Abdill does a marvelous job of addressing that baseball game graphic, and its insidious, implicit bias. Her critique is one reason we sponsored Equity Illustrated, to help develop a better visual tool to help lead us to greater clarity and consensus around equity and how it differs from equality. Often, the simplest images can help convey the most complex idea.

Just last year this simple animated video, inspired by this article, compared sexual consent with drinking tea. As complex as consent can be, after watching the short video, consent becomes as straightforward as drinking a cup of tea.

We’re hoping for similar results illustrating equity so that all Oregonians can understand this critical concept. 

So, can you help us illustrate why equity is just as simple as tea? Ten days remain in our contest. Pick your medium and grab your supplies and enter by midnight, Thursday, March 31st.