The DC Initiative was formed as a result of the 2015 Roundtable Discussion on Racial Equity and the Role of Local Governments, which brought together DC government officials and staff, nonprofit organizations, academic institutions, and foundations. A collective of nonprofit organization leaders, foundation partners, and DC government leaders organized the roundtable discussion and subsequent actions, operating as an informal coalition to launch the work. Shortly after forming, the Initiative successfully pushed government officials to engage in this work with greater urgency; held training sessions for DC Councilmembers and staff, got a racial equity resolution passed, and spurred cross-administration collaborations among executive branch staff.
As the DC Initiative evolved, the organizers formed a Coordinating Committee of nonprofit leaders to drive the work and continued to focus on two core strategies: building capacity throughout DC institutions (public and private) to address racial equity; and passing legislation that would codify demonstrated practices, such as ensuring the city council would conduct racial equity impact assessments on all legislation. Through this legislative push, we gained a significant supporter base of community based organizations throughout the city who became partners in the Initiative’s advocacy.
The DC Initiative played a major role in crafting, passing and enacting the REACH Act, a potentially transformational bill that was introduced in March of 2019. When the REACH (then REAR) Act was introduced,our partners quickly analyzed the bill, developed a platform of needed changes to improve it, and mobilized approximately 100 community members to testify at the hearing in April. After the public hearing, a subgroup of DC Initiative supporters worked with Council staff to modify the bill to meet the Initiative’s platform demands. Once the REACH Act was introduced to the Committee of the Whole, the we negotiated directly with Chairman Mendelson to modify the language further, battling back against many of his proposed changes that would have harmed the integrity of the bill. Throughout the legislative process, the DC Initiative engaged and included our supporter network, sought and reached consensus among our base, and ensured that the final bill would be something the whole group could endorse. The bill passed unanimously in the fall of 2020 and was enacted immediately.
The DC Initiative is currently immersed in ensuring a successful implementation of the REACH Act, pushing the council and the Mayor’s administration to live up to the highest ideals of the legislation and providing feedback and input in multiple public discussions. We have cultivated strong collaborative relationships with the Council’s Office of Racial Equity and the Mayor’s Office of Racial Equity to support both formal and informal partnership for the act to be a success.