Toward an Equitable and Just Future: NSPN’s DEI Committee Hosts Inclusive Policymaking Webinar
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed pre-existing inequities in many systems within the United States, including business and employment, education, and healthcare. In a recent policy memo published in the Journal of Science Policy & Governance (JSPG), authors Ans Irfan, Ankita Arora, Christopher Jackson, and Celina Valencia proposed that an equitable and just recovery from the pandemic will require policymaking specifically informed by diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) principles. Thanks to a recent webinar, the policy memo authors and other early-career scientists had the opportunity to envision ways to put these practices to use.
The webinar was hosted on December 2, 2020 over Zoom by NSPN’s DEI Committee. The policy memo authors summarized their publication, describing how events related to COVID-19 have provided strong support for the necessity of DEI-focused policymaking practices. Author Christopher Jackson started the presentation by operationally defining the three DEI terms: diversity (all the ways people differ), equity (fair treatment, access, opportunity, and advancement for all people), and inclusion (a variety of people having power, a voice and decision-making authority). Attendees were then given three examples of policies and programs created as a result of COVID-19 (e.g. CARES Act funding) that inadvertently resulted in an unequal distribution of resources. These examples show that well-intentioned policies that are not constructed with a specific focus on DEI principles have the potential to produce harmful outcomes for vulnerable communities.
With this in mind, the authors proposed a set of six inclusive policymaking tools: 1) Positionality Assessments, 2) Equity and Impact Assessments, 3) Mainstreaming Policymaking, 4) Community Engagement, 5) Citizen E-Consultation, and 6) Big Data. These tools should help ensure that future public policies - related to COVID-19 and beyond - are inclusive across the board and focused on actively dismantling intersecting systems of oppression.
Following the presentation, breakout rooms and a Q&A session allowed participants to brainstorm ways to use these tools in practice. Lively discussion was centered around leveraging credible evidence supporting the use of DEI principles in policymaking, building collaborative coalitions to divide and conquer the work necessary in this process, and using passive data collection methods (e.g. Big Data) to circumvent accessibility issues in community engagement efforts. “Policymaking needs to be impactful for as many people and communities as possible. The tools that Ans, Ankita, Chris, and Celina have summarized are not necessarily ‘earth-shattering’ or brand new. Rather, they are explicit strategies people can adopt as they advocate for and create new policies,” said DEI Committee Co-Chair Annabelle Lolinco. “Hopefully, as people come across this policy memo and these practices, they will find and create opportunities for more equitable and inclusive policymaking.”