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Fostering Social Equity

Social equity—a key pillar of public administration alongside economy, efficiency, and effectiveness—addresses fairness, justice, and equity within a variety of public contexts.

Social equity—a key pillar of public administration alongside economy, efficiency, and effectiveness—addresses fairness, justice, and equity within a variety of public contexts.  Although the United States has made significant progress in expanding access to opportunities to more of the nation’s citizens and residents, we continue to struggle with ensuring the equitable design and implementation of public policies and programs that reduce or eliminate disparities, discrimination, and marginalization.    Much remains to be done to address the substantial social and economic disparities in 21st Century America, such as: 

  • The nation continues to face significant racial and gender disparities in such areas as criminal justice, healthcare, education, environment, housing, social services, and transportation. 
  • A growing divide in income and wealth has left many people behind based on their race, gender, or geographic location, and many groups are marginalized or excluded from the political process. 
  • The social and economic fortunes of urban and rural areas—and the coasts and the interior of the country—began to diverge significantly in the years before and after the financial crisis. 
  • An increasing number of communities in the United States are under significant distress, facing such difficulties as declining populations, healthcare outcomes, and economic indicators. 
  • The digital divide will increase in importance with the advent of 5G and AI. 

All of these disparities not only harm the individuals and families who directly experience them, but also impose substantial and increasing costs on the overall economy and society.   

Public agencies and administrators have a critical role to play in addressing this Grand Challenge.  They must work in partnership with elected officials to address social equity issues by bringing problems to the attention of policymakers, making recommendations on the basis of their deep expertise and extensive citizen engagement, and exercising lawful discretion to promote and ensure social equity within agencies and programs.  Moving forward, public administrators and policymakers should develop a broader understanding of the elements and implications of social equity.  For example, social equity includes not just equitable access to programs and services but the unhindered ability to engage in the political process.  It also means equitable educational and economic opportunities.  Ultimately, it is important to use a social equity lens to examine nearly all policies and practices, and there are major social equity dimensions of each of the other Grand Challenges in Public Administration that should be addressed moving forward. 

As part of the Grand Challenge to “Foster Social Equity,” the Academy will work with stakeholders to determine how to:

  • Incentivize tangible results by exploring, identifying, and disseminating social equity frameworks and metrics;
  • Build awareness of social equity issues and indicators to foster organizational cultures that value and reward social equity;
  • Develop frameworks to proactively assess and improve the social equity dimensions of public policy, program design, and organizational implementation;
  • Provide practical advice on how public administrators can lawfully promote social equity within their agencies and programs;
  • Educate and motivate administrators and policymakers to include a social equity lens in public management and throughout their careers;
  • Address specific social equity issues, including affordable housing, criminal justice, education, and access to technology; and
  • Ensure that social equity is considered in actions to address each of the other Grand Challenges in Public Administration. 

This is an illustrative list of topics.  As the Grand Challenges campaign kicks off and progresses, other issues can and will be addressed based on stakeholder feedback about critical needs and opportunities.



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GrandChallenges@napawash.org

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