Inequities are experienced by people’s multiple and overlapping identities and social locations, which together can produce a unique and distinct experience.
The letters 2SLGBTQ refers to people who idenfity as part of the two-spirited, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer communities . 2S is placed at the beginning of the acronym in order to signal the centering of Indigenous voices as the first peoples of this land, to honour the Indigenous land we live on, and to acknowledge the long history of gender and sexual diversity on Turtle Island.Toronto is also home to a large and vibrant two-spirited Indigenous community composed of a variety of sexual orientations including gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgendered people .Studies have consistently highlighted that Two-Spirit and LGBTQ people continue to face health disparities when compared to people who identify as cisgender and heterosexual . These letters do not capture the diversity and variations of identity under this umbrella term such as pansexual, gender-free and intersex identities among many others. These differing communities and identities are often linked by a shared experience of homophobia, transphobia, heteronormativity and cisnormativity.
Gender refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviours, expressions and identities of girls, women, boys, men, and gender diverse people. It influences how people perceive themselves and each other, how they act and interact, and the distribution of power and resources in society. Gender is usually conceptualized as a binary (girl/woman and boy/man) yet there is considerable diversity in how individuals and groups understand, experience, and express it. In turn, many people prefer to identify as genderfluid, gender non-conforming, genderqueer and trans among many others . Disparities in well-being based on gender persist despite changing understandings of the socialized nature of gender .
Lanuage identity is informed by region, social class, historical contexts, relationships, and other factors. Accents, dialects, slang, jargon, appropriateness and 'correctness' all signal lanauge identity . Toronto is home to a large and diverse population speaking more than 200 different languages, and a significant number of Torontonians speak neither official language (English or French). In Toronto, residents who do not speak English experience significant barriers to participating in community and civic life, accessing public and community services, finding employment, and achieving a decent standard of living .
The process of the social construction of race is called "racialization" . Racialization is socially constructed because it has been created from an idea of difference in relation to Whiteness that has resulted in the unequal distribution of power and privilege. "Racialized" is the term used to refer to groups and members who may receive or experience different treatment or the denial of rights or privileges by individuals and institutions because of their race through the process of racialization. In the present context, racialized groups include those who may experience differential treatment on the basis of race, ethnicity, language, economics, religion, culture, and other factors . Racial discriminiation is a social determinant of health and racism creates barriers to accessing quality health services, education, and information for racialized people . Data analysis that highlights the ways racism and marginalization affect racialized communities is critical to the development of anti-racist and equitable policy, programs, and services .
Religion includes the practices, beliefs and observances that are part of a faith or religion . Religion can be a central part of one’s identity. Belonging to a religion can mean more than sharing its beliefs and participating in its rituals; it also means being part of a community and, sometimes, a culture. Religions are incredibly diverse in terms of how members define their connections to it . Under the Ontario Human Rights Code, discrimination because of religion (creed) is against the law. Everyone should have access to the same opportunities and benefits, and be treated with equal dignity and respect, regardless of their religion .
Undocumented persons, or irregular migrants, live or work in Canada but lack official permission or documents for entry, residence, or work . Being undocumented is not a permanent condition, it can be a fluid status of precarious migration. An undocumented person may have a legal and valid document from the national government of another country. Other terms that are used are: Non-status, without status or without full status. Undocumented persons face barriers that may challenge their ability to access services . It is extremely difficult to determine how many people live in Canada without immigration status. Estimates suggest that there may be between 20,000 and 500,000 undocumented people living in Canada. It is estimated that 50 % of undocumented persons living in Canada reside in Toronto .
Homelessness describes the situation of an individual, family or community without stable, safe, permanent, appropriate housing, or the immediate prospect, means and ability of acquiring it . Homeless populations are incredibly diverse and homelessness is experienced differently by different groups. Some groups are more likely to experience homelessness as a result of systemic or societal barriers. For instance, in Toronto, racialized groups are overrepresented in the homeless population . These differences are important when considering methods of addressing homelessness, as one strategy does not apply for every community . Likewise, the above defintion of homelessness does not adequately capture the multi-dimensional nature of Indigenous homelessness. Indigenous homelessness is not defined as lacking a structure of habitation; rather, it is more fully described and understood through a lens of Indigenous worldviews. These include: individuals, families and communities isolated from their relationships to land, water, place, family, kin, each other, animals, cultures, languages and identities .
Black communities in Toronto include diverse people with unique experiences who self-identify as Black and/or of African heritage . Anti-Black racism still exists in Toronto, affecting the lives of more than 200,000 Black people who call Toronto home. Anti-Black racism is policies and practices embedded in Canadian institutions that reflect and reinforce beliefs, attitudes, prejudice, stereotyping and/or discrimination that is directed at people of African descent and is rooted in their unique history and experience of enslavement and colonization here in Canada. It is experienced as a lack of opportunity, poor health and mental health outcomes, poor education outcomes, lower socio-economic status, precarious employment, higher unemployment, significant poverty rates, and overrepresentation in the criminal justice, mental health, and child welfare systems. Universal equity initiatives often fail to effectively serve Black Torontonians, leading to disparities and disproportionately negative outcomes. Targeted equity measures for Torontonians of African descent help to ensure access to the full benefits of living in Toronto .
French-speaking, or Francophone, communities are a diverse group representing more than just language. In Toronto, French-language people are part of an official language minority community . Francophones make up 4.7% of the Ontario population and Toronto is home to 10% of Ontario's Francophone population. Almost 45% of Francophone newcomers arrive from Africa, the Caribbean and the Middle East compared to 37%; more than half of the Francophone youth in Toronto identified as visible minorities .
Francophone communities have unique rights and needs related to maintaining their language and culture. These factors are related to accessing culturally-appropriate services, which impact the well-being of Francophone communities. The French Language Services Act ensures that provincial government services are offered in French in designated areas across the province with significant numbers of Franco-Ontarian residents, including Toronto. The reasons for the legislation is that French language is considered an historic and honoured language in Ontario, French is an official language in Canada, and the Act recognizes the contribution of the cultural heritage of the French speaking population and wishes to preserve it for future generations .
Culture is about ways of knowing. It encompasses broad ideas of similarity and difference and it is reflected in multiple social identities and ways of being in the world. Culture has been described as patterns of ideas, customs and behaviours shared by groups of people - but goes much deeper than typical understandings of ethnicity, race and/or faith . Everyone is influenced by their respective cultures and many systems have been shaped by beliefs of dominant cultures . Cultural responsiveness – careful acknowledgement, respect and an understanding of difference and its complexities – is part of achieving equitable outcomes and supporting child and family wellbeing .
In Toronto, one in four children and one in five adults live in poverty . Poverty can be associated with income but also has complex structural and systemic roots and wide-ranging consequences on child development, health, education, and other outcomes . Poverty in Toronto is gendered, racialized, and geographically concentrated. Child poverty affects families in every single part of Toronto, but the highest rates of child poverty are among Indigenous, racialized, and newcomer families . The impacts of poverty are seen across a spectrum including food insecurity, employment precarity, poor health outcomes, and housing instability. Poverty occurs on a wide scale across race, gender, ability, citizenship status and space .
Toronto is home to the largest number of recent immigrants of any Canadian city. In 2016, Toronto was home to 17.5% of all recent immigrants to Canada, while Toronto comprises 7.8% of the country's population. Newcomer is an umbrella term to describe people who are settling in a new place. Statistics Canada defines newcomers as immigrants who arrived in Canada within the last five years. Some definitions use a timeframe of ten years (Statistics Canada – 2011 National Household Survey . It represents a diversity of experiences for immigrants, refugees, permanent and temporary residents, and persons with precarious migration status. Settlement experiences are varied and complex, in part because newcomers to Canada represent many different social groups and identities . Circumstances of departure and arrival, knowledge of official language, length of time in Canada, availability of and access to appropriate services, readiness of community to welcome immigrants, and other important factors influence settlement for newcomers . Each family is unique and experiences settlement differently. Certain trends, however, affect a significant portion of families. For example, newcomer immigrant families are vulnerable to experiencing poverty, being in core housing need, and experiencing unemployment .
Defining disability is complex and evolving. The term "disability" covers a broad range and degree of conditions, some visible and some not visible. Disability is a social issues and not a collection of individual medical experiences. This social issue represents a disconnect between an individual living with a disabiliy and a world that is not designed to include people living with disabilies . It is estimated that 13% of Toronto residents (15 years and over) are living with some form of disability . People living with disabilities are more likely to live below the poverty line, a significant proportion of people experienceing homelessness in Canada also live with disabilities, and national unemployment rates of people with disabilities are high. Diverse people with disabilities can experience significant gaps resulting in on-going exclusions .
The term "Indigenous" refers to First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples. Indigenous peoples hold unique rights and history in Canada . Indigenous identity is a determinant of well-being and the well-being of Indigenous peoples can only be understood in the context of the complex legacy of colonialism. This legacy is an ongoing process characterized by unequal power relations, and the extension of political, economic, and social control over Indigenous lands and lives. Working to advance the well-being of Indigenous children and families in Toronto requires strong, reciprocal partnerships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. These partnerships are based in the inherent rights of Indigenous peoples and the historic nation-to-nation relationship that continues to guide us in living together on the territory where Toronto now sits . Despite over-all improvements in education and employment levels for urban Indigenous people in Toronto, a significant number of community members continue to experience poverty and the related challenges of inadequate housing, lack of secure access to food, and negative health outcomes often at rates that are much higher than the general population .
Mental health is more than the absence of a mental health condition: it is a positive sense of well-being, or the capacity to enjoy life and deal with challenges . Mental health impacts everyone. For example, people living with a mental health condition can experience positive mental health and it is possible to experience poor mental health without a mental health condition. Mental health is fluid. It is influenced by a range of factors, including life experiences and social and economic conditions.People often experience both mental health challenges and additional inequities simultaneously. These intersections create experiences of inequity and mental health that require multiple responses across many systems .
Where people live, work, and play has an important influence on health and well-being. Toronto is a deeply divided city in terms of the living conditions, socioeconomic differences, and opportunities for children and families across different parts of the city . There is increasing geographic segregation between groups along ethno-cultural, racial, and income lines . Communities are complex and multi-dimensional. Many neighbourhoods with very high inequities also have resilient or protective factors, and many families in those communities may still experience good outcomes. The Child & Family Inequities Score is a tool to help explain the variation in socio-economic status across the City of Toronto neighbourhoods .
Inequities are experienced by people's multiple and overlapping identities and social locations, which together can produce a unique and distinct experience. We might identify with more than one group. Legal scholar and critical race theorist Kimberle Crenshaw is credited with originating the term intersectionality. Intersections of identities can affect experiences and outcomes - people’s lived realities are shaped by many different facotors, making them multi-dimensional and complex.
The Equity Framework aims to support planning, policies, and strategies that reduce inequities and improve child and family well-being through actions at multiple levels.
Individuals need to be supported to develop competencies related to equity. These can include learning about the root causes of inequities, understanding power, colonial systems, and the conditions that produce inequities. Skill building around leadership for social inclusion, practices of representation, recognizing the impact of their own social position and privilege, and analysing proposed actions for their potential to reduce inequities are also important individual competencies.
Programs and services are spaces where action can be taken to implement equity strategies through programming, policies, practices, activities, and new initiatives. A deliberate focus on equity in strategic and program planning, changes to service delivery, dedicated allocation of resources, and capacity strengthening can contribute to equitable outcomes.
Communities have a vital role in identifying inequities, taking action on strategies to reduce inequities, and promoting equitable and innovative practices. It is essential to partner in an inclusive and authentic way with communities and those with lived/living experience. Community development approaches and working with communities to mobilize strategies is an essential part of taking action.
Systematic and aligned application of equity principles is needed across systems that influence child and family well-being. Structural change that prioritizes equity and development of cross-sectoral policies to create the conditions for well-being are examples of system level action.
This is a continuous and iterative process of reflection and reality checking to ensure equitable impact and sustainability through ongoing ownership and involvement.
Planning and decision making needs to include the expertise, wisdom, and experiences of rights holders, stakeholders, communities, and partners. Engaging groups, gathering data, and applying research with the intention to listen to and learn from their stories is a fundamental practice.
In order to meet the needs and expectations of families, especially in times of change, responsiveness is needed in individual reflections and outcomes at the program, service, and systems levels. Action that is responsive to learnings from relationships, evaluation, and engagement is crucial to supporting equitable outcomes.
Taking collaborative, aligned, and sustainable action that is responsive to relationships and learnings is essential to move forward on equity goals. Taking action needs to occur in the context of being responsive, listening and learning, and building relationships.
Working together to develop and maintain trusting and reciprocal relationships is key to supporting child & family well-being. Understanding and building resilient relationships at all levels is an ongoing part of the work to advance equity.
Change is a multi-layered and dynamic process of capacity building that evolves as new understanding emerges. These strategies are non-linear.
Lived/living experience refers to personal knowledge gained through direct, first-hand involvement in everyday events of life. Individuals with lived/living experience bring first-hand knowledge since they have lived or are still living certain experiences. People with lived/living experience can have a deeper understanding of systemic barriers, problems faced, and what needs to be done to address them. This makes their involvement in decision-making processes necessary for systemic change.
Working alongside communities with lived experience can help:
Sandhu, B. (2017). The Value of Lived Experience in Social Change: The Need for Leadership and Organisational Development in the Social Sector. Retrieved from: https://issuu.com/thelivedexperiencereport/docs/the_lived_experience_-_baljeet_sand/6
Soh, B. L. (n.d.). Six ideas on designing advisory councils for the participation of experts with lived/living experience. Retrieved from: https://maytree.com/stories/six-ideas-on-designing-advisory-councils-for-the-participation-of-experts-with-lived-living-experience/
Lived Experience Advisory Council. (2016). Nothing about us without us: Seven principles for leadership and inclusion of people with lived experience of homelessness. Toronto: The Homeless Hub Press. https://www.homelesshub.ca/sites/default/files/LEAC-7principles-final.pdf
The website is an open access platform to share learning, ideas and pioneering work happening across the social change space. It contains a report detailing the need for lived experience among leadership working towards social change. https://thelivedexperience.org/
Racial Equity Tools is designed to support individuals and groups working to achieve racial equity. https://www.racialequitytools.org/home
How do you know what you know? Where do you get your knowledge from? There are many different ways to understand and engage with the world around us. However, dominant knowledge systems in Western societies tend to value knowledge grounded in data, scientific analysis, logic, and theory. There are many knowledge systems which enhance meaning, help to appreciate complexity, and open up opportunities for change. Indigenous knowledge systems vary from one another and include a complex set of technologies developed and sustained by Indigenous peoples. These forms of knowledge are holistic, contextual, and relational and have been embedded in community practices, rituals, and relationships. There are some instances where knowledge systems overlap. Seeking out and holding space for multiple ways of knowing is important because privileging one knowledge system over others upholds dominant structures and can perpetuate systemic barriers.
Perry, E. S., & Duncan, A. C. (2017, June 2). Multiple Ways of Knowing: Expanding How We Know. Retrieved from https://nonprofitquarterly.org/2017/04/27/multiple-ways-knowing-expanding-know/
Battiste, M. (2002). Indigenous knowledge and pedagogy in First Nations education: A literature review with recommendations (pp. 1-69). Ottawa: National Working Group on Education. Retrieved fromhttps://www.afn.ca/uploads/files/education/24._2002_oct_marie_battiste_indigenousknowledgeandpedagogy_lit_review_for_min_working_group.pdf
Madjidi, K., & Restoule, J. P. (2008). Comparative indigenous ways of knowing and learning. Comparative and international education: Issues for teachers, 77-106. Retrieved from https://www.scribd.com/document/338903018/Madjidi-Comparative-Indigenous-Ways-p-1-16
University of Toronto: Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. (n.d.). Indigenous Ways of Knowing E-Learning Course.
This module is one in a set of learning modules created to support and inspire educators and future teachers to gain a deeper understanding of Indigenous perspectives and an appreciation of how Indigenous knowledge and worldviews can assist all learners in their educational journey. The modules include suggested activities for further application of the concepts. Everything is free and open source. Created by Jean-Paul Restoule (Anishinaabe) a member of the Dokis First Nation. He is an associate professor of Aboriginal Education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto.
When beginning to understand community needs, it's important to step back and question who is identifying the need and how the need is being identified. The perspective from which a needs assessment is done has deep implications for the work.
Community-based needs assessments should consider assets and accurately reflect multiple perspectives from that community and what they see as most important. A thorough needs assessment also considers the history of change in a community, including who was engaged in the past, and an understanding of the impact of previous work to identify needs.
The Community Tool Box is a free, online resource for those working to build healthier communities and bring about social change. It offers thousands of pages of tips and tools for taking action in communities. It is developed and managed by the KU (University of Kansas) Center for Community Health and Development
The Needs Assessment Resource Guide is a product of the Quality Improvement and Innovation Partnership and its Working Group on Evaluation, Measurement and Needs Assessment -
Comprehensive Needs Assessment: Materials adapted from “Planning and Conducting Needs Assessments: A Practical Guide” (1995) -
A Community Needs Assessment Guide A Brief Guide on How to Conduct a Needs Assessment -
Racial Equity Tools – Tip sheets: How can we Assess Our Community, and What are the Initial Steps and Considerations for Doing Racial Equity Work? Retrieved from
Allyship is an ongoing process of building relationships based on trust, consistency, and accountability with individuals and/or groups of people. It includes practicing acts of support and solidarity with marginalized groups, whether or not you personally belong to or identify with the group. Allyship is recognized by the people we seek to ally ourselves with, it is not self-defined.
Peer Net BC/The Anti-Oppression Network. 2016. Allyship. Retrieved from:
LGBTQ2S Toolkit: Being an Ally. This resource approaches allyship from the perspective of a role in intervening against homophobic or transphobic discrimination
Mount Sinai Hospital: “Are You an Ally?” campaign -
Inclusive outreach is about connecting with and potentially building relationships with specific individuals and/or groups in order to share information, engage with, raise awareness, or provide a service.
Inclusive outreach includes transparent and ongoing activities that have the potential to build strong, meaningful, and sustainable relationships and partnerships. This outreach takes time, consistent follow-up, and thoughtful planning. Outreach may be broad, by using multiple communication tools, or targeted in order to reach groups that tend not to participate.
With inclusive outreach, the goal is not just about engaging representatives from different groups but supporting a process in which multiple perspectives are voiced, decision-making is collective, and different opinions and worldviews are respected. Being inclusive in outreach also requires making sure different truths are shared in findings, in ways that can influence next steps.
Inclusive Outreach And Public Engagement Guide prepared by Race and Social Justice Initiative (RSJI), The City of Seattle. This is intended to be a practical guide and resource for public servants.
Warren, M. R., Hong, S., Rubin, C.L. & Uy, P.S. Beyond the Bake Sale: A Community-Based, Relational Approach to Parent Engagement in Schools. Teachers College Record. 2009;111 (9) :2209-2254.
City of Ottawa and City for All Women Initiative. 2015. Equity and Inclusion Lens Handbook. Ottawa, ON: CAWI.
McMaster University's Planning for Accessibility A Checklist for Inclusion is a reference document to help identify, remove and prevent barriers that may prevent persons from diverse backgrounds from fully participating in the planned activities.
Cultural Competence Continuum Table in the Inclusive Outreach And Public Engagement Guide (page 6-7)
Civic or Community Engagement section on Racial Equity Tools' website.
Core Principles for Public Engagement from Resource Guide on Public Engagement
Alberta Urban Municipalities Association. 2014. Welcoming and Inclusive Communities Toolkit: Templates and Tools for Alberta’s Municipalities. Edmonton, AB: AUMA
Racial Equity Tools – Tip sheets: How can we Assess Our Community, and What are the Initial Steps and Considerations for Doing Racial Equity Work? Retrieved from
Ongoing, transparent communications support mutual accountability and are important for maintaining relationships and sharing power and responsibility among stakeholders. These communications should be clear, honest, and well-understood by all stakeholders. This includes providing regular updates through multiple methods on a consistent basis.
Conflict resolution, or transformation, refers to finding a solution in situations of tension or conflict. It focuses on improving communication, addressing misconceptions, building relationships, and finding common ground among individuals and groups. Conflict is part of change and its resolution is an opportunity to strengthen the capacity of a group or organization. It does not always represent issues between individuals, but is related to larger systems, imbalances of power, and access to resources between groups.
Conflict in Nonprofits is Hard, and We Need to Get Better at It
Community Toolbox: Chapter 20 - Section 6 - Training for Conflict Resolution provides information and questions for individual conflict resolution strategies.
Conflict Resolution Statement from the Anti-Oppression Network -
What is your conflict really about? The “Conflict Iceberg” Tool. COCo (the Centre for Community Organizations):
Tools for conflict prevention and resolution in community groups. COCo (the Centre for Community Organizations)
Active Listening and Conflict Resolution Basics. COCo (the Centre for Community Organizations)
Reflective practice is about purposeful self-reflection and critical analysis of your knowledge, experiences, and actions. Making time for reflective practice helps to support a deeper understanding of our actions and the impact of those actions on ourselves and others. Integrating regular reflective practice into daily work can enhance learning and potentially transform the framing of complex problems.
Racial Equity Resource Guide - Transformative Learning in Social Justice Organizations through Reflective Practice.
This paper describes a collective reflective learning process conducted with members of five community-based organizations for the purpose of generating and documenting their learning from their work.
The Road Map Project is a collective impact initiative to increase equitable policies and practices. The list of 'essentials' are foundational and if strengthened will help advance racial equity and support student success.
How do we know we are making a difference? A Reflective Tool for School and System Leaders on the Implementation of Ontario’s Equity and Inclusive Education Strategy
Arts Equity Video Series: Principle #2, Reflexivity & Relationships. This is the second video in a series of five that speaks to how reflexivity and relationships starts with critical self-reflection; reflecting on how our own position fits with those we aim to work with. This sort of reflection helps when working to build and maintain relationships.
Equitable hiring practices are a part of proactive measures to increase representation in the workplace. These practices help to identify and eliminate barriers that prevent access to jobs, meaningful workplace participation, advancement opportunities, promotions, and training for candidates who identify as Indigenous or members of equity-seeking groups. These practices acknowledge that these groups can face historical disadvantage, continued disproportionate levels of unemployment, underemployment, and barriers in the workplace. Beyond hiring, these practices are part of changing workplace culture so that members of these groups get jobs they are qualified to do and can fully participate in the workplace. Employment equity recognizes that barriers including racism, discrimination, bias, stereotypes, and assumptions can impede workforce entry and meaningful participation.
Examples of equitable hiring practices include fair assessments which provide all candidates with equal opportunities to demonstrate their qualifications, heightening awareness of personal and cultural biases that can influence assessment, and controlling for potential sources of bias during assessment.
Public Service Commission of Canada. (2008, July 24). Removing Barriers Part 2. Government of Canada. Retrieved Sep 4, 2019, from
The six principles for the fair assessment of all individuals and groups, describes personal and cultural biases that can influence assessment, outlines ways to increase awareness and control of these sources of potential bias and provides examples of applying the general principles of fair assessment to remove barriers to members of visible minorities and Aboriginal peoples.
Equity and Inclusion Lens Handbook, 2018. City of Ottawa and City for All Women Initiative (CAWI)
Apply to your work – Recruiting and Hiring (page 38)
Fairness Review Checklist for assessment tests and tools used during hiring by the Public Service Commission of Canada -
Employment equity: A tool kit for PSAC members
18 Ways We’ve Improved Our Hiring Process. COCo (the Centre for Community Organizations):
Taking action on commitments to advance equity requires resources including funding, staffing, and time. Budget priorities and decisions are an important opportunity to align resources to advance equity. Utilizing existing funds, allocating additional funding, or leveraging grant opportunities is needed to initiate, maintain, and sustain equity initiatives. Making equity a priority also means dedicating resources to take action and do the work. Funding and staff time are needed to develop policies, practices, and programs which mobilize knowledge about inequities.
OECD (2014), "How is Equity in Resource Allocation Related to Student Performance?" PISA in Focus, No. 44, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/5jxvl3zwbzwg-en. This article describes how high-performing countries and economies tend to allocate resources more equitably across socio-economically advantaged and disadvantaged schools
Thomas J. Halverson & Margaret L. Plecki (2015) Exploring the Politics of Differential Resource Allocation: Implications for Policy Design and Leadership Practice, Leadership and Policy in Schools, 14:1, 42-66.
Based on a two-year study of how district leaders invest staffing resources to promote equity-focused improvements in student learning, this paper explores political dimensions of the policy design and implementation process.
HealthEquityGuide.org: How Can we Allocate Resources? Includes case studies that provide examples of resource allocation to drive equity action in health services as well as a list of actions to take to allocate resources.
Social position (or social location) is the idea that each person occupies a specific and individual place in the world produced by our relationships to the social settings in which we live. Social positions are relational, shifting and shaped by relative positions in social structures. All people have a social location that is informed by Indigeneity, gender identity, race, social class, age, ability, religion, migration, sexuality, and geography as well as education, occupation, attitudes, interests, beliefs, and other factors. These locations intersect and are a result of structural, institutional and systemic relations which create social positions of relative privilege and others in positions of disadvantage. Understanding your social position, and how it is perceived by others, helps to inform the boundaries of your experience and the specificity of your understanding of a given issue.
Anti-oppression resource and training alliance (AORTA): Approaches to power inequity within organizations.
Mount Sinai Hospital: “Are You an Ally?” campaign -
Social Location and Facilitation from https://www.artequity.org/ . Provides a small group exercise to understand power and privilege as well as providing key terminology and definitions.
Peoples' Experiences of Oppression. Cultural Safety: Module 2. Flower of Power Activity.
The Flower of Power is intended to facilitate thinking about dominant groups in society and individual's places of privilege.
What I Learned in Class Today: Aboriginal Issues in the Classroom is a research project that explores difficult discussions of Aboriginal issues that take place in classrooms at the University of British Columbia. This site contains a number of informative discussion topics, interviews with students, learning materials, and discussion questions -
Data helps highlight inequities in access and outcomes, raise awareness, provide a rationale for action, identify important starting points, and track the progress and results of activities.
There are many different ways to utilize data, including:
Data is a resource and has value, its collection and use is political. Data collection among First Nations has unique context, consequences, and principles. The First Nations principles of Ownership, Control, Access, and Possession (OCAP™) reflect commitments to use and share information in a way that brings benefit to the community while minimizing harm. OCAP™ allows a community to make decisions regarding why, how and by whom information is collected, used or shared.
From Data to Action. This page includes helpful information, tips, guiding questions and resources to make a difference with data.
The First Nations principles of OCAP® are a set of standards that establish how First Nations data should be collected, protected, used, or shared. They are the de facto standard for how to conduct research with First Nations.
Racial Equity Toolkit An Opportunity to Operationalize Equity
Raising the Village
The diversitydata.org project identifies metropolitan area indicators of diversity, opportunity, quality of life and health for various racial and ethnic population groups.
Making Data Talk: A Workbook
The ultimate goal of this workbook is to help select and communicate quantitative data in ways audiences can understand.
City for All Women Initiative, and M. Brooks. 2015. Advancing Equity and Inclusion: A Guide for Municipalities. Ottawa, ON: CAWI.
All people, organizations, and communities have capacity; however, capacity can be developed and strengthened. Capacity is more than skills, it refers to the people, approaches, and resources needed to achieve a goal. Capacity strengthening is a continuous process that includes:
Capacity strengthening approaches can focus on organizational culture change, cultural responsiveness, community partnerships, power analyses, anti-racism analyses, historical and political contexts, structural inequities, continuous quality improvement, customer service, and many other topics.
The uptake and impact of capacity strengthening depends on readiness. Readiness refers to the degree to which a group (e.g. organization, community, or team) is ready to take action on an issue. Readiness is issue-specific and can vary across a group or dimension of a problem. Understanding readiness is a crucial part of addressing an issue; once readiness is understood, strategies can be tailored to what a group is willing to accept and support.
Developing a Practice of Equity Minded Indicators - Center for Urban Education Director Estela Mara Bensimon developed twelve indicators to help institutions develop a practice of Equity-Mindedness.
Taking Equity-Minded Action to Close Equity Gaps by: Lindsey Malcom-Piqueux and Estela Mara Bensimon.
This article discusses the 'equity problem' in American higher education and the principles of equity-mindedness.
Tyler I, Amare H, Hyndman B, Manson H; Ontario Agency for Health Protection and Promotion (Public Health Ontario). Health equity assessment: facilitators and barriers to application of health equity tools. Toronto, ON: Queen’s Printer for Ontario; 2014.
Organizational Capacity Assessment Tool - The Marguerite Casey Foundation
Community Readiness Model and Assessment – Community Tool Box
Consensus based decision making is a way of reaching agreement between all members of a group. Instead of voting for an item and going with the majority of the group's decision, a group using consensus is committed to finding solutions that everyone actively supports, or at least can accept. This approach ensures that all opinions, ideas, and concerns are taken into account. Through listening and learning from each other, groups that build consensus aim to develop proposals that work for everyone.
Seed for Change. Consensus Decision Makingt:
Allies for Racial Equity: Consensus Decision-Making Flow Chart
Seed for Change. Consensus Decision Making:
Assumptions are the things that we presuppose to be true. They are often unexamined and taken for granted without questioning. Checking assumptions can reveal hidden or unintentional biases and stereotypes, along with the policies, practices and procedures, which reinforce them. Identifying and checking ideas and assumptions is crucial to developing a common understanding of a problem and opens up new ways of understanding.
Ramirez, J. (2016, November 29). Challenging Assumptions and Practices in Board Diversity.
Community Toolbox: Chapter 1 - Section 6 - Some Core Principles, Assumptions, and Values to Guide the Work.
City of Ottawa and City for All Women Initiative. 2015. Equity and Inclusion Lens Handbook. Ottawa, ON: CAWI. Apply to your work – Working with people (page 44)
Research findings can influence decisions at many levels, but often this depends on whether the knowledge gained is translated into action. Learning to evaluate practices, programs and policies, along with using research findings in practice is an important part of innovation, ethical research, and professional development.
Applying research for knowledge translation is a key way that research can benefit communities. Implementing the findings and following up on recommendations for change in practice, policy, and ways of working are important parts of staying accountable and responsive to communities engaged in research.
Haines, A., & Donald, A. (1998). Making better use of research findings. BMJ (Clinical research ed.), 317(7150), 72–75.
Researching for LGBTQ Health. Key Practices for Community Engagement in Research on Mental Health or Substance Use. Retrieved from
Community-based participatory research: A guide to ethical principles and practice. Centre for Social Justice and Community Action, Durham University & National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement, November 2012. Retrieved from
Focussed outreach is used to describe a wide range of activities, from actual delivery of services to sharing information with a specific target audience. Focussed outreach should be inclusive in terms of cultural relevance and linguistic appropriateness.
Focussed outreach strategies require an understanding of the circumstances and needs of communities as well as barriers that may prevent access or participation. This form of outreach is intentional about reaching out to a target population (who may not be traditionally included or involved) in a way that is welcoming, barrier-free, and relationship-centered.
Community Toolbox: Chapter 23 - Section 6. Using Outreach to Increase Access
Community Toolbox: Chapter 23 - Section 6. Using Outreach to Increase Access checklist.
Inequities are due in part to structural disadvantage and discrimination. An equity approach requires disrupting oppressive and discriminatory processes and structures. This includes intentional, proactive, and innovative solutions that make space for different ways of thinking and traditionally overlooked approaches. New and innovative solutions are needed to create a more equitable programs and services, community and system.
Pathways to Inclusive Innovation: Insights for Ontario and beyond. Authors: Diana Rivera and Sarah Villeneuve. Investigators: Amos Zehavi and Dan Breznitz. Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship (BII+E)
A closer look at new ways policymakers, employers and stakeholders are pursuing innovation-driven economic goals, while ensuring workers are not left behind in the process.
Peiffer, E. (2018, June 29). Equity in innovation: Four principles to ensure the benefits of technological advancements are broadly shared. Retrieved from
HealthEquityGuide.org - How Can We Develop Leadership and Support Innovation?
Sharing and using data is an important part of understanding need and equitably distributing resources. When data is collected, the question of who ‘owns’ any data, who can use it, and who may access the knowledge gained from that data may arise. In this context, sharing data and knowledge means who can use it and pass it on. It is especially important that data and knowledge is available to the communities who helped generate it, recognition is given to new knowledge made by communities, that they receive benefits related to the data and knowledge outputs, and have the right to use and share data and knowledge.
As well, data can be sensitive material with serious implications for communities. Clear, open, honest discussions and negotiations about what to share, how to share it, desired outcomes, and possible impacts is an important and ongoing part of data sharing.
HealthEquityGuide.org - Share Power with Communities: How Can We Share Power with Communities?
Andruszkiewicz, N., & Branston, A. (n.d.). Evidence Brief: Identifying Facilitators and Processes for Sharing Local Data with Community Partners to Enable Improvement in Health Equity. Public Health Ontario.
Open Data is a City of Toronto initiative that provides digital data to be freely used, reused, and redistributed by anyone, anytime and anywhere.
Can also link to Raising the Village where multiple data sources have been shared and used to visualize population level outcomes and inequities
Advancing equity often requires change and any significant change usually depends on champions. A champion is someone who takes leadership by working with others to facilitate and influence change in an organization or community. Champions can be from any level within an organization or from the local community, and it is necessary to have support and champions from multiple levels. Champions are crucial to supporting change and equitable outcomes; however, they require information, networks, tools, strategies, mentorship, and resources to support and sustain success and change.
Toward Health Equity: Canadian Approaches to the Health Sector Role. Public Health Agency of Canada, April 2014.
City for All Women Initiative, and M. Brooks. 2015. Advancing Equity and Inclusion: A Guide for Municipalities. Ottawa, ON: CAWI. Section 3: Create and Sustain Impact - Cultivate Champions
Advocating and organizing are both umbrella terms for strategies that facilitate action towards change. There is no single way to use advocacy or organizing to address inequities, in fact, there are many different strategies. Action can focus on policy and structures, community development, representation with and for groups, and many other activities to influence decision-making in support of change. Framing issues to influence decision-making, gathering and disseminating data, working in collaboration and developing alliances, and engaging processes in legal and regulatory systems can all be part of advocating. Organizing can include bringing groups of people together to draw attention to inequities and confronting or collaborating with decision makers to support social change.
“Public health advocacy: process and product”, American Journal of Public Health 90, no. 5 (May 1, 2000): pp. 722-726.
Source: Community Toolbox: Chapter 30 - Section 1 - Overview: Getting an Advocacy Campaign Off the Ground
Public Health Institute's Berkeley Media Studies Group for an online media advocacy training series.
Community Toolbox: Advocating for Change - This toolkit supports planning for advocacy efforts and responding to opposition.
Creating a culture shift towards equity and inclusion requires time and sustained effort. It requires setting targets or specific short-term goals to articulate what needs to be done to achieve the long-term strategic objectives. Reasonable timelines must be identified to achieve these goals and measure progress towards performance targets.
Implementing strategies and ways of working that differ from the status quo require patience and time. Timelines need to incorporate taking time to listen, learn, be responsive, and build relationships to support equitable change. It also includes allocating time for outreach, knowledge sharing, collaboration, learning about lived experiences, engaging with communities, reporting back, self-reflection, and the implementation of other drivers for change.
It is important for organizations and individuals working to address equity issues to reflect, identify gaps, and improve their own practices. Equity-focused learning has the biggest impact when it’s continuous and sustained. This highlights the importance of integrating learning into communities of practice, in-service trainings, leadership programs, coaching and mentorship relationships, and on-going reflective practice. Deepening knowledge and understanding of historical systems of inequity; building vocabularies and awareness around identity, privilege, and structures of power; and learning about approaches that contribute to equity all help support organizations’ practices and policies. It is important to note that professional learning should happen alongside, not instead of, changing practices and doing the work itself.
What is organisational culture? What do we mean by culture of learning? COCo (the Centre for Community Organizations):
Making space is about creating opportunities to discuss issues, build relationships, share ideas, and have constructive conversations in respectful and non-judgemental environments. The focus is on dedicating time to have discussions, engage in dialogue, voice concerns, and get organized. Bringing people together within, or in addition to, existing structures can centre voices that have been pushed to the margins and also encourage group learning. A crucial part of making space is about collective attitudes and actions which welcome and celebrate difference.
The term peer learning refers to situations where peers support each other in learning processes. There are different forms of peer learning such as peer support groups, networks, supplemental instruction, peer coaching and mentoring, and peer teaching. Peer learning involves formal and informal interactions among people understood to be "equals" based on similar goals and interests, job roles, or place in a community. Peer learning involves peers coming together to exchange knowledge, share practices, and develop leadership in the work they do together.
Knotz, S. (2016, June 18). The Art and Science of Designing Peer Learning Cohorts. Retrieved from:
Wenger, E. (n.d.) Cultivating communities of practice: A quick start-up guide
Backer, T. E., (2008). Peer Networking and Community Change: Experiences of the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Human Interaction Research Institute.
Andrews, M. & N. Manning (2016). A Guide to Peer-to-Peer Learning - How to make peer-to-peer support and learning effective in the public sector? Paris: Effective Institutions Platform (EIP)
Strategic thinking is a continuous and cyclical process of reflection, planning, and implementation, it has no start or end. It involves assessing your environment, forecasting changes, and creating opportunities to amplify your impact. Strategic thinking also includes understanding current and emerging trends and foresight to assess how these trends can impact communities or organizations. Strategic thinking requires being flexible, in turn it can strengthen your ability to learn and adapt to changing conditions. This includes determining a course of action by weighing different options and using creative, innovative approaches to address challenges.
Develop Strategic Thinkers Throughout Your Organization. Retrieved from:
Representation goes beyond the physical or numerical representation of underrepresented groups in order to achieve “diversity” in organizations. Authentic representation that leads to meaningful inclusion requires implementation and evaluation of specific strategies that acknowledge, address, and remedy the exclusion of underrepresented groups from sectors, institutions, organizations, programs, and many other spaces of power.
Representation is an important element of equity, but it is about more than people. It includes frameworks, models, and spaces created and activated with and for diverse interests.
For example, in many sectors, Indigenous and racialized people are underrepresented at the senior, executive, and board levels of leadership. This is caused in part by dominant cultures, systems, and practices. Representation at all levels is important, but representation in leadership has the power to set norms, define culture, and create change.
On an individual level, representation requires us to be attentive to all of those who are not being represented in our own work. We must look carefully at our work to assess representation and take active steps toward change when we see there are those left out.
When groups who face inequity are under-represented, the diversity of ideas, questions, techniques, tools, and methods are also limited. In short, whole systems suffer when there is a lack of representation.
Awake to Woke to Work: Building a Race Equity Culture. Retrieved from
A Partial Picture:
The representation of equity-seeking groups in Canada’s universities and colleges. Retrieved from: