Skip to content
Podcast Article January 17th, 2023
Delivery • Cities • Innovation • Justice • Legitimacy

Reimagining Government episode 4: A more equitable government

Article highlights

🎙️ The 4th episode of #ReimaginingGovernment by @CPI_foundation & @Apoliticalco is live! Listen to how @CandaceMoore56 @DetroitODA @cincihealthdept and others are working to repair broken relationships with communities.

Share article

💡 What might a more equitable government look like? Listen to the latest episode of #ReimaginingGovernment by @CPI_foundation & @Apoliticalco to hear from changemakers working to place equity ⚖️ justice 👩🏽‍⚖️ and inclusion 🤝🏽 at the heart of government.

Share article

"What does it mean for a leader to acknowledge that there has been harm and set a condition in which you reclaim it and think about a path forward?" 🤔@CandaceMoore56 on reflecting on the past as part of policymaking.

Share article

🎙️ Reimagining Government

In partnership with Apolitical, this six-part podcast explores radical new approaches to addressing global issues such as the climate crisis, equitable healthcare provision, and rebuilding trust with marginalised communities. By speaking with public servants and politicians at the heart of government, we’ll shine a light on how to reimagine government so it works for everyone.

Listen to the fourth episode

In the fourth episode of the ‘Reimagining Government’ podcast, we highlight the legitimacy crisis facing government. We examine how government leaders are confronting racial justice and civil rights issues to forge a more equitable future, and how they are working to repair the broken relationship with historically marginalised communities across the United States.

Jorge Fanjul, a Director at the Centre for Public Impact in North America who specialises in government legitimacy, speaks with government officials working to rebuild these relationships.

“How can governments dismantle the inequitable power dynamics that persist and often lie at the heart of people’s distrust of government? Is it too late to build a bridge to better relationships between government and those they serve?” - Jorge Fanjul

Their discussion points have been broken down into the following:

00:00 - 03:46 - Introduction to government legitimacy

03:47 - 12:59 - Racial equity, policing, and historical lessons from Salt Lake City, Utah

13:00 - 21:21 - Candace Moore’s three strategic pillars for advancing racial equity in Chicago, Illinois

22:38 - 33:05 - Detroit, Michigan’s Office of Disability Affairs and disability equity in the city

33:12 - 43:35 - Cincinnati, Ohio’s Mobile Engagement Unit, and approaches to encouraging community conversations

43:44 - 46:06 - Conclusion

Racial equity, policing, and historical lessons from Salt Lake City, Utah

On May 25th, 2020, George Floyd was murdered. A now infamous recording showed the 46-year-old black man killed by white police officer Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis. What followed was what the New York Times described as the “largest protests in the United States since the Civil Rights era”, with violent protests and public outcry across major cities calling for police reform and systemic change.

A year later, Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall established the Mayor’s Office of Equity and Inclusion to help make the city a more equal place for all. The team began by examining the historical context of relationships between the Salt Lake City Police Department and the city’s inhabitants, as well as speaking to impacted residents to hear first-hand what would aid community development.

As Equity Manager in the Mayor’s Office, Moana Uluave-Hafoka, describes, “what was really impactful for us was to go to community members and speak directly to them to see what they wanted.”

The team delved into the city’s history to identify how it has affected modern realities. By examining the history of the city’s East/West divide and the formation of its police department, the team was able to make connections between the city’s past and the present-day ramifications. This holistic understanding of the complex dynamics within Salt Lake City better equipped the team to create a better government in the face of today’s challenges.

Another team member addressing the imbalance in Salt Lake City is the Mayor’s Office Equity Liason, Michelle Mooney. Michelle’s work with the Racial Equity and Policing Commission examines the relationship between communities and their police department.

“The racial equity and policing commission was established to examine the Salt Lake City police department’s (SLCPD) policies, culture, and budget, as well as any other city policies that influence SLCPD’s culture policies, in terms of how they work with the communities around them. The racial equity and policing commission is important in the sense that we understand that there’s an issue, and this is not just unique to Salt Lake City or Utah.” - Michelle Mooney

While tensions between police and marginalised communities is a global issue, Salt Lake City, in particular, has been working towards a more transparent relationship. The office directly listens to communities and updates them regularly on what has been improved and the challenges that remain.

Salt Lake City has also been working to close the gap between communities and government by employing officials who better represent the general population. Until recently, Salt Lake City hadn’t had a city councilperson of colour, despite large Latinx, Pacific Islander, and ethnic minority populations.

Nurturing this diversity so that the government more accurately reflects the people it serves, lends legitimacy to officials. Most importantly, because they represent communities they know and understand, these public officials can better deliver public services that meet their needs.

“The creation of the Chief Equity Officer, [...] our team, and all of the policies, practices, and programs, that have come out in the last two years have been linked directly because residents and those who are voting, have put into power people who think and want the same things as them, and I think that is a beautiful testament of what Salt Lake City can teach the rest of the United States.” - Moana Uluave-Hafoka

Salt Lake City’s equity office demonstrates how communication and representation can help improve relationships between the government and the public, but what does this look like in other cities?

Candace Moore’s three strategic pillars for advancing racial equity in Chicago, Illinois

In Chicago, 21% of the population lives below the poverty line. This is an issue that the city is tackling, in part, through its Office of Equity and Racial Justice.

Chicago’s first Chief Equity Officer, Candace Moore, has been tasked with building this team from the ground up to tackle Chicago’s patterns of inequality which are so closely tied to race.

Candace has centred this work around three strategic pillars. The first is to support community healing.

“What that looks like in a tangible tense is thinking about the convening power of government. [...] Communities often have a really fraught relationship with government, so what does it mean for a leader in government to acknowledge that there has been harm and set and create a condition in which you own it, you reclaim it, and you think about a path forward. We have been taking that model of reflect on the past, reclaim the present, and reimagine the future, and actually driving it into policy.” - Candace Moore

Like Salt Lake City, Chicago is acknowledging its turbulent racial history and its continuing impacts. Owning this past allows the city to move onto new tools and approaches - the second pillar.

“The second pillar is build transformative tools and partnerships, and the basic concept here is that you can’t get to different results doing the same old things with the same old people. If you want different results, you are going to have to think about what does it mean to partner with some of the folks who are most impacted by the problem.” - Candace Moore

Candace found that fostering new partnerships presented its own challenges, with these groups often avoiding government interaction. To overcome this, the city has adopted an approach rooted in listening to the communities and taking their guidance on the kind of support they need.

Candace’s third pillar is institutional transformation. This means changing how institutions work and requires individual services and areas to examine the unique ways in which they interact with equity.

Although on the surface, services like sanitation may not seem to have much relevance to racial injustice, Candace’s example shines a light on how deeply rooted racial prejudice has affected Chicago’s public services:

“Many of our systems rely on complaint-based systems and who feels comfortable enough to call government and complain, taps into who feels like they have a relationship with government, who thinks they have power in government.” - Candace Moore

The work of the Office of Equity and Racial Justice in Chicago shows how government can advance equity and legitimacy by working with marginalised communities to iterate, experiment, and transform services. What other ways can they collaborate?

Detroit Michigan’s Office of Disability Affairs and disability equity in the city

In Detroit, one in five residents have disabilities, according to the Census Bureau’s 2020 American Community Survey. With different needs among them, Detroit’s disabled community faces a range of challenges requiring a range of solutions.

In February 2021, Mayor Mike Duggan announced the launch of the Office of Disability Affairs. Responsible for equity for Detroit’s disabled population, the office is headed by Director Christopher Samp, who himself is deaf.

The Office works alongside external organisations and leaders to empower and better represent those with disabilities. One example is the membership organisation Detroit Disability Power and its Executive Director, Dessa Cosma.

The formation of the Office of Disability Affairs has given organisations like Detroit Disability Power, as well as individuals, a centralised department for disabled people to discuss how the government should meet their particular needs. As Christopher explains it:

“It's important to have some kind of consistency in the government who have one place you can go to for help, and you don't have to worry about staff turnover, [or if] someone forgets [and] drops the ball. [You] have one office that is stable and consistent and will be there to be supportive.” - Christopher Samp

Disabled activists, like Dessa and Christopher, provide authentic advocacy for their groups. This helps the Office of Disability Affairs better understand the important issues impacting those with disabilities.

“The ability to go to Christopher or others at the Office of Disability Affairs with concerns, with help navigating the city with ideas, with frustrations, to be able to go somewhere and have that information received, not only respectfully, but by other people with disabilities who understand what our experience is, is really huge for us.” - Dessa Cosma

At the formation of the Office, a survey seeking to understand the barriers disabled people were facing discovered that many were struggling with accessible public transportation and employment opportunities. As a result, the Office created an actionable three-year strategic plan to address these challenges, incorporating public engagement, community services, and increased accessibility awareness in the workplace.

The Office of Disability Affairs is an example of how government can use authentic advocacy to identify and address everyday residents' real challenges. As such, it is a testament to the power of championing minority groups and how, by working alongside them, governments can create more inclusive and accessible cities for all.

Cincinnati, Ohio’s Mobile Engagement Unit, and approaches to encouraging community conversations

Cincinnati, Ohio, is a city composed of 52 neighbourhoods. Historically, the city has had a complex relationship with these neighbourhoods, often resulting in the disempowerment of already marginalised voices. To address this issue, Cincinnati has been experimenting with how to build more equitable community engagement structures.

Scott Dean is a Public Health Educator with the Cincinnati Health Department who has led work to build trust with the city’s marginalised communities and help them reclaim their voice. His team recognised that by proactively approaching communities, they could make participation more accessible.

“One of the ideas that was tested with residents is called the Mobile Engagement Unit. The idea would bring engagement to historically underrepresented communities, meeting them where they are to listen, ideate, and co-create together on challenges that they're prioritising in their neighbourhood.” - Scott Dean

In one instance, Scott’s team hosted the unit in Madisonville’s Youth Recreation Center. This enabled them to hear ideas from young people about what could be done to improve their community. Suggestions included better transportation between grocery shops and residential areas as well as laundromats closer to home.

“By diversifying who we put in power and creating opportunities for people of all backgrounds, we can improve government legitimacy and ensure that those who have historically been marginalised have a voice and say in what happens to their city.” - Scott Dean

Responding to this information is just as important as soliciting it. Residents who give their opinion only never to hear back will be dissuaded from participating in conversations. Scott was clear that to build more authentic relationships, government must close the feedback loop and let community members know what action is being taken.

However, one-to-one communication can become insurmountable when dealing with every member of the population. As such, Cincinnati has also experimented with neighbourhood ambassadors, who represent and connect their communities to city opportunities. With real and longstanding relationships with these areas, they can help bridge the gap between the general populace and government.

Though the work continues to find better ways to engage with community members, Cincinnati's efforts demonstrate how cities can take strides forward and build stronger relationships with residents.


Societies rely on a foundation of trust between governments and those they govern. With such a diverse range of communities, each with different needs, there is no one-size-fits-all approach for establishing and maintaining this trust.

However, the changemakers featured in today’s episode have demonstrated that it is possible to change things for the better. By listening to residents, amplifying marginalised voices, and taking a more collaborative approach to governing, we can create more fair and equitable societies for all.

🎙️ Reimagining Government

This six-part podcast explores radical new approaches to addressing global issues such as the climate crisis, equitable healthcare provision, and rebuilding trust with marginalised communities.

By speaking with public servants and politicians at the heart of government, we’ll shine a light on how to reimagine government so it works for everyone.

Listen to the fourth episode

Written by:

Share this article: