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By Mary E. Tyler

In partnership with Learn to Earn Dayton, the National Conference for Community and Justice has kicked off a series of listening sessions to discuss equity in the Dayton region. We’re hosting conversations with Montgomery County residents, including students, to help develop an “equity vision” for creating more equitable, inclusive communities.

Participants are sharing their views in conversations that will continue through November.

Simultaneously, the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission has launched The Institute for Livable & Equitable Communities in partnership with the Dayton Foundation, Learn to Earn and other stakeholders. Specifically focused on equity, the Institute is coordinating efforts to help launch programs that transform systems and create an environment where people of all ages, races, incomes and abilities can thrive. Visit https://www.mvrpc.org/news/general-news/institute-livable-equitable-communities to learn more.

In our listening sessions, we’ve heard from faculty, staff and administrators at Sinclair College. Residents at Lyons Place, a St. Mary Development Corp. community, shared their thoughts. Other discussions included the Trotwood Chamber of Commerce and Leadership Dayton alumni. Future sessions will include the Greater Dayton LGBT Center, Dayton SCORE, the Jewish Federation of Greater Dayton, the University of Dayton, Wesley Community Center and the Vandalia-Butler Chamber of Commerce.

Individuals are sharing how they define equity; how equity should permeate policies and practices of companies and organizations; what different demographic groups think about equity in the messages they hear every day; what equity in education, housing and health care looks like; and what can be done to ensure equitable opportunities specific to their neighborhoods.

Individuals are adamant about embracing equity in the workplace. They see important value in including people with different talents and perspectives in projects. They also talked about treating customers and clients equitably.

As our region continues to heal and rebuild from recent tragedies, the listening sessions are a foundation for creating significant and measurable change. We all should want to ensure employment, housing, education and service-related programs are accessible to everyone.

Think about housing, for example, and how good developments can be a two-edged sword depending on your need and circumstances.

While home prices are increasing in the region — positive for homeowners and families wanting to sell their home — this fact is a hardship for families displaced by the Memorial Day weekend tornadoes. A low inventory of homes for sale and rising prices also make it more difficult for thousands of low-income residents to find an affordable place to live. Local renters must earn $15.15 an hour just to afford a 2-bedroom unit, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

Health care is another area where we need to focus on equity. African-Americans and certain ethnic populations disproportionately have poor health and die prematurely. Dayton & Montgomery County Public Health is committed to identifying strategies to end these disparities.

Of course, providing equitable educational opportunities is key to having a competitive workforce. Equity must be an essential core value in all of our school systems. All children deserve the chance to succeed in school regardless of the barriers they face.

During a listening session at Sinclair, one person said educational institutions should move away from the “medical doctor syndrome.” Rather than finding an issue with the patient — or with students — we should focus on how to eliminate circumstances that impede a child’s learning, he said.

Our partners believe that a community-wide equity plan is important to the Dayton region’s economic success. We are moving beyond just conversations and are identifying equity-focused approaches to eliminate social and economic inequities.

Mary E. Tyler is Executive Director of the National Conference for Community and Justice of Greater Dayton, Inc.

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