Illustration of cubes in a pyramid pattern

Foundations in Equity Design

By Tammy Freeman

In this "policy wrapper," we illuminate insights derived from working across government to advance equity and lessons learned from applying equitable design to help address structural inequity. We present key findings centered on three themes: power and proximity, hegemony and heuristics, and structures and systems to better identify, question, call out, and mitigate issues of inequity.

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Policies and practices that create inequity are designed to create exactly the outcomes they produce. When we don’t challenge the multitude of ways that inequity is seared into the fabric of our systems and institutions, we fail to examine the pervasive and invasive ways in which racism, sexism, ableism, and other ills permeate our structures and institutions. Without this examination, despite our best intentions, we continue to build on flawed foundations and create policies, practices, and programs that cannot, by design, produce equity.

The question remains: how do we truly advance equity? How do we move past well-intentioned aspirations and rhetoric to confront and disrupt systems, policies, programs, and practices that create inequity? How might we disrupt the status quo and replace it with sustainable systems, practices, and interventions that create and uphold equity? We can do so by leveraging equitable design. Equitable design evolves human-centered design and creates the necessary space and understanding needed to expose the root causes of inequity and promotes designing with (and not just for) communities and groups who have been historically pushed to the margins by inequitable and oppressive systems, policies, and practices. With equitable design, we can (re)imagine and (re)design systems to achieve equity and social justice.