‘This is hard stuff’: Missoula wrestles with equity strategies

Bret Anne Serbin

The city of Missoula is grappling with the nebulous nature of implementing justice, equity, diversity and inclusion solutions for the community.

Spurred by the political climate in 2020, the city took up initiatives aimed at improving JEDI work throughout the city, including a study of the city’s operations from a JEDI lens. City staff and city councilors analyzed the results of the study last week, but bumped up against challenges with precisely outlining tools to put into practice.

“We have to have really clear intentions,” said James Whitfield, keynote speaker at the city’s inaugural JEDI summit in October. Whitfield founded Be Culture, an organization that helps boards, executives and civic leaders develop their institutional culture.

The concept of equity “tends to feel squishy to people,” Whitfield said. To address that squishiness, solutions should be practical “so that people can both understand it and do it.”

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“Equity means that people have shared ownership over what’s happening,” he explained.

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