This guest article is by ELGL member Matt Hirschinger, Assistant to the City Manager for the City of Arvada, CO. Read all of Matt’s other articles at the Social Justice –> Government homepage.
As I write this, I’m done with my graduate degree that’s served as the foundation of this ongoing series with ELGL. I’ve a backlog of topics to cover, so Social Justice -> Local Government will last for some time still. In recognition of my completed degree, I want to share my Capstone, the culmination of spending most weekends over the last two-and-a-half years delving into matters of social justice.
I developed a guidebook, officially sponsored by the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, to aid local government professionals who are interested in matters of equity in taking action:
[Equity: From Interest to Action for Colorado Local Government Professionals – Full-color version]
[Equity: From Interest to Action for Colorado Local Government Professionals – Better accessibility for those who are visually impaired version]
The guidebook takes over 40 lessons from my degree and shares them in practical, digestible one-page summaries accompanied by optional exercises to drive home the point and a scattering of examples of what other communities are doing. The guidebook is for the local government professional who feels stuck, who hasn’t been able to carve out the time to read that book (or five) that’s been recommended by friends or colleagues on the subject, who feels that diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging, accessibility, intersectionality, and all the other concepts and hopes are like trying to navigate through stormy waters, are trying to climb a mountain so tall and ominous it’s obscured by clouds.
I struggle writing this, sharing the project I’ve put in the most blood, sweat, and tears in my life to date. Like many, I hold doubts if it’s enough, fear I got something wrong, an unease that I may be met with a deafening silence. A part of me pulls to hold back and play it safe.
To push through, I’ve needed to tap into a feeling of brazen reform, sometimes through excitement, other times with anger, and a few times out of sheer stubbornness to be audacious enough to say there are things we can do better in local government, and that started with myself. Rather than let my MPA feed into entitlement that it was enough, that I was enough, and demand my successful local government career, I’ve pushed myself, leaned into discomfort, and gone back for more education and experience to be better. It’s an ongoing process, hopefully, one that will last a lifetime…
…because the challenges we’re facing are many, and we’re the ones who can do something.
I’m not asking everyone to take the same path I did. I know full well that most don’t have the extra money and time for it, not to mention all the other competing responsibilities and priorities we all have. I put together a much more condensed, user-friendly, and free guidebook as a chance for all of us to take advantage of grabbing opportunities to reform and run with it, improving it, and expanding it.
Putting my reservations aside, I’m asking you to download this guidebook, take a look, share it, try it, tweak it, add to it, subtract from it, and put the guidebook to use, even if it’s just one page or lesson. I had the privilege to dive into works, authors, and perspectives we rarely see in our lines of work, and think it’s worth spreading to as many as we can.
The only thing I ask in return is for a little brazenness in return, to be bold with what we try to accomplish.