This is the fourth intro post from the UNC MPA Project Team that is collecting data for the ELGL Diversity Dashboard project. She’s part of a team with Toney Thompson, Libby Seguin, and Sarah Ross Dickson.
We’ve asked our team members to do weekly blog posts on their project, research process, and the overall goal of collecting better and more informative data about the race and gender of people serving in CAO and Assistant CAO positions in local government.
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Greetings all! My name is Rosemary Stump, and I could not be more excited to be a part of the UNC MPA team of ELGL’s Diversity Dashboard Project. I’m a Florida native currently working towards an MPA at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
The MPA program at UNC has already provided me professional and personal growth opportunities that have exceeded my expectations. Out of all of the opportunities, working with ELGL on the Diversity Dashboard Project is most meaningful to me.
I wanted to pursue my MPA at Carolina because I am interested in how policy can translate into meaningful changes that minority and/or subjugated populations experience in everyday life. For the same reason I am excited to be working with ELGL on this project. How can government leadership and community members interact in productive ways that can lead to more equitable administrative processes?
I believe that in order to address wicked problems, representation is imperative. Wicked problems are pervasive and intersectional, and they impact minority populations more so than populations in positions of privilege. For example, having children go hungry is a wicked problem that impacts a multitude of sectors. Childhood hunger is abhorrent and unjust, and its negative impacts spider webs into the education system, the economy, the criminal justice system, etc. Yet in many places, childhood hunger disproportionately impacts black children and children of color.
Many people agree that government should exist to help those in need, yet also agree that the manifestations of government they see are utterly failing to do so. It is difficult to feel that a government is serving the people when many people are not represented in their governments.
This research project will hopefully serve as a catalyst for government officials in North Carolina to have productive conversations about equity. It is also our hope that our research project will serve as a blueprint for officials nationwide to examine the representativeness of local governments. In order to gauge the representativeness of local government leadership in North Carolina, we are going to be looking at a snapshot of who is in office in this state.
We began our research by asking, well what does representative even mean? What can we look at to determine such? We decided that we need to know the race and gender of the top leadership in North Carolina local governments, that we would look at the leadership at the county, city, and town level, and that we would track our findings with census data.
My teammates and I have split up the workload by each looking at 25 of the 100 counties in North Carolina, and identifying the cities and towns in those corresponding counties. We are each responsible for the top leadership officials in our respective counties, cities, and towns. We are effectively creating a large database together that looks a bit like this:
|Name||Type||County||Person Name||Title||Phone||Gender||Race||Type of Government||White %||Minority %||Female %|
At this stage in our research we have discussed several limitations. Time constraints are perhaps the most limiting factors in this project. We currently do not have the resources to go beyond a snapshot of local government leadership in North Carolina. We are also only looking at race and gender, as we do not have the means to research other extremely important identity markers such as sexual orientation, religious affiliation, economic status, ability level, etc.
It’s also important to note that while we chose to research the counties, cities, and towns of North Carolina, it might make sense for other states to choose other “types” of governments where, for instance, villages are more common. We have also discussed at length the merits and drawbacks of creating a whole new set of data. While there may be existing data on the demographics of leadership in North Carolina, it is important to us to have self-identified answers to questions regarding race and gender. If we are going to be change makers, we must be intentional about our behavior, which includes not enforcing antiquated notions of being able to determine a person’s multitude of identities just by looking at them.
I would like to reiterate how honored I am that I have the opportunity to work on this project, with such an inspiring, capable, and intelligent team of people. Hopefully our work will serve as a road map for similar data collection across many states.
We’ll share posts from the UNC MPA project team each Friday! Stay tuned to learn from each member of the project team, and also for more information about the project model the team is creating for ELGL.