At Multnomah County, we are committed to examining the ways our policies, procedures, practices and organizational culture contribute to injustice and institutional racism, as well as opportunities for fairness, inclusion, belonging, and community well-being for all. Our goal is to use strategies to target resources that are culturally responsive and appropriate to our communities most negatively impacted by systemic racism, health inequity and barriers to opportunity and to advance positive outcomes for all our residents.
The Office of Diversity and Equity (ODE) intends for this guidance to inform policymakers as well as community members and organizations working to incorporate racial equity into service delivery and decision-making in the fields of contracting and purchasing. The guidance describes Multnomah County’s targeted universalist approach and ways to integrate such strategies into Requests for Proposal and other investment processes.
Chair Kafoury’s statement on culturally specific services
For many years, Multnomah County has been a place where different families have very different experiences, not because of the skills they could bring to work, or their education, but because of the color of their skin or the place they were born. Growing up in Portland, my family benefited from policies that helped people stay in school, attend college, rent in a safe neighborhood or borrow money for a house. But for other families, the impacts of institutional and systemic racism and other forms of oppression have prevented generations from getting those same opportunities to thrive.
The data and research clearly show that these disparate experiences and opportunities remain -- and are sustained -- across many indicators. They include health disparities, educational attainment, access to living wage jobs, and overrepresentation in the criminal justice system. The policies and practices that are at the root of these inequities were never fair and continue to harm by sending a recurring and powerful message to these communities that they don’t deserve to reach their full potential.
To truly close those gaps, we have to design and deliver our programs to meet the community needs that exist today. And that means not just what we fund, but how we fund. This countywide guidance for culturally specific services supports this critical work and is a directive that advances our collective vision of safety, trust and belonging.
Equity will be a fundamental component of our contracting and purchasing policies. It is our obligation as a public institution to get the best value for the taxpayer and the best outcome for all of our clients. It is this responsibility that moves us to create opportunities for culturally specific and culturally responsive services to both demonstrate the impact and build capacity across our systems to carry out the county’s work.
The county first applied its equity lens to purchasing and contracting in the SUN Service System in 2016 followed by the Domestic Violence Coordination Office and the Aging, Disability and Veterans' Division in 2017. By acknowledging what's happened in the past and applying the equity lens tools, we are calling out inequities and barriers that have persisted in our processes and working to develop systems that support all people in Multnomah County to succeed.
As an organization, we’re constantly reevaluating how we do things. Our investments have impacts on community and we believe changing our procurement and contracting processes will create more positive outcomes for all.