Activating equity within and through government
The Deloitte government equity activation model11 shows how government organizations can activate equity within and outside their own agencies. It is structured around three primary spheres of influence within the reach of government organizations:
(1) Workforce, focusing on public-sector workforce engagement
(2) Vendor ecosystems, focusing on government procurement
(3) Communities and society, including policy, regulation, and service delivery
Government also plays a role in ecosystem stewardship, by supporting public-private ecosystems within each of these spheres.
Activators: Each sphere, in turn, includes multiple activators—key areas of activity and everyday choices through which government can exert its influence to achieve equity. Within each activator, agencies can take specific actions in pursuit of equity (figure 1).
Organizational enablers: Across these spheres of influence, organizations need enablers that drive accountability and support their actions. These include leadership, governance, resource allocation, legal, risk and compliance, data and analytics, infrastructure, workplace, and technology. Without these elements, efforts to drive equity may fail.
Organizational culture is the context in which priorities are set and choices are made. It’s “the way we do things around here”—the sustained patterns of behavior supported by shared experiences, values, and beliefs.12 Culture both influences and is influenced by the workforce, the vendor ecosystem, and society at large. It provides the context in which actions are prioritized and enablers are expressed.
Organizational culture is enduring, but it’s also always evolving, the result of an ongoing feedback loop between beliefs (subconscious assumptions), values (stated strategies, goals, and philosophies), and behaviors (people’s decisions, actions, and processes). As a result, it can adapt to new needs and changing conditions. Over time, new behaviors and beliefs can change an organization’s culture, but these changes are difficult to achieve and require explicit attention and formal programs.13
Principles for equity
An equity-focused mindset requires more than a checklist of actions; it requires sustained commitment from leaders and workers, even when it is uncomfortable or unpopular. Equity has to be built, day by day, in line with a series of principles:14
- Equity requires sustained commitment. It’s not a one-off initiative; it must be embedded into how the organization and, more broadly, society functions, and must be sustained over time. Government agencies must provide the education and resources their leaders need to continuously build toward, achieve, and maintain equitable outcomes.
- Know yourself and your organization. Systemic change requires a recognition and acceptance on the part of everyone in public service that they too must be willing to change. Individual reflection and evolution must be an explicit part of any systemic change.
- Beliefs drive behavior and behavior changes beliefs. To achieve equitable outcomes, organizations must overturn common beliefs and behaviors that get in the way. New behaviors shape new values, while those values can reinforce new behavior.
- Collective action amplifies impact. Organizations uniting to challenge each other learn from one another, change outdated rules, and mend broken systems. Organizations can create feedback loops that promote change and reinforce action at the individual, market, and societal levels.
- The power to spend is the power to change. Government organizations have the power to drive equity through all the ways they spend money—for example, directing funds in pursuit of equitable outcomes through everyday business operations.
All government ecosystem partners—contractors, nonprofits, community groups, businesses, academia, and constituents—should work collaboratively to set and build on goals for equity. The work is far too important and far too urgent for any one organization to do alone.