Response to Recent Events & Commitment to Systemic Change

Last week, Executive Director Lee Worsley released the following statement to the TJCOG Board of Delegates and Regional Managers.
 
These past weeks have been filled with immense anger, sadness, and frustration over the senseless deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and countless other Black Americans. Triangle J Council of Governments (TJCOG) strongly condemns these acts of violence and recognizes the urgent need to examine the ways systemic racism influences our public institutions and our communities. Police brutality and racism will not be tolerated by TJCOG as an organization.
 
TJCOG reaffirms our commitment to improve the quality of life and opportunity in our region by addressing inequities that impede these goals, as outlined in our recently adopted Core Values:
 
TJCOG approaches all our actions with a lens of diversity, equity, and inclusivity for both internal and external stakeholders/customers.
  1. Integrity & Trustworthiness
  2. Excellent Customer-Service
  3. Well-Informed Leadership
  4. Solutions & Results
Our commitment must also be displayed through direct action, not just words in a Core Values statement. As a government organization with great influence on public decision-making, TJCOG has a responsibility to identify and address racial inequities that exist.
 
Through candid conversations with our staff and member governments, we are continuing to identify ways that TJCOG can have the greatest impact and lead our region through the hard work of systemic change. We acknowledge there are trusted voices and practices in racial equity and anti-racism that can, and must, inform the following actions. We also acknowledge that this work and its impact will take time, but that it must start immediately with the following.
 
Internally, TJCOG will:
  • Establish a partnership with an agency that works on racial equity who can provide training to staff and/or help inform TJCOG policy.
  • Identify tangible ways to operationalize our Core Value opening statement, a “lens of diversity, equity, and inclusivity”.
  • Conduct training for all employees to enable them to proactively support racial equity in their work and respond to bias or racism in the workplace.
  • Conduct civic conversation training for employees and stakeholders to strengthen our ability to have difficult but important conversations.
  • Facilitate ongoing internal conversation about systemic racism and how it affects our work today, initially through a book club, first reading The Color of Law.
  • Assess and adjust our recruitment strategies.
  • Examine our internal policies regarding equity, bias and/or racism in the workplace.
  • Educate staff across program areas on existing racial disparities to build a comprehensive understanding of the relationship between inequities and TJCOG’s focus areas.
Externally, TJCOG will
  • Support staff if they encounter racism, racial inequities, injustice or inherent bias in their work in the region by empowering them through training and support from TJCOG leadership to use their voice, on behalf of TJCOG, to hold individuals and organizations accountable for their words and actions. TJCOG leadership will step in, if necessary, to support staff members in these situations.
  • Compile existing resources on diversity, equity, and inclusion for our local governments.
  • Identify ways to ensure our organizational focus areas proactively address diversity, equity and inclusion.
  • Identify opportunities to bring our local government members together through joint membership and/or training around racial equity, civil conversations, and support.
  • Leverage the Equitable Growth Profile developed by TJCOG, Kerr Tar COG, and PolicyLink to look for new ways to implement across the region.
  • Work with existing collaborations with law enforcement agencies and community partners to produce meaningful change around policing.
  • Incorporate a racial equity framework into our Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy, to ensure economic development efforts build upon a foundation of anti-racist policies.
  • Focus the 2020 Regional Summit on systemic racism and its impact on local government work.
 
These actions will build a foundation for TJCOG and our local governments to begin the work of anti-racism that requires persistent education, policy change, and accountability. Moving forward, we will continue to work with racial equity partners to assess the impact of our actions, the areas that need greater staff and agency accountability, and the additional changes or actions to take to remain committed to systemic change. We understand that this work is just the beginning – and are committed to holding ourselves accountable to this work both within and outside of our organization.