Originally published here by Emmanuella Ezike.

In a recent discussion with my colleague Alyssa Smaldino on operationalizing equity in public health systems, she shared a thought-provoking metaphor that encouraged me to delve deeper into its implications. She drew a parallel with using the GIS software, illustrating that while a base map offers a broad understanding of geographic areas, decisions based solely on this initial information may be acceptable momentarily, yet remain unsustainable. By incorporating additional layers such as topography, a more intricate and accurate view emerges, facilitating well-informed, sustainable decisions.

This metaphor brought to light that operationalizing equity goes beyond a simple step-by-step process. It requires a shift in perspective, akin to donning a new pair of lenses, enabling us to perceive more clearly. This shift encompasses:

  • Acknowledging our biases and comprehending their origins,
  • Critically examining our data collection and analysis methods,
  • Exploring the underlying causes of observed disparities, delving into “The Whys,”
  • Respecting and honoring the truths, experiences, and histories of the communities we aim to serve,
  • Choosing empathy over sympathy or pity,
  • Shaping our questions, programs, and policies from the standpoint of those most affected, and most importantly,
  • Amplifying the voices of the people, ensuring their perspectives are both heard and valued.

These reflections have prompted me to deeply contemplate my work at Medici Road, and the realm of development, particularly when engaging communities and executing programs. How often do we pause to introspect on these fundamental elements? Do we base our actions on assumptions rooted in our biases, or do we diligently analyze disaggregated data? Are we committed to unraveling the underlying motivations behind people’s experiences, even when those experiences may seem unfamiliar or contradictory to our own perspectives? Or do we hasten to prematurely conclude programs or merely tick boxes to meet grant requirements?

In this context, we can glean valuable insights from the paradigm of Culturally Responsive Equitable Evaluation and the Results-Based Accountability framework. We query: What extent of progress have we achieved? Who truly reaps the benefits? How inclusive and culturally sensitive are our approaches? How effectively did we execute the endeavor? Yet, most importantly, we inquire: Has any individual from our “inclusive” and diverse stakeholder group truly experienced an improved outcome due to their participation?

These contemplations underscore the significance of pausing, reflecting, and adopting a conscientious approach in our work. Only through these deliberate actions can we genuinely bridge the gap between intentions and impactful results, ultimately creating positive change that is both meaningful and sustainable.