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Equity and Social Justice Strategic Plan

Equity and Social Justice Strategic Plan

King County Equity and Social Justice Strategic Plan, 2016-2022

Equity and Social Justice Strategic Plan Highlights


King County is updating and expanding the 2016-2022 Equity and Social Justice Strategic Plan to refresh our equity, racial, and social justice vision and focus. 

Initially published in 2016, the current ESJ Strategic Plan has positively impacted the direction of the County'decision-making, policies, operations, services, community outreach, and workplace culture. The update will incorporate approaches needed to expedite progress in King County's pro-equity/anti-racist priority. We will bring together and meaningfully engage community-based organizations, community members, county departments, leaders, employees, and other partners.

The Highlights from the 2016-2022 Equity and Social Justice Strategic Plan provide glimpses into some of the work within King County that advances the vision and focus developed in the current plan. The Highlights is an online, interactive approach to highlighting some of the County’s significant ESJ initiatives, efforts and investments. We invite you to explore more about our current work as we start to pull together new and existing partnerships to help us create an even better and more thoughtful iteration of the ESJ Strategic Plan for the coming years. 

We look forward to engaging with you in 2023-24 as we work together to develop a refreshed Equity & Social Justice Strategic Plan.

In the meantime, we hope that you find this ‘highlights’ report informative and hopeful as we seek a better, more equitable future, for all of us.

Updated December 2022   

King County produced its first Strategic Plan for Equity and Social Justice (ESJ) in 2016, co-created with employees and community partners. The Plan has been a blueprint for action and change that guides our pro-equity policy direction, our decision-making, planning, operations and services, and our workplace practices in order to advance equity and social justice within County government and in partnership with communities.

The six-year Equity and Social Justice Strategic Plan represented a critical opportunity for King County to do ground-breaking work:

  • Applying a theory of change that fundamentally shifts the County away from policies and practices that react to problems and crises toward investments that address the root causes of inequities, ultimately leading to better quality of life and greater prosperity in all of our communities.
  • Balancing a bold vision with actionable and measurable objectives.
  • Allowing for innovation and adaptability across King County government to help us be dynamic and culturally responsive, moving us towards the goal of being racially justice internally and in the community.

Our Equity and Social Justice strategies as One King County are to invest upstream and where needs are greatest, in employees and in community partnerships. And we will do this with accountable and transparent leadership.

King County invests  upstream where needs are greatest, in community partnerships, and in employees, with transparent and accountable leadership.

Our Pro-equity Policy Agenda: We launched a Pro-Equity Policy Agenda aimed at expanding access to opportunity (determinants of equity) in eight areas, including child and youth development, economic development and jobs, environment and climate, health and human services, housing, information and technology, the justice system, and transportation and mobility.

Our Goal Areas: We advanced pro-equity policies, systems and practices in six areas of governance: leadership, operations and services; plans, policies and budgets; workforce and workplace; community partnerships; communication and education; and facility and system improvements.

Region Equity Collaborative: Given the need for increased coordination and cross-sector solutions that match the scale of inequities we face, King County government is committed to advancing a regional collaboration on equity with partners for greater and more sustained change.

Contact us if you have thoughts and ideas about this plan and its implementation.

Read our plan

King County Equity and Social Justice Strategic Plan Executive Summary

Executive Summary King County Equity and Social Justice (ESJ) Strategic Plan 2016-2022 (343.6 KB PDF)

Highlights of the ESJ Strategic Plan

Introduction, Theory of Change and Strategies

Introduction, Theory of Change and Strategies, ESJ Shared Values and Common Language section (3.8 MB PDF): Defines how King County will become "pro-equity" in our policies, systems and practices by investing upstream and where needs are greatest; investing in community partnerships and employees; and with transparent and accountable leadership.

Pro-Equity Policy Agenda and Regional Equity Collaborative

Pro-Equity Policy Agenda and Regional Equity Collaborative (1.4 MB PDF): Lays out actions and policies to move us towards a state of greater equity in eight areas: child and youth development; economic development and jobs; environment and climate; health and human services; housing; information technology; justice system; and transportation and mobility. Introduces the need and opportunity to build regional cross-sector collaboration and shared ownership to tackle the scale of inequities that face our region.

Pro-equity Governance through Six Goal Areas

Pro-equity Governance through Six Goal Areas (1.3 MB PDF): Sets goals, objectives and minimum standards for how the County will build pro-equity capacity in leadership, operations & services; equitable budgeting, planning and policymaking; workplace & workforce equity; community partnerships; communications and education; and equitable facility and system improvements.

Strategic Planning Process
To develop the Equity and Social Justice (ESJ) Strategic Plan, King County government engaged employees and partners from the business/labor, philanthropic, public and community/civic sectors.

Between April and July 2015, working with the County’s ESJ Inter-Branch Team members and department/agency leadership, the ESJ Strategic Plan team invited all County departments and agencies, and employees from various levels of their organizations – non-management, management and leadership – to participate either in their department’s/agency’s three-hour or in one of four 90-minute ESJ Strategic Planning workshops. Each participating department and agency conducted a SWOC (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Challenges) analysis, which was designed to provide employees with a safe and healthy space to have open dialogue, and genuinely share their experiences and ideas of the current state of King County government as it relates to being “fair and just,” as well as a vision for a more equitable and just future.

In this phase of our strategic planning, we engaged with a diverse group of 560 employees across and at various levels of King County government, through 22 ESJ Strategic Planning workshops. Almost 80 percent of employees who participated were selected for their department/agency workshops, while the remaining employees selected themselves to participate in the 90-minute all-employee workshops. All executive branch departments, the legislative branch (Council) and judicial branches (the Courts), and some separately elected agencies (Elections) participated in this broad, County-wide effort. Each group consisted of 25 to 30 employees on average, mainly from mid- to upper-level management positions.

Read the complete ESJ Strategic Plan – Employee Engagement Report.

Between July-September 2015, King County employees from several departments and agencies conducted over 100 engagement sessions with individuals and groups representing community and faith-based organizations, business, education, labor and philanthropic sectors.  We systematically posed the same questions at each session concerning the current state of equity, existing work and models for achieving equity, and emerging opportunities for King County to partner with others to advance equity regionally.  We also collected responses to these questions via a Community Partner online survey.

People shared numerous and, in some cases, very specific ideas about how we can move toward more equitable outcomes in major areas of our work including, Early Childhood Development & Education, Economic Opportunity & Jobs, Health & Human Services,  Housing, Environment & Climate, Safety & Justice, and Transportation.  We are now working to identify themes and priorities based on what we heard to ensure that King County’s Equity and Social Justice Strategic Plan is grounded in the true equity needs and opportunities within communities.

Read the complete ESJ Strategic Plan - Community Engagement Report.

Common Questions about the ESJ Strategic Plan

Many in our region are prospering and thriving, and for many, this is a great place to live, learn, work and play. In fact, we have some of the most well-off communities in the world.

However, a closer look at how the benefits of our region are distributed shows that we have deeply entrenched social, economic and environmental inequities and injustices that are worsening and threaten our prosperity. Research shows that the color of your skin, where you live and how much you make are major predictors of your life and work experience, and your chances of reaching your full potential. This holds true for our employees and many of our communities.

These inequities are driven by an array of factors including our tax system, unequal access to the determinants of equity, and subtle but pervasive individual bias, and institutional and structural racism and sexism. These factors, while invisible to some of us, have a profound and tangible impacts for others.

While King County government has well-regarded pro-equity policies and programs, we still have a very long way to go. Our ability to create greater levels of institutional and regional equity are limited by the scope of our services and influence.

The shared vision for Equity and Social Justice is consistent with the overall vision of King County’s Strategic Plan: A King County where all people have equitable opportunities to thrive.

Our Equity and Social Justice shared values will guide and shape our work. We are:

  • Inclusive and collaborative
  • Diverse and people focused
  • Responsive and adaptive
  • Transparent and accountable
  • Racially just
  • Focused upstream and where needs greatest

Equity is fundamental to the society we seek to build. It is an ardent journey toward well-being as defined by those most negatively affected. Our end goal is for full and equal access to opportunities, power and resources so all people may achieve their full potential. The process of advancing toward equity will be disruptive and demands vigilance. Being "pro-equity" requires us to dismantle deeply entrenched systems of privilege and oppression that have led to inequitable decision-making processes and the uneven distribution of benefits and burdens in our communities. Similarly, we must focus on those people and places where needs are greatest to ensure that our decisions, policies and practices produce gains for all.

There is an Implementation Plan through 2018. The Policy Areas are in three-year cycles, and the Goal Areas are in two-year cycles. The two-year cycle for the Goal Areas is aligned with the County’s biennial budget process and builds our organization’s capacity in ESJ 'adaptive management.' We incorporate design, management and monitoring to advance our strategies in the various functions of government; then we continuously and systematically adapt and learn. As a government, we have to practice adaptive management to be coordinated and responsive to our communities and employees.

Many of the goals and objectives in this Strategic Plan can and will be pursued with current levels of resourcing and by re-prioritizing. At the same time, some goals and objectives propose system, practice and policy changes that are new, significant, and/or require King County to identify significant new resources for successful implementation. As a result, elements of this Strategic Plan are contingent on appropriate resourcing, including in the biennial budgets. Therefore, the Goal Areas will be implemented using two-year cycles to build our organization’s capacity in ESJ adaptive management as described in the Executive Summary. Departments and agencies will be expected to complete department/agency-level ESJ Strategic Plan Implementation Action Plans by February 2017.