Processes to Enhance Social Equity

Processes to enhance social equity through policies and projects can range from mitigating potential harm to vulnerable populations, to advancing their social and economic status directly through policies and programs. This will look different in different cities and forests, depending on the local context.

Adopting a social equity lens early on and iteratively throughout the planning of a policy or project can ensure that equity outcomes are well integrated and budgeted for. Not all policies or projects may have the resources needed to achieve social equity or empowerment. In these cases, decision makers can aim for incremental changes — from avoiding being socially blindSocially blind: Approaches that do not see social equity as something important to consider; assumes that if something works for one group, it will work for everyone (USAID). or socially exploitativeSocially exploitative: Approaches that take advantage of existing inequalities, behaviors, and stereotypes in pursuit of project objectives. They reinforce unequal power in the relations between men and women or other social groups and potentially deepen existing inequalities (USAID). to being socially accommodatingSocially accommodating: Approaches that work around social differences, norms and inequities, and meet people where they are to achieve project outcomes. They do not attempt to reduce the social differences, but also do not exploit or exacerbate them (USAID). or even socially transformativeSocially transformative: Approaches that explicitly engage all social groups to examine, question, and change institutions and norms that reinforce inequalities, and as a result achieve greater social equity through project objectives (USAID)..

For example, when practitioners work with communities, they can choose methods that intentionally involve diverse stakeholder groups and that hold space for their opinions, needs, and knowledge before/during the project implementation. This is better than merely informing or consulting with them.*

Public participation methods. Image: Cities4Forests, 2020. Adapted from International Association for Public Participation (IAP2).

*See the section on Meaningful Stakeholder Engagement for more information.