Advancing Equity
We can’t have healthy people without a healthy community.

Our Guiding Star

We believe that everyone should have a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible but there are unfair practices and unjust conditions that prevent this from happening. The “Advancing Equity in the Cedar Valley” project is working to change this creating a place where all people want to live, feel welcome, and have opportunities to thrive.

map_pin Advancing Equity Road Map

Our Approach

The beginning phases of the project were initiated in 2019 following the 24/7 Wall Street publication’s designation of Waterloo-Cedar Falls as the worst place for Black Americans to live.

Community members and organizations were invited into a facilitated process where local stories and data were used to map the patterns driving inequitable outcomes. Participants also identified “bright spots” that could be leveraged to shift the patterns leading to inequities and theories for change centered around:

  • Bringing attention to the inequities and biases present in our community
  • Increasing feelings of belonging and acceptance
  • Connecting people, organizations, and resources

Building a healthy community takes all of us working together.

The findings from these phases guided a series of workshops*  in 2022 – 2023 which led to the identification of three components crucial for ongoing strategic action. “Advancing Equity in the Cedar Valley” teams representing all sectors are tackling barriers, examining data to build equitable practices, connecting resources, and collectively working to build understanding and belonging across the community.

Explore Our Story

The Advancing Equity Road Map shows elements present in most communities - a library, school, hospital, etc. and links them to the patterns that emerged from the local stories and data collected during the project. By widely sharing these central themes, we can bring attention to the inequities and biases present in our community along with work underway to build a community where everyone has opportunities to thrive.

map_pin Advancing Equity Road Map

Want to learn more? View the interactive maps showing the first three phases of the project or read the report.

Divided We Fall

Just like a library connects the community with information and resources, elements of this central theme, “Divided We Fall”, connect throughout the roadmap. The theme starts with a community that is still segregated in many ways despite advances in legislation and the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. Separation leads to “us versus them” or “if someone wins, someone else must lose” thinking.

This, coupled with data and lived experiences of our community members, confirms that there are still inequities in where people live, hiring decisions, opportunities for wealth, voting rights, as well as the location and quality of services, schools, and parks. The good news is that these systems of injustice and fear-based mindsets were created by people so people can change them leading to a community where everyone has opportunities to thrive.

Holes in the Safety Net

Everyone should have the same opportunities for healthcare, safe housing, education, and economic security. When this doesn’t happen, communities aren’t healthy and we all pay the price. We blame those who are most impacted instead of understanding the
barriers some face.

There goes the Neighborhood

Policies like redlining have led to unequal investment. As a result, some neighborhoods have what they need to thrive while others lack services like transportation, sidewalks, safe schools, and grocery stores. This impacts health even when so much is out of an individual’s control.

The Divide

When resources are limited, we tend to protect our own interests first instead of finding ways to cooperate and grow better together. This divide happens at all levels - with individuals, governments, organizations, and coalitions - nobody wants to lose what they have.

Business Connections

Employers want communities with an educated, healthy, and stable workforce. When this isn’t the case, they will develop creative approaches to recruit and retain workers and be more willing to include diverse populations and perspectives.

Can’t Win for Losing

Sometimes you make progress but then things happen that cause you to be even further behind - like earning just enough to lose benefits or choosing between eviction and living with lead or radon in a rental house.

Not Valued

When neighborhoods and the people in them aren’t valued, people often stop speaking up and even voting. This means that underinvestment continues instead of building pathways to stability, power, and generational wealth.

Survival Instinct

Policies and laws aren’t always applied equally. You try to work around the unfairness in order to survive but often this is met with punishment leaving you worse off than when you started.

Seeds of Resilience

When the community understands there is a need and reaches out for support, it provides access to new ideas and resources. Excitement is contagious and generates even more support!

Resistance to Change

After being shut out or pushed down time after time, it becomes difficult to keep trying to change what’s broken because those in power don’t want change. When you do try, it's met with unjustified or unequal consequences. This fuels fear and anger or you just give up; either way, nothing changes.

The Report

Media coverage, like the 24/7 Wall Street publication article naming Waterloo-Cedar Falls as the worst place for Black Americans to live in 2018, can drive the community to work together for positive change.

Generational Distrust

Because of fear or bias, policies/laws aren’t always fairly implemented. It’s easy to see through this, lose trust, and give up benefits or services rather than condone the unfairness. It can take generations to undo the patterns of distrust or fear.

Impact of Bias

When the color of your skin impacts your job opportunities or sense of belonging, it is often based on beliefs rooted in the past about who is “good” or “deserving”. Discrimination and bias can even result in physical harm or the ever-present threat of it. Living this way can’t help but increase the likelihood of poor health and poverty.

Want to learn more? View the interactive maps showing the first three phases of the project or read the report.

Special Thanks

*Thank you to the funders and collaborators for Advancing Equity in the Cedar Valley: Kresge Foundation, Community Foundation of Northeast Iowa, Engaging Inquiry LLC, Grow Cedar Valley, ONE Cedar Valley, University of Iowa College of Public Health, TOP Rank, and SWIM (See What I Mean).

This work would not be possible without the 76 individuals and organizations who participated in the 2019-2020 workshops to build the context map for the community, identify points of energy and develop the leveraging hypotheses along with the 100+ individuals and organizations participating in the ongoing strategic action phase of the project.