There are too many people who are excluded from entry into political processes. While systemic racism is part of the problem, government entities share much of the blame, and will continue to initiate poor involvement strategies as long as they demonstrate an inability to adapt. Apathy abounds, but entry work means that too many people who are put off by arduous processes will not be able to share new methods of engagement, and populations will remain marginalized.
First of all, most of the processes have not changed in a long time, and require too much repetitive paperwork to be streamlined. Requests for Proposal require hard copies in an era of email and being able to share messages on the cloud. Applications for Historically Underutilized Businesses require information that new entities may not have, i.e. examples of previous work with cities. Networking is vital, but opportunities depend on staff receptivity to those efforts, meaning that people can come to all of the engagements, have the proper training, but still not gain entry due to staff’s personal preferences. If one does not have a traditional office, as is the case with many new businesses, sending in the requirements for any major application is prohibitively expensive.
The networking processes are also too expensive for most people willing to participate in the entry work. For example, going to networking events at restaurants, coffee shops, and/or bars may seem appropriate, but in most cases, there is an expectation that people will be spending money. If one goes to multiple events per week, the amount of money spent is not available to most people interested in breaking through the barriers of public involvement. Schooling is also costly, all for the chance of being qualified for jobs while not being accepted based on algorithms and management preferences. While a guarantee is impossible to promise, government entities should make better efforts at recruiting those who may not have the entry “fee.”
Finally, acceptance takes entirely too long due to the assumption that the government entities must have people who believe in previously established principles rather than people who want to work with the government to evolve all the processes. Instead of encouraging the hiring of people who are qualified and have an urge to see change which may inspire others to actively participate, government entities want people who already have experience with the same alienating practicing that are now being called into question. Staff wants the status quo, as it has been “working” for decades, and works to continue hiring those that promote it, even during an era of tumult.
“That’s the way things have always been done” is not effective city policy. At some point, governments that are interested in true collaboration will need to work to remove those who are inhibiting progress and efficiency. There is no honor in perpetuating systemic inequalities based on fear of change.