Seattle Extreme Heat Scenario-Based Pilot-Project in Frontline Communities - Racial Equity Mini Evaluation

The Seattle, Washington Extreme Heat Scenario-Based Pilot-Project was commissioned by the City of Seattle Office of Sustainability and Environment, funded in part by the Urban Sustainability Directors Network, and conducted by Equity Matters. It was commissioned as a pilot program to understand how municipal agencies, including Public Health - Seattle and King County, and the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, can better support low-income communities and communities of color during extreme heat events. Focused on Rainier Beach and Chinatown/International District neighborhoods of Seattle, this project aimed to achieve a goal of a racially equitable community-driven planning process.

See how Seattle critically evaluated how well they implemented a racially equitable community-driven planning. 

Community leaders and community based organization representatives advised on the project. A scenario-based exercise was designed from this input, and workshops in each community were held hosting the scenario-based workshops.   

The overall goals of the project are to:

  • understand existing social networks,
  • define assets within the community,
  • assess current strategies for dealing with extreme heat, and
  • determine opportunities to implement community-driven solutions.

The report opens with “Analysis & Findings” of both the Community-Driven Planning Process, and of a Community-Centered Outcome. This analysis focused on what extent people of color (and low-income residents) in the Rainier Beach neighborhood and the Chinatown/International District neighborhood hold power in the planning process, were centered in the design of the workshop, and how much they felt their voices matter.

The assessment of the process finds that overall, the Chinatown/International District efforts were more successful in engaging community partners and this engagement was reflected in a better attendance and a more community oriented feel to the workshop. When the data is disaggregated by race, the people of color on the planning team rated the project lower than White team members.

The Key Findings from the project are:

  • This project falls into the ‘consult’ stage of King County community engagement continuum, and did not achieve the goal of a racially equitable community-driven planning process.
  • The Chinatown/International District efforts were more successful than the Rainier Beach efforts, primarily due to pre-existing relationships.
  • Community partners appreciated the extra efforts in recruitment and compensation, and the project left them still wondering if this is another (unintentional) example of government agencies wanting to say they talked with communities, rather than really listening to what is being said.

According to the report, the project did not achieve shared decision-making (shared power and control) with communities of color in Rainier Beach and the Chinatown/International District. However, some important lessons to work towards identifying racially equitable organizational practices were ascertained, and are described in further detail in the report:

1. Clearly Distinguish Racial Equity from Inclusion and Engagement

2. Identify Organizational Practices that Center Communities of Color (and De-center Whiteness)

3. Connect and Embed Racial Equity into Broader Organizational Practices (recognize racial equity is not a project)

4. The Make-up of the Core Planning Team Must Reflect Communities of Color (Control)

5. Timeframe Needs to Be Realistic and Flexible and Centered on Communities of Color (Comfort)

6. Spend Time the Necessary Time Building Authentic Relationships and Trust (Transparency)



Publication Date: December 2015

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Resource Types:

  • Case study
  • Engagement

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