The City of Iowa City is implementing several social justice and racial equity efforts as part of the Iowa City City Council's strategic plan to foster a more inclusive and sustainable community. 

Iowa City is one of the first cities in Iowa to include the advancement of social justice and racial equity in the City’s overall strategic plan, and in doing so, makes it a part of the City’s mission, values, and policies, Iowa City Equity Director Stefanie Bowers said. 

"The City is able to make changes where needed, and measure the progress toward equitable outcomes for all City residents by collecting and reviewing data and receiving community feedback," Bowers added. 

Social justice and racial equity programs include: 

  • Racial/Socioeconomic review toolkit: City staff from multiple departments began using a racial/socioeconomic review toolkit in July 2016. In this pilot program, a series of questions guides staff and the City Council in working towards racial equity by helping to identify when City policies, programs, initiatives or practices result in different outcomes for certain populations. City departments including Neighborhood and Development Services, Transportation, Police, Human Resources, Human Rights and Finance will utilize the toolkit for one year. After that, other departments will add the toolkit to their decision-making processes on an annual basis. Cities using a similar toolkit include Seattle, WA and Madison, WI.
  • Social Justice and Racial Equity (SJRE) Grants: Beginning Dec. 1, Iowa City-based organizations can apply for a grant that is specifically designed to advance social justice and racial equity. The City Council approved $25,000 in grants for fiscal year 2017. The SJRE grant lists six priority service areas: Education, Building Community, Housing, Criminal Justice, Health, and Employment. The Human Rights Commission will review applications then forward its recommendations to the City Council for review and approval. Organizations whose programs, services or activities address one or more of these priorities will be considered first for funding.
  • Conversations on Diversity: “Conversations on Diversity” is a lunch-and-learn series for current City board and commission members. The series is a joint effort between the City and University of Iowa College of Education Professor Katrina M. Sanders. It is designed to increase cultural competency by exploring race relations throughout American history.

For more information on these programs, contact Equity Director Stefanie Bowers at 319-356-5022 or e-mail

Date of publication

Tuesday, November 01, 2016