Minneapolis neighborhood organizations fall short of diversity targets

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The percentage of people of color and renters serving on the boards of Minneapolis neighborhood organizations has remained flat since 2014, far below their share of the city’s population as a whole. This is according to a demographic survey conducted by the city’s Neighborhood and Community Relations department. The results were presented to the City Council’s Public Health, Environment, Civil Rights, and Engagement Committee on Monday.

People of color make up 36% of the city’s population, but are only 18% of neighborhood boards. Renters are 50% of the city’s population, but make up only 17% of neighborhood boards.

The survey of neighborhood organizations also found:

  • Neighborhood boards are 90-95% in line with city benchmarks for age, gender, and income.
  • A “significant under-representation” of:
    • those with income under $50,000
    • those with education below a college degree
  • An “over-representation” of:
    • those with an income of more than $125,000
    • those with a post secondary and post graduate education
  • 18% of board members had served for 7+ years; 16% had served for 4-6 years

Minneapolis has 70 neighborhood associations supported largely with city funding, but operating as independent non-profits. The groups are intended to serve an advisory and engagement role. Of the city’s approximately 750 neighborhood board members, 554 responded to the survey — representing 68 organizations. Options for completing the survey included paper (in-person), online, and mail-in.

This data is especially relevant as the City Council considers a series of recommendations from the NCR department intended to increase oversight and require more diversity in neighborhood organization leadership.

Also on Monday, NCR presented the results of a demographic survey of the city’s 20 boards and commissions that serve an advisory role on topics ranging from transportation, the environment, civil rights, public health, racial equity and zoning (and many more!). When comparing 2014 to 2018, the results showed a significant increase in the share of people of color serving on city boards and commissions.

Ward 4 Council Member Phillipe Cunningham remarked that engagement funding from the One Minneapolis Fund seemed to be making a meaningful difference with the number of people of color serving on city boards and commissions, before asking: “Why do you think we haven’t seen that [improvement] reflected in the neighborhood associations?”

The answer from NCR staff was that certain individual neighborhood organizations had made progress, but not enough to affect results for the city as a whole.

One factor contributing to increased representation for certain groups between 2016 and 2018: city boards with an equity focus were added. These include the Racial Equity Community Advisory Committee, the Transgender Equity Council and the Workplace Advisory Council.

Other results from the survey of the city’s boards and commissions:

Council Member Cunningham reacted to the presentation with the observation that there’s a difference between achieving “parity” and “equity.” To compensate for a long history of marginalization, sometimes equity requires “over-representation.”