Contracting for Equity: Best Local Government Practices that Advance Racial Equity in Government Contracting and Procurement

Insight Center for Community Economic Development

Author +
Tim Lohrentz

Year: 2015

InclusIve contractIng refers to the process of creating the environment for businesses owned by people of color and/or women to participate in a governmental procurement and contracting process. Inclusive business participation in local government procurement and contracting is an important source of income and jobs in communities of color and helps to strengthen community and business partnerships. It strengthens communities within the jurisdiction both economically and socially. It also allows governments to express their values with the dollars that they spend. Procurement is one of the more important local government functions – valued at $23.4 billion annually, for instance, in the case of New York City. Although procurement and contracting has become more formalized and codifed over time, it is not necessarily more equitable.

Local governments procure and contract for a variety of things – from complex construction or architectural services to supplies to keep the government running. Before the Civil Rights movement, government contracting and procurement policies and practices generally excluded people of color and women. Although discrimination is now illegal, government procurement and contracting is generally not equitably distributed. Contracting inequities are both internal to the government – how the government does business – and also external – driven by the larger economy and how prime vendors and prime contractors to the government do their business.

Within governmental jurisdictions that are working to advance racial equity a common area of interest is the spending of government dollars.

Our goal: local and regional government dollars used for contracting, consulting and procurement should beneft the communities we serve, proportionate to the demographics in our communities.

This issue brief from the Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE) provides a common approach to furthering the feld of practice of contracting equity within government. We have assessed current successes and challenges of jurisdictions that are a part of GARE, as well as identifed additional jurisdictions that are furthering the feld of practice.

Over the last 15 years a growing number of local governments are addressing institutional and structural barriers and seeking sustainable change – change that is mandated through policy but also begins to happen naturally through comprehensive cultural change. Many jurisdictions proactively working to advance racial equity take a comprehensive approach, utilizing a myriad of strategies depending on their own local context. They often draw upon a variety of specifc race-neutral (non-mandated) strategies, or in some cases race-conscious approaches.

Download Contracting for Equity


Overview of Contracting Equity
Strategies to Address Structural Barriers to Procurement
1. Policy
2. Strategy
3. Practice And Regulation
4. Comprehensiveness
5. Culture Change In Local Government
6. Capacity Building
7. Expansion, Collaboration, And Replication