As a systems thinker, I’ve watched with great interest how the 2020-2021 pandemic has cracked open, for all to see, the fallout of decades, even centuries, of broken systems, institutionalized prejudice, and causal loops of disparity built into nearly system of our culture. Whether it was access to basic healthcare or to basic technology for remote schooling, the pandemic showed us clearly and plainly that there are two different American experiences; one for those who benefit from our institutions, and a different one for those who live mostly outside of them.
For public agencies this is a defining moment. What choices will we make moving forward? Of course, we could wait it out, maintain the status quo, and focus on the return to the way things were, to go back to “normal.” Thankfully, that is not what seems to be happening across the country. The public sector, from local municipalities to federal agencies, is having some difficult and necessary conversations. The truth is, the invisible has become visible and we cannot collectively unsee the disparities that have held millions of Americans back, and have existed for generations.
Can decades, even centuries of prejudice in policy be fixed overnight? No, I don’t believe they can be fixed even in a decade. Institutionalized discrimination is embedded into our culture and our public policy, from housing to transportation to public safety. It will take at least a generation to dismantle and reform these systems.
This is an opportunity of a lifetime. Public servants and community leaders have the ability, the tools, and the momentum to reimagine these systems. Now is the time to design a recovery model, to reset the expectation of the American promise, and to revolutionize our public institutions.
Mind the Gap is a systems change agency that works with the public sector to meet post-Covid challenges, build on what already works, and adopt inclusive, accessible practices for a more equitable future.