A Framework for Assessing Equity in Federal Programs and Policies

MITRE’s Equity Assessment Framework enables federal agencies to examine programs and policies from the perspective of underserved communities as required by Executive Order 13985. This framework is a systems-based, data-driven approach to equity assessment that incorporates human-centered research, design, and assessment practices. It provides detailed guidance for repeatable and inclusive equity assessments and helps agencies establish ongoing equity-centric planning and implementation processes.


Select Programs and Define the Team

Use a criteria-based approach to begin selecting programs for assessment and, in particular, focus on where within the agency’s portfolio inequity may be prevalent and which programs would most benefit from an equity assessment. When creating the assessment team, consider not only the relevant expertise (e.g. data analysis, stakeholder engagement), but also team members that demonstrate the values of diversity, inclusion and equity, including the important ongoing work of identifying and mitigating personal biases. Where possible, begin engaging citizen experts and other relevant stakeholders as the team is being established. Embed risk identification and continual improvement process to support the long-term success of the equity assessment process. For example, start building a risk log, including identified risks and mitigations, at the beginning of the process and continue to maintain the log throughout the assessment.

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Define Equity Assessment Foundations

Each equity assessment must begin with an understanding of a given program’s intended outcomes, an agreed-upon definition of equity, and an initial hypotheses about who might be underserved. These critical elements form the foundation of both the stakeholder engagement strategy and the data analysis plan. Agency success hinges on community engagement, co-assessment, and co-creation of solutions with, and not just for, those who experience inequities. Where that is not possible, the framework offers tools that can substitute for true engagment until the assessment team can build the relationships necessary to enable stakeholder interactions, including working with communities who may not have been in the room when solutions were designed or who may be experiencing inequity today. Assessment teams also use these foundations to develop their measures of equity, tailored lists of indicators, and potential data sources for use against those indicators.

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Determine Inequity, Burden, and Barriers

Depending on the quantitative and qualitative data available, and the specific analytic approach identified in the prior phase, assessment teams can select from among the collection of approaches in the Framework to identify inequity, burdens, and barriers. Quantitative methods include statistical, benchmarking, or trend analyses. Complementary qualitative analyses will deepen an understanding of how the quantified disparities might result from a misalignment between program design/delivery with the needs of a specific population/community. These methods compare the processes, outcomes, and strategies of the program to the needs, resources, and perspectives of the identified underserved communities. By centering on the experiences of underserved communities, the assessment team exposes assumptions and gaps in understanding and identifies barriers and burdens that drive disparities in access and received benefits.

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Document Findings and Plan for Resolution

Capture observations, insights, and document initial findings. Explore not only equity in the program/policy, but also lessons learned about the assessment process so that the equity assessment program itself can be improved and applied more completely and consistently in the future. Finally, prepare for Resolution Planning, during which agencies will: engage with critical stakeholders (if not already being done as part of the initial assessment), verify and validate initial findings, develop solutions to address inequities, and develop the Resolution Plan, which is the plan for addressing any identified barriers to full and equal participation.

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