When we applied for the IMLS Community Catalyst Grant, we thought we knew what we wanted to do.  We had a vision– to use some of the expertise we have here in the UVA Libraries and direct them to help create a resource to visualize and contextualize inequity in our region.  We were following in the footsteps of the Portland Equity Atlas, and those that have been created by Denver, LA, and other metropolitan areas.  Our intent was (and still is) to innovate by involving multiple stakeholders in setting the priorities for the Equity Atlas, and to create and share resources (educational and financial) to help local organizations participate in the creation of the Atlas.

Since receiving the grant in October, we’ve realized that enrolling the community in our vision for an Equity Atlas isn’t the task ahead of us at all.  Instead, this project offers the opportunity to listen to those in our community that are working on equity issues, and to create a shared vision of what this resource can be.  We’re calling it an Equity Atlas because it needs a name, and that one is tied to some work done in other communities that inspired our efforts.  It’s too hard to call it “the information resource/portal/map thingy that we hope will make a difference for folks involved in policy, advocacy, education, and activism.”  It’s just not as catchy.

We’re lucky that IMLS has created a Grant that embraces the idea that meaningful work with the community can’t be scripted out in a “plan,” and must be responsive to opportunities, community assets, and collaboration. We’re extremely lucky to be part of a community that has so much knowledge and passion for us to learn from, support, and work with.  And, we’re lucky that many organizations that have worked harder and longer than us on Equity issues are welcoming us into conversations and collaborations.

Let’s define this Equity Atlas (aka information resource/portal/map thingy) together. We’ll be posting updates and ponderings and whatnot here.  We hope you’ll share your thoughts too.