‘Upside of Equity’ Study Launched by Fairfield County’s Community Foundation

Feb 28, 2024

First-of-its-kind research to explore costs of inequity, benefits of equity, and potential solutions to creating systemic change.

Above: Photos from February 26th press conference with Senator Richard Blumenthal to kick off the Upside of Equity research project.

(Norwalk, CT) (February 26, 2024) – Fairfield County’s Community Foundation today announced the launch of an expansive, first-of-its-kind study on the potential economic benefits to Fairfield County residents of closing racial equity gaps.

The research — funded by a $462,000 grant through the federal Administration for Children and Families — will take a scientific approach to measuring the effect of racial equity on county residents by identifying the costs of inequity, the benefits of equity, and system-level solutions that can lead to measurable social change.

“There’s a common saying that ‘a rising tide lifts all boats,’” said Dr. Tanya A. Hills, the Foundation’s Director of Learning & Evaluation. “Our research aims to test that idea in ways that identify and quantify the impact of equitable policies and practices on the broader community.”

The research, titled “The Upside of Equity: Exploring the Economic Benefits of Closing Racial Equity Gaps,” will be conducted through a partnership with the Urban Institute and DataHaven, a Connecticut based nonprofit that collects and ensures access to data on equity, well-being, and quality of life. An advisory panel comprised of representatives from Fairfield County-based organizations, agencies and businesses will provide ongoing input on the research design, implementation and dissemination.

The research comes at a time of increased scrutiny of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs and initiatives nationwide, with increasingly divergent views on the value of such programs.

“This work has the potential to positively reframe some of the conversation around DEI,” said Mendi Blue Paca, the Community Foundation’s President & CEO. “Though efforts to increase fairness, opportunity and access in our region are rooted in ethics and justice, if this research ultimately affirms that more equitable policies, practices and programs carry with them the upside of improved quality of life and economic opportunity for all of us, it could go a long way toward debunking the view that advancing equity is a zero-sum game.”

Recommendations and best practices identified through this research will be shared at the local, state, and national level to help further advocacy efforts and guide more strategic investments and policymaking.

US Senator Richard Blumenthal commended Fairfield County’s Community Foundation for its commitment to advancing equity-focused research that has potential to benefit communities across Connecticut and the nation.

“Closing the racial equity gap and ensuring that all Americans have equal opportunity to advance is a moral imperative of our time,” Blumenthal said. “I am thrilled to see Fairfield County’s Community Foundation was awarded this federal funding to study which programs and policies bring about the most social change and benefit to Connecticut. Their new data and research will no doubt empower fresh solutions to our state’s most challenging problems, and I thank them for undertaking this important work.”

About Fairfield County’s Community Foundation
Fairfield County’s Community Foundation is partnering with our community to create a county where every person has an equitable opportunity to thrive. We work closely with organizations, nonprofits, businesses, and philanthropists to address challenges and identify opportunities to create a stronger, more vibrant region. Informed by three decades of partnering with and serving our community, we have awarded more than $390 million in grants to nonprofits in Fairfield County and beyond.

About the Urban Institute
The Urban Institute is a nonprofit research organization that provides data and evidence to help advance upward mobility and equity.

About DataHaven
DataHaven’s mission is to empower people to create thriving communities by collecting and ensuring access to data on well-being, equity, and quality of life.