Abstract for: Using Community Based System Dynamics to Address Structural Racism within a Public Health Research Center

This project used Community Based System Dynamics (CBSD) to address structural racism within a public health research center interested in advancing racial equity. In 2020, the Center established an Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee of faculty, students, and staff who identified a need to build their capabilities in three areas: racial equity analysis, systems thinking, and understanding Center operations. We convened a racially-diverse Core Modeling Team who wanted to focus on creating a shared vision of how structural racism is operating within the Center, with a particular focus on the racial composition of the Center. We decided to address the issue as a learning problem (Hovmand, 2014), meaning we focused on changing the Center by developing the system dynamics skills and racial equity analysis of the individuals who comprise it, rather than focusing on identifying leverage points. CBSD workshop planning and design was conducted in parallel with work to develop the Committee’s racial equity analysis, knowledge of white supremacy culture, and accountability skills, so as to reduce the risk of harm to participants of color. Two qualitative models were produced illustrating structure related to white supremacy culture, sense of belonging, employee retention, and hiring. Recommendations and methods insights are discussed.