Equitable DSM


A social condition which deliberately creates choices, access, and opportunities for all people to fulfill their basic needs, advance their well-being, and achieve their full potential.

— City of Des Moines Equitable Services Team

In 2018, the City of Des Moines established an Equitable Services Team with representatives from each City department. We share the goal of prioritizing equity throughout the entire municipal government organization.

Our team was charged with sharing best practices from similar organizations and proposing innovative ideas to ensure equity in municipal service delivery. We collaborated with members from all of the City's departments to form a citywide Social Equity Action Plan.

Manisha Paudel
Chief Equity Officer


Our Equity Process

Our Work

Institutionalizing Equity Strategy Back to Top

This strategy was created based on the recommendations to build on nationally demonstrated practices: normalizing the conversation, operationalizing actions, and organizing to ensure accountability. In each of the following areas of practice, the City's Equitable Services Team will identify steps taken and propose what we can do in the future to better institutionalize equity in our policies, programs, and practices.


  • Leadership acknowledgement and priority
  • Discussion-driven learning
  • Frequent use of “Equity Lens”


  • Organizational/community assessment
  • Creation of resource materials – Framework, Toolkit
  • Best practice research sharing
  • Workgroup/department-specific learning


  • Action Plan creation and implementation
  • Use of Equity Toolkit in decision making
  • Equity impact assessment | Collective Impact

Equitable Services Team Back to Top

Equitable Services Team group discussion

With representatives from each City department, the Equitable Services Team (EST) is responsible for researching and providing best practices and innovative ideas to promote equity within City government.

City Council Work Session

During the team's first presentation to City Council in 2020, the group addressed:

  • PlanDSM Social Equity Goal
  • Defining Equity
  • Team discussion on "What does a desirable neighborhood have or look like?"
  • Perceived inequities in Des Moines
  • Best practices for implementation of Equity Goal
  • Proposed Equity Framework and Toolkit

View the presentation


The Equitable Services Team also established a timeline consisting of a five step process to rollout the City's new equity efforts.

  1. City leadership commits to prioritizing equity across departments
  2. City government joins the Government Alliance on Race and Equity and begins offering training and learning opportunities across departments
  3. The core Equity Team begins identifying policies, practices, and areas for change as well as areas for further study and evaluation.
  4. The Team develops an action plan, drafting an equity resolution and framework for adoption.
  5. The Team organizes workgroups to focus on designing and implementing research and action pieces of our ongoing efforts.

View the timeline

Equity Framework Back to Top

An equity framework is a common guiding strategy utilized by organizations to truly ensure equity progressively becomes a part of the workplace culture.

The City of Des Moines equity framework includes the overarching goals and practices the Equitable Services Team and eventually, departments and divisions, will use to promote and measure equity. Adopted by City Council in fall 2020 (along with the Equity Resolution), the EST-developed framework serves as a starting point and set of best practices to guide our more specific and ongoing efforts.

Its main components are:

  • Assess available data to identify and measure equity and inequity
  • Set goals to reduce and eventually eliminate inequity and operationalize equity
  • Use the Equity Toolkit in creating and/or modifying programs and services
  • Utilize best practices for public participation
  • Ensure equitable service delivery of all City services
  • Commit to equity in policy decisions
Equity Framework Components

Equity Toolkit Back to Top

An equity toolkit is a set of questions and exercises designed to help individual departments and other stakeholders evaluate the intended and actual effects of proposed policies and programs for sustaining, perpetuating, or addressing inequities.

The City of Des Moines finalized its equity toolkit in May 2021. City staff will be trained in using the equity toolkit to evaluate existing and proposed programs and policies.

Questions and considerations include:
  • 1. Describe the policy, program, practice, or activity that is being reviewed (hereafter referred as “item”). Please specify if this item is new or a modification or expansion of an existing one.
  • 2. Briefly describe the intended outputs and outcomes from this item.
  • 3. Which specific neighborhoods, census tracts or wards will primarily be impacted? Please list all that apply. If this item is for an internal service/policy, mark “Not Applicable.”
  • 4. Which community organizations or social demographics will be impacted by this item? Please explain how.
  • 5. What current benefits and/or disparities exist, or can be anticipated, in relation to the item? How might the benefits and/or disparities evolve over the short term, mid-term and long term?
  • 6. What specific goals have you identified to eliminate inequity and promote equity through this item?
  • 7. Does this item promote inclusive collaboration and civic engagement? Why or why not? If yes, how would you use the IAP2 model to establish inclusive collaboration and civic engagement?
  • 8. Do you know if there are specific community organizations in support of or opposed to this proposal? Why? Assess and share specific benefits and burdens to stakeholders.
  • 9. Are there any potential outcomes of this item that will perpetuate (or create new) inequities? If yes, what support will you need to mitigate these potential consequences?
  • 10. How will the impact of this activity be measured? Explain the measuring tools or indicators that will be used to measure immediate and long-term impact.
  • 11. What additional resources and/or support will you need to continue to use this toolkit and support in advancing equity throughout the City of Des Moines?

Download the Toolkit

Local History Back to Top

To provide some historical context as to why these equity efforts are important, please review these resources:

Equity Profile Back to Top

An equity profile is a community-focused assessment of the state of equity in the community. The profile examines disparities in community conditions according to race, ethnicity, national origin, disability, gender, and other categories of difference. Areas of focus might include education, housing, healthcare, and transportation.

Preliminary work is being done to support the creation of an equity profile for Des Moines, first by identifying the existing inequities. While this type of profile examines disparities that are byproducts of or otherwise related to City decisions and processes, it is more broadly focused on the conditions community members experience as a result of multiple institutional and systemic factors.

Resources Back to Top

To continue the discussion and learn more about community efforts to promote equity, explore these available resources: