City of Lawrence staff members want to increase diversity of community events

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City employees outlined goals related to diversity in local events at Tuesday’s Lawrence City Commission meeting, with a focus on increasing outreach to diverse communities. 

Porter Arneill, communications and creative resources director, shared data from community surveys, joined by Derek Rogers of Parks and Recreation, Kalenna Coleman of Equity and Inclusion, and Steve Nowak, director of the Watkins Museum of History. 

The ETC Institute was commissioned for this survey, and analyzed several performance indicators related to the city’s events. 

One indicator looks at the percentage of Black, Indigenous and people of color respondents who regard Lawrence as welcoming, according to their survey responses. That sample size was made up of 332 records — not a statistically significant number, according to the presenters. 

The overall satisfaction rate was a little less than 70%, and the city’s target is 75%. 

To reach that goal, the city plans to develop marketing and outreach strategies aimed at certain populations, according to the presentation. 

Commissioner Amber Sellers urged the group to also focus on other demographics besides race, including gender identity and age. 

“We know that we are a more aged population than we are younger,” Sellers said. “As we look at how we identify events and activities — whether they’re cultural, whether they’re conventions — how do we start cross-referencing that with events that are family-focused and youth-focused within the cultures?”

One indicator the city is looking at is the percentage of residents who attended an event in the past year. Employees want to develop improved methodology to track this data set, as the current data is not collected in a usable fashion. Arneill said with further refinement, the surveys will be more helpful. 

“This gives us a ripe opportunity to delve into this,” Arneill said. “It’s actually good this wasn’t perfect because now we are going to go back and refine it and make it better.”

Another indicator found about 41% of residents believe their culture is celebrated in the community. The target is 60%, and the city plans to address this through new initiatives and increased marketing. 

Above all, the focus should be on celebrating diversity in the community, Nowak said.

“In moving forward, one of the things we need to do is create stronger links between the events that are happening and the cultures that are being celebrated, and increase awareness of certain cultures and recognize their contributions to the community,” Nowak said. 

Here’s the full presentation from the meeting agenda:


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Abby Shepherd (she/her), a contributor to The Lawrence Times, is a senior at the University of Kansas studying journalism and political science. She is news editor for The Eudora Times, and worked as the city government reporter there for a year.

Follow her on Twitter. Read her work for the Times at this link.

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