Posted September 2nd 2014 at 3:42 pm by
in citychat

#CityChat: Leveraging Ethnic Identity to Build Community Power

Join us for #citychat on Friday September 5th, 11am EST (10am COT, Colombian time)

ethnic_identity Participants brainstorming at our Community Innovation School.

The Context

Although “race” is a socially constructed idea, a strong relationship nonetheless exists between “race,” lived social identity, social relationships and life chances. Race deeply affects individuals and society at large. This is not a uniquely American phenomenon. From South Africa, to the US, to Colombia, there is a long history of racial assignment in many parts of the world. Too often, “race” functions not as a means to political empowerment, but rather as a social identifier that serves to target select groups for discrimination. The extent and the reasons for this, vary from geography to geography. But because race is profoundly embedded in so many contexts; it isn’t going away. What potential then, might it hold?

The Inspiration

This is a question that was and continues to be explored by the participants, 64 Afro-Colombian leaders from the Pacific region, of our Community Innovation School hosted in partnership with Manos Visibles in August. One important emerging idea is that ethnic identity–which in the Pacific and elsewhere, is certainly connected to race but isn’t entirely the same thing–could be leveraged as an asset for building community power and change. We propose that resources associated with self-constructed ethnic identity as opposed to socially and historically imposed racial assignment are essential to well-being and health.

How to participate

In this month’s #citychat we’ll be digging deeper into this idea. You are invited to join the conversation and share your thoughts on a number of questions, including:

  • What does ethnic identity mean to you?
  • What are examples of communities, organizations, institutions or individuals leveraging ethnic identity in community development/urban planning?
  • What assets are they leveraging?
  • What specific knowledge, beliefs, practices or behaviors have ethnic populations utilized to organize against and challenge existing power structures?
  • What is required, in a particular context for ethnic identity to be leveraged as an asset for community development/urban planning?
  • Is their a role for collective leadership in being able to successfully leverage ethnic identity as an asset in community development/urban planning? If so, what?


It’s easy to participate in this Twitter chat. Just follow #citychat on Twitter from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. EST (10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. COT ) on Friday, September 5th. If you don’t have a Twitter account, you can watch the conversation unfold here or if you’d like to create an account, do so here.

In order to better facilitate the global sharing of ideas we will be piloting a #citychat model where we support tweeting in two languages, english and spanish. As such, the chat will be co-hosted by @MITCoLab and @InnovacionC, the twitter handle for the Innovation school in the Pacific.

@MITColab will be introducing the chat, tweeting questions, insights and shares in English. Similarly, @InnovacionC will be introducing the chat, tweeting questions, insights and shares in Spanish. Make sure to include #citychat in all tweets that are part of the conversation. The #citychat stream will be filled with tweets in Spanish and English, and you can focus on reading the ones in the language you understand. @MITCoLab and @InnovacionC will be translating and re-tweeting especially salient points.

Clic aquí para leer este blog en español.

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