An institute of the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs


Our Mission, Purpose, and Vision

Achieving racial equity is one of the most vexing challenges facing our nation today.

Even as America has become more racially and ethnically diverse, we have become more polarized. Social equity and racial equity fosters opportunities that make it possible for everyone, particularly communities of color, to fully prosper and realize the American dream.

The presence of racial equity aims to equip everyone with the opportunities and resources needed to succeed in our society. The absence of racial equity weakens democracy and undermines economic growth and economic development. To achieve social equity and racial equity, we must intentionally disrupt the historical injustices that have perpetuated racial and cultural barriers to success.


Consistent with the definition put forth by the National Academy of Public Administration, the Research Institute for Social Equity operationalizes social equity as the “Fair, just and equitable management of all institutions serving the public directly or by contract, and the fair and equitable distribution of public services, and implementation of public policy and the commitment to promote fairness, justice, and equity.”  
 - National Academy of Public Administration


The key to our success is reframing public discourse, analysis, and decision-making around social equity. Social equity – specifically racial equity – is a nervous area for government that has led to an inability to advance racial equity. This is the premise upon which our approach was established. The Institute changes public decision-making around social and racial equity by providing government, nonprofits, public, and private organizations with the evidence-based research, training, tools, and resources required to effectively manage and get beyond this area of nervousness. Until this nervousness is managed, our efforts to reduce social inequities cannot be fully realized.


Our Mission

Established in 2019, the mission of the Research Institute for Social Equity is to advance social equity through multidisciplinary scholarship, research, training, and engagement.

Our Purpose

To change public decision-making around social and racial equity by providing government, nonprofits, and private organizations with evidence-based research, training, tools, and resources to realize democratic ideals.

Our Vision

Our vision is to become the national intellectual thought leader in advancing social equity to inform public policy, governance, and practice to improve conditions for marginalized voices within our society.

The Institute works across four areas:


Enhancing racial equity research and analysis


Expanding social equity training for career professionals


Developing social equity tools for government, nonprofit agencies, educators, advocacy groups, and community members


Partnering with organizations committed to advancing equity within their communities

Public Policy and Practice

Drawing on the collective expertise of faculty from within the Wilder School, as well as the VCU academic and medical campuses, the Institute will use an integrated approach to inform public policy and practice. The Institute will bring together a network of social scientists from across research disciplines to form a comprehensive analysis of social equity. This network, along with strategic community engagement will lead our efforts in facilitating, translating and communicating groundbreaking research to ensure a meaningful impact. Our desired outcome is to assist government and organizations with deepening their understanding, perceptions, and ideas as a guide to reframe conversations, public policies and practices around social equity.

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A Record of Accomplishment

Already, the Institute has a record of accomplishment in providing timely and critical analysis of historical and contemporary public policies that impede parity for Black, Latino/a, and First American populations in particular. Most recently, the Institute conducted public policy opinion polls to help state policymakers assess citizens’ views on policy issues facing Virginia, emphasizing racial and equity impacts to bring solution-focused attention to these issues.

We have demonstrable success in developing and strengthening the skills of career professionals and community advocates to be responsive and proactive to issues facing communities of color to advance equity beyond the emphasis on disparities.

The Institute In The News