A Strategy for Systems Thinking: Targeted Universalism

Targeted Universalism is an important concept to understand when working to implement socially just changes at the systems level.

Centering the voices, experiences, and concerns of folks with marginalized identities, and committing to prioritize addressing their concerns when attempting to solve social problems will benefit everyone.

Take a few minutes to listen to this video on Targeted Universalism from the haas institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society.

In this video, the haas institute’s director john powell talks more about Targeted Universalism’s framework and impact.

“A targeted universal strategy is one that is inclusive of the needs of both the dominant and the marginal groups, but pays particular attention to the situation of the marginal group. For example, if the goal were to open up housing opportunity for low-income whites and non-whites, one would look at the different constraints for each group.

Targeted universalism rejects a blanket universal which is likely to be indifferent to the reality that different groups are situated differently relative to the institutions and resources of society. It also rejects the claim of formal equality that would treat all people the same as a way of denying difference. Any proposal would be evaluated by the outcome, not just the intent. While the effort would be universal for the poor, it would be especially sensitive to the most marginal groups.”

–john powell, excerpted from Post-Racialism or Targeted Universalism


From Aspiring Humanitarian, Relando Thompkins-Jones

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I'm a Social Justice Educator and Aspiring Humanitarian who is interested in conflict resolution, improving intergroup relations, and building more equitable and inclusive communities. "Notes from an Aspiring Humanitarian" is my blog, where I write about issues of diversity, inclusion, equity, and social justice. By exploring social identities through written word, film & video, and other forms of media, I hope to continue to expand and enrich conversations about social issues that face our society, and to find ways to take social action while encouraging others to do so as well in their own ways.

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2 Responses

  1. January 23, 2018

    […] Targeted Universalism […]

  2. September 9, 2018

    […] Our cohort is finalized, and we had our first session this month. As a consistent theme, cohort participants will approach their work through a lens of Applied Critical Leadership; thinking critically about how their privileged identities and experiences might limit their perspectives on what is actually taking place in the environment, and how centering the voices of folks with marginalized identities when it comes to problem-solving can actually enhance the environment in ways that ensure equity for all people. I launched a series of workshops on Applied Critical Leadership in 2016, and the Cultivate sessions will accommodate a deeper dive into those concepts. As an example, one such concept that participants will explore as a way to lead for equity is Targeted Universalism. […]

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