Targeted Universalism

The challenges of othering and belonging is the challenge of our time. Putting these ambitious changes on the agenda for equity advocates cannot be more critical. It is a much-needed framework for putting belonging into practice, for putting belonging on the ground.

This is why we have seen a strong turn for social justice organizations to orient around the frequent causes of equity, structural change, and new narratives or storytelling. This language represents an important insight. However, the importance of using this different language is muted if our practices and strategies pursue a hollowed out understanding of equity, structural change, and narratives.

Targeted universalism is a method to design efforts to make changes transformational or transactional. It is a process to make sure that changes are aligned such that large long-term durable change is advanced.

It is called ‘targeted universalism’ as it arrives from the policy terms describing other forms of policy making—targeted policies and universal policies. Targeted universalism addresses weaknesses and strengths and is conceptually and

operationally different. Neither universal or targeted approaches are able to accomplish swift, lasting, and large scale transformative change. We refer to targeted universalism as equity 2.0 because the framework puts equity into practice while bringing to fruition the full potential of focusing on equity over equality.

We live in an era of rising inequality, a toxic inequality poisoning our democracy, well being and our economy. Becoming aware of this inequality and understanding what should and can be done has become more politically salient.

In different ways, universal and targeted strategies can promote and create a false understanding of equity. And strategies to make change can promote a false sense of alignment and only changes in how we talk about inequality—not inequality itself. Targeted universalism can realize the full potential of shifting to equity, structural change, and new narratives.