In uncertain times, cities — with their economic power, diversity, and policy innovation — have the opportunity to lead the way forward when it comes to inclusive prosperity. From baking equity into their governance structures to building economic development strategies that close the racial wealth gap, cities continue to advance new models of equitable growth and development.
On October 30, PolicyLink and Prudential Financial hosted "All-In Cities: Leading the Nation toward Inclusive Prosperity," an opportunity to advance the conversation around this work and share important insights from experts on how cities can become places of opportunity for all.
All-In Cities supports local policymakers and community coalitions with policy ideas and strategies to achieve racial economic inclusion and equitable growth. On October 31, we brought together 40 of our community partners across seven sites for a day of trainings to share strategies and strengthen skills. Together, the two-day convening created a space to foster the exchange of ideas and accelerate work.
Shané Harris, Vice-President of Prudential Financial, Inc, kicked off the event by discussing how Prudential supports strategies that increase economic mobility for underserved populations. In 2015, the company partnered with PolicyLink to launch the All-In Cities initiative to build and amplify policies that dismantle systemic barriers and foster economic opportunity. Michael McAfee, President of PolicyLink, then took the stage with a call to action to stop doing small work, and commit to radically transforming cities.
“Our cities were designed in a way to exclude folks from having access to opportunity, and this is our moment to design it back in.” - Michael McAfee
The first panel, moderated by Tracey Ross, Associated Director of the All-In Cities initiative, focused on America’s demographic shift and how to connect people of color – who lived in cities through their long decline – with the growing opportunities cities are creating.
"We have economic challenges in Philadelphia because we have a human rights issue. We're talking about peoples' access to housing, to water, to food, to transit, to a decent workweek. And we know there are policies that work." - Helen Gym
Panelists included Vice Mayor Wes Bellamy of Charlottesville, VA; Jamelle Bouie, Chief Political Correspondent for Slate Magazine; Councilwoman Helen Gym of Philadelphia, PA; and Manuel Pastor, Director of the Program for Environmental and Regional Equity at the University of Southern California. The panel explored topics ranging from the economic case for equity, how to lead on racial issues in the midst of our tense political climate, the enduring effects of segregation, and building coalitions between immigrants and long-term residents.
"Our city has been intentional about displacing Black folks and making sure people of color don't get what they need, so I'm going to be unapologetic in my intentionality in ensuring we are creating equity for all people." - Wes Bellamy
The second panel, moderated by Sarah Treuhaft, Senior Director at PolicyLink, focused on best practices for new growth models in cities, and highlighted success stories to date.
Panelists included Majestic Lane, Director of the Bureau of Neighborhood Empowerment in Pittsburgh, PA; Anne McCulloch, President and CEO of the Housing Partnership Equity Trust; Trinh Nguyen, Director for the Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development in Boston, MA; and Dawn Phillips, Executive Director for the Right to the City Alliance and Director of Programs for Causa Justa::Just Cause. The panel discussed centering people in development and covered topics ranging from data-driven strategies, increasing affordable housing, anti-displacement policies, and moving from community input to community decision-making.
"How do you tell people that there is an economic cost to the isolation of poor Black neighborhoods and lack of access to opportunity?" - Majestic Lane
"It doesn't matter if you are talking about urban renewal, redlining, banking, or financial regulations... the government has played a central role in driving disinvestment, from the federal level down. We have to, to some extent, focus clearly on reversing and redefining the role of that governments have in [real estate] development." - Dawn Phillips
On day two, our community partners gathered for a half-day of discussions and trainings, first by reflecting on the previous day’s event. Our first session focused on institutionalizing equity in city government. The Fairfax team shared the work leading up to the passage of "One Fairfax," a resolution adopted by the county and school board to ensure decisions regarding education, land use, zoning and public-private partnerships advance equity and opportunity. The City of New Orleans then presented on EquityNewOrleans, a strategy guiding how the city will build a stronger, more inclusive city by advancing equity through its operations and decision-making.
Next, our National Equity Atlas team led a session on analyzing data for policy development. This was followed by a session led by Michael McAfee on results based accountability and accelerating results. The final session, led by PolicyLink Senior Director Anita Cozart, focused on the core competencies for effective advocacy.
We are very excited about the work emerging from this convening. Particularly as PolicyLink gets closer to Equity Summit 2018 (April 11th - 13th, 2018 in Chicago), this convening helps lay the foundation for the work we will do there around equitable growth and racial inclusion in cities. We look forward to reconvening our partners and equity leaders from across the country then.
"We need to make sure that equity is baked in, not sprinkled on." - Manuel Pastor