Six Ways to Vote for Equitable Growth and Shared Prosperity

Introducing New Neighborhood Opportunity Maps


We know that opportunity differs by neighborhood, and maps are one way to visualize this variation across a given city, region, or state. That’s why today, we are adding mapping breakdowns to the following four indicators on the National Equity Atlas:


These new interactive maps allow you to visualize data by county or by census tract as well as by city, region, or state. You can also toggle back and forth between different years to see how the geography of opportunity has changed over time and create custom maps using an interactive filter and scroller. On the race/ethnicity map, for example, the scroller allows you to visualize measures of opportunity (e.g. homeownership) in relation to neighborhood composition (e.g. the share of the Latino population). And on the disconnected youth and unemployment maps, the scroller allows you to visualize the indicator as neighborhood compositions (e.g. share of the Black or Native American population) vary.

This blog walks you through how to access and use the new maps. Register for our 30-minute webinar on November 2 for a live walk through.

How to find the new maps

To access the new maps for the people of color indicator, click on the Indicators tab in the top navigation bar. Then under the Demographics menu, select “People of color.” You can look at the data by county (the default), by the largest 150 regions, or by state. You can also toggle back and forth between every decade from 1980 to 2040 to see how the share of people of color in the U.S. has changed over time. The GIF below pulls from the new maps to show how the share of people of color has changed from 1980 to 2010 and how it is projected to change by 2040. You can also see the new people of color map on the homepage of the Atlas.

You can filter by White areas, Black areas, Latino areas, etc. in the people of color, unemployment, and disconnected youth maps, and you can also filter by different measures of opportunity in the race/ethnicity map. To get to the race/ethnicity indicator, select Race/ethnicity (also in the Demographics menu).

The default breakdown shows a chart of how the racial/ethnic composition of the country has changed from 1980 to 2010, and how it’s projected to change through 2040. Underneath the graphic display, you’ll see the different breakdowns, the second of which is the “Race and ethnicity map.” The default map is the percent people of color in 2014, but you can also look at the data from 2000. Under the year options, you’ll see the six major race/ethnicity groups and all people of color. If you select “Native American”, for example, you’ll get a map of the percent Native American by county. The darker purple counties represent areas with a Native population larger than 40 percent (see screenshot below).

Using the opportunity filters

The filters located on the bottom right of the page allow you create custom maps based on various measures of opportunity such as homeownership and the share of the population with an associate’s degree or higher. To illustrate how the filters work and how to access data by neighborhood, take the state of Mississippi as an example.

You’ll notice that census tracts are not one of the geography options in the map above. In order to view the data by census tract, you must type in a state, region, or city in the Explore box. After typing in and selecting Mississippi, you get a map of the state by tracts (the default geography at the sub-national level). If you click on “Black”, you get a map of the Black population share. The purple tracts are neighborhoods with a Black population greater than 40 percent. The light blue areas, on the other hand, have a Black population under 10 percent.

To use the filters, first select one, like homeownership, then move the scroller at the bottom to only show areas where the homeownership is at least a given percentage. The overall homeownership rate in Mississippi is 68 percent, but moving the scroller to 68 percent, creates a map of census tracts where the homeownership rate is 68 percent or higher and many of the purple tracts (representing majority Black tracts) in the northwestern part of the state disappear as a result (see maps below). Those tracts that disappear have a homeownership rate less than 68 percent.

Using maps to inform decision-making

These maps can be especially helpful in developing targeted employment or workforce development initiatives. The overall unemployment rate in Mississippi was 10 percent, but this was clearly not the case across all census tracts. Filtering the map by tracts with an unemployment rate of at least 15 percent produces a map with several majority Black tracts. This map can support programs and initiatives through the state workforce investment board by ensuring that resources are targeted to communities that need them most.

Note: While the size (land area) of the census tracts in the state varies widely, each has a roughly similar number of people. A large tract in a more rural part of the state likely contains a similar number of people as a seemingly tiny tract in an urban area. Care should be taken not to pay an unwarranted amount of attention to large tracts just because they are large.

Mississippi has the highest rate of disconnected youth of all states, so understanding how the number and share of disconnected youth varies across the state is central to developing an effective workforce development or education program. To find the map for disconnected youth, select “Disconnected Youth” in Readiness section of the Equity menu. The very last breakdown is the mapping breakdown. As you’ll see in the map below, there are several red census tracts, symbolizing areas where the share of disconnected youth is greater than 20 percent. As you hover over different tracts, you can see both the share and the total number of disconnected youth. In census tract 9504 in Prentiss County, for example, more than 100 young people, or 57 percent of 16 to 19 year olds, were disconnected from both school and work.

The filters and scroller on this map allow you to visualize disconnectedness in relation to neighborhood composition. As you filter to majority White or majority Black neighborhoods, you’ll notice how disconnectedness varies geographically.

For a walk through of the unemployment maps, view our previous blog. For a live walk through of the new maps, register for our webinar. Share your thoughts or questions during the webinar or through our contact form.

This Atlas of Racial Equity Just Keeps Getting Better

Cross-posted from CityLab

How do race and inequality intersect with space? American mapmakers have been trying to answer this question since at least 1895, when a group of reform-minded Chicago women published the Hull-House Maps and Papers. At the height of the Gilded Age, inequality was skyrocketing. Housing and labor conditions among droves of new immigrants were dire.

Putting their faith in data as catalyst for progress, the Chicago reformers meticulously surveyed the ethnicities and wages of industrial workers living in a tenement neighborhood on the Near West Side, and then plotted their findings in vivid color on a set of blank property maps. The result was a groundbreaking visual demonstration of poverty as a product of a person’s spatial context, rather than some damning individual quality—a belief that was commonly held then (as it is now).

Flash-forward 120-plus years, and we’re living in an era some call a second Gilded Age. In fact, income inequality is even worse now than it was then. Mapmakers are still figuring out the best ways to plot disparities across all sorts of measures—jobs and school quality, environmental health, and transportation access, for example—to advocate for policy change. The National Equity Atlas, developed by PolicyLink and the University of Southern California’s Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE), might be the best and most comprehensive graphic call for economic equality available today.

Read the full article in CityLab.

A Seat at the Table: Through Community Participation, New Orleans Leads the Fair Housing Movement

Isabel Barrios, a program officer at the Greater New Orleans Foundation, recently facilitated a conversation with young people in New Orleans in which they were asked what health and public safety mean to them. They responded by saying things like: "It means not hearing gunshots when I'm playing on the basketball court," and "I would be able to ride my bike somewhere and not have to worry about it being stolen," and "Health means having water fountains in our neighborhood, because it can get very hot out and I want to be able to drink water when I'm playing outside."

"There were all of these great things that all of these kids brought up that barely fall within into what people call public safety in city planning processes," said Barrios. "There is an incredible opportunity if you have meaningful engagement and really hear people out." She mentioned that when residents asked to return to their public housing developments after Hurricane Katrina, their calls were translated by politicians into requests for more "affordable housing" in the form of vouchers — signifying that filtering may still affect their trust.

Last week, the City of New Orleans and the Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO) made a concerted effort to respond to city residents' specific appeals for improved housing and greater connection to opportunity in the joint Assessment of Fair Housing (AFH) plan they submitted to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). By submitting this plan, New Orleans became one of the first of 20 jurisdictions in 2016 to adhere to the update to the Fair Housing Act released in 2015 requiring federal housing funding grantees to "Affirmatively Further Fair Housing" (also known as the AFFH rule). Over 100 more will follow in 2017, and all remaining HUD jurisdictions in the following years. The revamped AFFH rule lays the foundation to ensure that HUD resources are being effectively used to foster communities of opportunity. The framework helps cities, counties, regions, states, and housing authorities examine historic patterns of segregation, expand housing choices, and foster inclusive communities free of discrimination.

Community outreach that builds on past efforts

Over the course of the summer and early fall, HANO and the city met with residents, housing, transportation, and health advocates, and community organizations to get their input on the housing opportunity plan. They also coordinated with the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center (GNOFHAC) to hold sessions to train community-based groups on the more technical aspects of the AFH plan, and to engage communities not usually at planning tables. Seven partner groups (including PolicyLink) served as a coordinating committee that synthesized community input, guided research, addressed gaps in the data that were being gathered, and drafted the Assessment of Fair Housing that set goals for healthy communities of opportunity and prioritized actions to be pursued over the next five years.  The plan's development was guided by equity, as defined by PolicyLink: "just and fair inclusion into a society in which all can participate, prosper, and reach their full potential."

The plan includes a summary of residents' concerns gathered during the community participation process channels, such as escalating housing costs within proximity of new hospitals (making both health care and job access more difficult), criminal background checks limiting employment opportunities, and transportation services prioritizing tourists over transit-dependent residents. It also reports on demographic trends in the city and where racially/ethnically concentrated areas of poverty exist. The numbers were revealing, with 66 percent of the more than 75,000 renter households classified as low-income, and 77 percent of those households reporting housing problems.

The factors contributing to disparities in access to opportunity informed the development of the AFH plan's key goals, which include expanding affordable housing in high-opportunity areas, reducing housing segregation, and prioritizing public investments in transit, quality schools, housing, parks, and other amenities in underserved communities. (Read more about the plan's goals here.)

The AFH plan is building on recent community-based planning efforts, including: HousingNOLA, a 10-year strategy and implementation plan launched in August 2015 as a partnership of community leaders and public, private, and nonprofit organizations working to solve New Orleans's affordable housing crisis; Housing for a Resilient New Orleans, a five-year strategy for the city to build or preserve 7,500 affordable housing units by 2021; and a rental housing assessment released in March 2016 — conducted by the Center for Community Progress and commissioned by the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority — which found that nearly four out of five low-income, cost-burdened renter households in New Orleans are Black.

"Redlining is not a thing of the past"

The community engagement groundwork laid through these other strategic processes had a direct impact on the AFH plan, and will enable concrete federal resources to be invested in results. Andreanecia Morris, executive director of HousingNOLA, related how the HousingNOLA community review team recommended that the AFH plan look to leverage more private investment in low-opportunity neighborhoods through encouraging banks to spend their Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) money in those places — fulfilling the banks' obligation to meet the credit needs of low- and moderate-income neighborhoods.

"Redlining is not a thing of the past," said Morris. "We called for an assessment of where lenders are working in New Orleans. The community took advantage of the opportunity to participate in the Louisiana Reinvestment Summit and submitted and integrated those comments into the AFH plan and HousingNOLA's 2017 Action Plan."

"Racial discrimination undergirds a lot of the discrimination that we see"

In addition to leading the community engagement work of the AFH plan, the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center provided data to the city and HANO about both public sector barriers and private acts of discrimination to fair housing choice.

"Racial discrimination undergirds a lot of the discrimination that we see," said Cashauna Hill, executive director of the Center. "When we conducted an investigation of landlords discriminating against housing choice voucher program participants, we found that 80 percent would not accept voucher holders, which is still not illegal in New Orleans or in the state of Louisiana. We found that racial discrimination was at the root of some of the refusals to accept vouchers."

The Center receives daily calls from people being discriminated against: families being told that landlords will not accept children, people with disabilities finding limited choices for accessible apartments, renters living in substandard living conditions and struggling to get their landlords to treat mold or repair sewage lines.

"The good news is that we've got some leaders at the local level who are really interested in making living conditions better for renters in the city and in enacting policies to address the affordability crisis that's going on," said Hill. "We're working with a coalition that includes public health advocates to continue to raise these issues. What we need is a mechanism or framework that is going to require housing providers in the city to live up to their end of the deal to provide healthy and safe housing for the tenants." Adopting health and safety standards for occupied rental housing in the form of a citywide rental registry ordinance is listed as one of the short-term goals of the AFH plan.

Staying close to "the gumbo you like"

Barrios from the Greater New Orleans Foundation added that the release of New Orleans's AFH plan will have implications not only for HUD's decisions but also for the foundation's own grantmaking. As she said, if the Foundation wants to support a transit advocacy organization like Ride New Orleans, "the AFH plan will help us get a good sense of how Ride New Orleans is working along with housing advocates and workforce development folks to keep them abreast and informed. In that sense, the AFH plan is a great way to create a space for Ride New Orleans to be more connected with housing folks who may not have been making those connections before," she added.

"The people of New Orleans are pretty clear on their own sense of well-being," Barrios concluded, emphasizing once more the importance of meaningful community engagement in making far-reaching decisions about making places more opportunity-rich. "It's not only just connecting places to health care. Our sense of well-being can also be closely related to proximity to our families and friends — the things we've always known and cherished," said Barrios. "It can even be where you can get the gumbo you like — it's all part of what makes people feel good."

Earlier this year, PolicyLink and the Kresge Foundation released Healthy Communities of Opportunity: An Equity Blueprint to Address America's Housing Challenges. It explains how health, housing, and economic security policies must be aligned to achieve equitable housing outcomes and discusses how the AFFH rule presents a key avenue to advancing opportunity. PolicyLink played a supportive role in developing the Assessment of Fair Housing (AFH) plan in New Orleans.

Fueling an Equitable Labor Movement: A Conversation with Jobs With Justice Executive Director Sarita Gupta

Named one of Bill Moyers's "19 Young Activists Changing America," Sarita Gupta, executive director of Jobs With Justice, is a driving force for economic and social justice within today's labor movement. Drawn to the labor movement as a student activist at Mount Holyoke College, Gupta has spent her career fighting for the rights and dignity of working people, especially low-wage earners and workers of color. 

Under Gupta's direction, Jobs With Justice has helped to win wage increases for 10 million low-income New Yorkers and Californians, secured overtime and wage protection for two million home-care workers, and helped update overtime regulations that affect 12.5 million workers. Gupta also serves as co-director of Caring Across Generations, a national movement working to transform the growing care-giving sector. 

Here, Gupta shares her vision for a healthier economy and brighter future through advancing the rights, voice, and power of America's workers.

You began your career in advocacy as a student activist, and you served at the United States Student Association from 1996 to 1998 first as vice president, then as president. How did this early work in education set the stage for your transition into the labor movement?

As a student activist, I witnessed friends and fellow students having to drop out of school because they couldn't afford tuition. I began to see systemic issues at play. You can't achieve educational success without having economic stability, and without attaining a higher level of education, your job options are limited. So, I was moved to get involved and help break this cycle.

During my tenure at the United States Student Association (USSA), I realized that the forces moving an agenda to privatize and corporatize higher education, cut taxes, and limit student voice in shaping policies in their states, were many of the same special interests who stood against the rights and opportunities of working people. It was clear to me that the only way to counter the attacks on students and working people was to build a joint movement. 

Given that the fight to increase worker power in the United States is often in opposition to powerful corporate interests, how can advocates meet the challenge of changing the culture of labor in the U.S.?

There will always be antagonism between corporate interests and working people's interests, so it's healthy and honest for there to be conflict and differences. And one should be suspect if someone argues otherwise. In the history of the United States, working people have struggled for all the protections that we have earned — from the safety net to child labor laws, to the eight-hour workday. These bedrock protections weren't handed down to Americans out of the charity and benevolence of corporations or our government. Thirty years of neoliberal policy in this country led to corporations holding an extreme concentration of wealth and power. If we are ever going to achieve the type of equity that is necessary and healthy for the economy, we need to shift the balance of power back into the hands of working people and ensure that the voices of unions of working people are respected, as they are in many industrialized nations.

Is it going to be culturally challenging? Of course, but by joining for a common cause, we can have more of a say and negotiate more for ourselves, as well as the next generation. Corporations are not immune from the pressure of a rising tide of public outrage and a groundswell of critique from employees. We also can look to the growing movement of socially responsible business models, like B corporations, as evidence that there are American businesses striving to reconsider their relationship with their employees. They are proving that businesses thrive when they listen to and invest in people who make them successful.

In your opinion, what is the relationship between workers' rights and the overall strength of the economy?

In recent decades, much of the discourse around the economy has focused on the needs of corporate interests, which only addresses one part of the whole economy. As a result, policies that address the economic security of families are often cast as a threat to economic growth. But, if people lack the means to participate in the economy as workers and consumers, then the economy suffers.

At Jobs With Justice, we believe a strong and vibrant national economy is one in which the needs of both families and firms are met. Our economy is off-balance with too much power and money in the hands of too few. When working people can come together and negotiate over the terms and conditions in the workplace, and can have input over their communities, we can rebalance the economy.

How will labor movements help the United States navigate the dual demographic shifts facing our economy: the increasing size of our aging population and the rapidly growing majority of color?

This is an exciting time for our nation. We have the opportunity to write new rules to address the future of our communities, the future of work, and future generations. But by failing to implement solutions, we're allowing some profitable employers to push people of color into low-wage jobs with no opportunity for advancement. Many hardworking moms, dads, and young people aren't earning enough to sustain their families, despite working in booming sectors of society like home care, restaurant and food services, child care, and retail, to name a few.

Thankfully, the growing Fight for $15 and a Union movement, the movement for Black lives, adjunct professors pushing back against poverty wages, and countless other campaigns for change are all fueling the demands for a better life and a new social contract. 

Given the growth of our aging population, we're in the midst of an unprecedented boom in the need for care providers. At the same time, the baby boomers are living longer than any previous generation, thanks to advances in technology and health care. While care is the work that makes all other work possible, caregivers like nannies and home care aides who look after our elders and children work under strenuous, highly vulnerable conditions, while earning poverty wages.

We have a tremendous opportunity to meet the soaring need for high-quality caregivers and ensure these jobs are good jobs — ones that offer stability and opportunity for the millions of people who do this work every day. To meet that challenge, the campaign I co-created called Caring Across Generations, is mobilizing millions of people to place care at the forefront of the national conversation, and move policies that make care affordable and accessible.

As grassroots organizations work to shape U.S. workforce policies, how should they decide where to focus their energy?

Deploying energies locally would be smart, as generally, we have the most opportunity to win at the state and municipal level. Local wins are foundational. By winning a new policy demand, organizations can set in motion more change by inspiring other communities to follow suit and demonstrate what's possible. Regardless of the gridlock in DC, the campaigns that are most transformative have been focused locally, modeled a new policy approach, and built momentum across the country.

For example, we led the charge with Jobs With Justice San Francisco to enact the first set of comprehensive and meaningful standards to address unstable work schedules and stop employers from assigning employees too few hours on too short notice, which jeopardizes their ability to provide for their families. Now 40,000 people who work in large retail and restaurant establishments in San Francisco have stronger guarantees of a fair and consistent schedule. Our friends at Working Washington were coordinating and learning lessons from us as they mounted a similar campaign, and just last month the Seattle City Council passed their robust scheduling legislation, which the mayor has committed to signing.

Grassroots organizations also should focus their energies on shaping the public conversation about the policies they want to enact. Grassroots groups and policy groups too often fall back on doing what they know best — talking to their bases and constituencies in the language that speaks to them. It's not enough. We have to build the muscle of connecting with people who aren't already on board with us.

The Second Annual p4 Conference Envisions a Just Pittsburgh

The City of Pittsburgh and The Heinz Endowments are spearheading a major effort to forge a new model of urban growth and development that is innovative, inclusive and sustainable.

This model is based around a central, unifying framework — p4: People, Planet, Place, and Performance — and was launched at an international summit in 2015.

p4’s second annual conference will take place on Oct. 18-19, 2016, at Pittsburgh's David L. Lawrence Convention Center. The event will feature a range of national and international experts as well as discussions on all aspects of the p4 framework, and a highlight will be a focus on economic and social equity — the framework’s People strategies — during the second day of the summit.

PolicyLink CEO Angela Glover Blackwell will be a featured speaker on Day One of the summit, speaking on the topic “People – Advancing the Just and Sustainable City.” On Day Two, PolicyLink Senior Director Sarah Treuhaft will be discussing the recommendations of the recently released Equitable Development: The Path to an All-In Pittsburgh.

In advance of the conference, Pittsburgh and The Heinz Endowments have released this powerful new video framing the summit and the issues facing the future of the city:

p4 Pittsburgh 2016

Visit to learn more.

Fairfax County Reaffirms Equity with a Resolution for “One Fairfax”

For many years, officials, advocates, and agency staff in Fairfax County, Virginia, have been concerned with the inequities affecting low-income residents and people of color in the county — and in its 2015 Strategic Plan to Facilitate Economic Success the County Board of Supervisors acknowledged the central importance of equity as a driver of regional economic growth and vitality. But they needed deeper, cross-sectoral data to help underscore their day-to-day experiences and to point the way toward actionable policy solutions.

With just over a million residents, Fairfax County has seen a surge of growth, primarily driven by people of color.  Between 2000 and 2010, the population of the county grew 11 percent, while there was a 42 percent increase of people of color in the county.

"Fairfax is generally a suburban community known typically to be affluent so these issues are sometimes masked in our general data," said Karla Bruce, deputy director of the Fairfax County Department of Neighborhood and Community Services.

In 2015, county officials and local community leaders partnered with PolicyLink and the University of Southern California's Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE) to release an Equitable Growth Profile for Fairfax County, Virginia. The disaggregated data reported in the profile brought Fairfax County's racial inequities into clear focus, and catalyzed a local coalition into action. By supporting the development of the profile, Fairfax leadership demonstrated its commitment to equity and a vision of "One Fairfax" — a community in which all can participate and prosper.

As the profile pointed out, Fairfax County ranks second nationally in terms of household income, with a median of $110,292. At the same time, the middle class is shrinking: workers in the bottom 20 percent saw their wages stagnate between 1979 and 2012, while workers in the highest 20 percent have seen above-national-average wage increases. More than 10 percent of Latinos and Blacks lived in poverty in 2012 compared to less than 3 percent of Whites.

"I think the Equitable Growth Profile affirmed some things that many folks had been talking about anecdotally in terms of demographic shifts, population needs, and concerns that a number of people were having," said Patricia Mathews, president and CEO of the Northern Virginia Health Foundation. "I think it wasn't so much a new statement, but rather it allowed people to say, 'Now we have data. Now we can think about this a lot more strategically.'" Community leaders like Mathews were engaged in the process of producing the profile and in discussions about its findings. The county has been guided by a collective impact framework to advance equity, characterized by its "respect for and integration of the wisdom, voice, experience, and leadership of community residents."

"We need to understand and improve our work"

This summer, Fairfax County rededicated itself to equity by passing the One Fairfax Resolution, a formal declaration of commitment to racial and social equity passed by both the County Board of Supervisors and the Fairfax County School Board. The resolution will direct the development of a One Fairfax policy, which the boards hope to adopt as early as next summer.

The resolution formalizes the county's definition of racial and social equity and acknowledges the importance of equity to fostering greater opportunities and inclusive growth: "to truly create opportunity, we need to understand and improve our work through a racial and social equity lens from the very core of the organization outward, focusing intentionally and deliberately towards sustainable structural changes."

Over the last several years, Fairfax County has undertaken several initiatives to address racial and social disparities in a variety of areas, including juvenile justice, education, employment, health, and child welfare. Prior to the publication of the Equitable Growth profile, a 2012 study from the Center for the Study of Social Policy encouraged government leaders to scrutinize the pathways and institutions — including the police and school systems — that caused Black and Latino youth to be disproportionately represented in the juvenile justice system. They created an interagency team to go through the analysis and drill into what could be done to address disparities. They also joined the Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE).

Karen Shaban, strategic project manager of Fairfax County government, said that all of these efforts helped officials to realize that sustainable change goes beyond human services and moved them to look at other parts of their system, such as zoning policies, transportation, and land use. "All of these efforts set the stage for us to formally say there needs to be more intentionality to make sure that Fairfax County's institutions and systems are not contributing to the disparities that exist."

Currently, the County is using the equity concepts of the new One Fairfax resolution to guide planning related to a number of strategic initiatives in the areas of early childhood education, community development, and recreation.  "These are ripe opportunities to bring an equity lens to the work," said Shaban. The lens can help guide future redevelopment projects like the planning for a 10-acre campus of a former high school. 

Experimenting with "equity-in-practice" — particularly expanding community engagement beyond common public meetings — will give county staff an opportunity to try out some tools and processes to see what works best as they continue to develop the equity policy mandated by the One Fairfax resolution.

"I think we have a really progressive government in Fairfax County," said Karen Cleveland, president and CEO of Leadership Fairfax, a community leadership development organization. "But when you work for the government, you can very easily get drawn into policy development and policy implementation. What this One Fairfax resolution does is lift the work above that. It says, 'This is going to be our umbrella.'"

Leadership Fairfax, the Northern Virginia Health Foundation, and other organizations are working as thought partners with county staff to make sure that community needs are consistently prioritized — and not just from a government services perspective.


"It's helped us to not only have a common agenda but also to really commit to outcomes," added Bruce, "so that we can shift the possibility for progress and share in the responsibility for change. We haven't reached our destination, but there is definitely power in the networks that we are creating. I am hopeful that we will be able to realize this vision of One Fairfax."

Check out the rest of the September 27, 2016 America's Tomorrow: Equity is the Superior Growth Model issue.

September National Equity Atlas Update

The Atlas is announcing the beta version of a new feature that highlights the equity movement on-the-ground:
Preview neighborhood-level mapping added to the Atlas
Today, we released the beta version of new interactive neighborhood-level mapping on the Atlas. These new maps allow users to understand how selected indicators (e.g., unemployment) vary across neighborhoods within a city or region, and can help inform targeted employment and workforce development initiatives as well as infrastructure investments. This beta release features county and census-tract level maps of the unemployment indicator. Register for our special preview of the maps on October 6 specifically for Atlas subscribers and share your feedback ahead of the public release next month.
Welcoming America webinar
Welcoming America helps communities across the country achieve prosperity by becoming more welcoming toward immigrants and all residents. On October 7 the National Equity Atlas will be featured in a webinar on eelcoming and economic development. Participants will examine selected economic indicators on the Atlas to get a sense of how immigrants are faring in their communities. Angel Ross, Research Associate at PolicyLink and Justin Scoggins, Data Manager at the USC Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE) are featured speakers. Register here.
Forward Community Investments webinar
Last week, the National Equity Atlas kicked off the Forward Community Investments 2016-2017 Racial Equity Webinar Series. The goal of this series is to provide FCI partners with tools and approaches that can be used to advance social, racial, and economic equity and inclusion within their work. The webinar provided an overview of the Atlas framework and a walk through of the Atlas, focusing specifically on Wisconsin.

New Report Makes Case for Equity in Metro Atlanta
A new report from the Partnership for Southern Equity (PSE), Growing the Future: The Case for Economic Inclusion in Metro Atlanta, describes how equity is both a moral and economic imperative for the Atlanta region and for the nation as a whole. The report highlights our full employment analysis and GDP with racial equity analysis, both of which underscore how eliminating racial inequities results in “equity dividends” for the broader economy. See our short post about the report here.

New “Chart of the Week” series
We've launched a new "Chart of the Week" series to add equity data about growth and prosperity to the national dialogue. Every week, we post a new chart drawing from the Equity Atlas related to current events and issues. Our inaugural post lifted up #BlackWomensEqualPay and looked at median wages for Black women in Atlanta, Georgia. We also shared charts highlighting the #Fightfor15, #NoDAPL, and the most recent Census report. Follow our posts on social media using #equitydata, #Fightfor15, and #NoDAPL and in our Data in Action section.

Foundations to Reinvest in One of Nation’s Strongest Networks of Support for Entrepreneurs

The New Economy Initiative (NEI), an entrepreneurial infrastructure building initiative for Detroit and Southeast Michigan, has granted a total of $96.2 million to organizations and programs supporting entrepreneurs since it launched in 2007.

According to analysis conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC) and the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, NEI’s support has helped entrepreneurs and small businesses generate $2.9 billion in real economic output and create 17,490 jobs in southeast Michigan.

“Detroit’s evolution from recovering region to thriving economy demands more than just creating new businesses or restoring buildings. NEI is proving that intentional focus on equity and inclusion is driving Detroit’s ‘new economy.’” Angela Glover Blackwell, Founder and President, PolicyLink

NEI has achieved this impact by making grants to organizations and programs supporting entrepreneurs of all kinds, from grass roots to high growth, creating a vast network of entrepreneurial support in southeast Michigan. The economic and employment impact reports by PwC and Upjohn Institute analyzed years of information reported to NEI by grantees via quarterly reports, as well as interviews with regional entrepreneurs.

Findings include:

  • 4,400 companies directly serviced by NEI grantees through 2015
  • 179,571 attendees of events in metro Detroit’s entrepreneurial network
  • More than 1 million square feet of entrepreneurial space activated
  • $232 million in additional program dollars matched by NEI grantees
  • $1.9 billion in real gross domestic product generated by NEI-supported companies
  • $2.9 billion in real output generated by NEI-supported companies
  • 17,490 jobs created by NEI-supported companies, 70% of which are located in Wayne County.


For more information, read the full press release from NEI and download the full report.

All-In Cities: Building Momentum in Pittsburgh, New Orleans, Detroit, and Indianapolis


As America’s cities experience a comeback, city leaders need to implement bold strategies to ensure no one is left behind or displaced. All should have the opportunity to contribute to building new urban economies that are equitable, sustainable, and prosperous. Through the All-In Cities initiative, PolicyLink empowers city officials, community advocates, and other civic leaders with the policy ideas, data, and hands-on assistance to make racial economic inclusion and equitable growth their reality. We’ve had an exciting week full of milestones:

Pittsburgh: Equitable Development

Today, more than one hundred community leaders gathered at the August Wilson Center in Pittsburgh for the release of Equitable Development: The Path to an All-In Pittsburgh, produced in partnership with Neighborhood Allies and Urban Innovation21. Mayor William Peduto, City Council Member Daniel Lavelle, and other leaders from government, business, and the nonprofit sector discussed the recommendations. Follow the conversation on social media at #AllInPittsburgh

Indianapolis: Equitable Innovation Economies

Since 2014, New York, Indianapolis, Portland and San Jose have been piloting new approaches to advancing equity in innovation and manufacturing through the Equitable Innovation Economies Initiative, a multi-year project led by the Pratt Center for Community Development in collaboration with PolicyLink and the Urban Manufacturing Alliance (UMA). Yesterday at the UMA national convening in Indianapolis, we released a new report, Prototyping Equity: Local strategies for a more inclusive innovation economydocumenting the groundbreaking efforts of these cities. Join the conversation at #proequity.

New Orleans: #EquityNewOrleans

PolicyLink is advising the city of New Orleans in the development of its citywide equity strategy. On Tuesday, September 13, the city held its second community listening session to discuss how the city can integrate racial equity throughout its activities. Learn about the initiative at and participate at #EquityNewOrleans

Detroit: New Economy Initiative Impact 

On Wednesday, September 14, the New Economy Initiative released a report highlighting its impact. Since 2007, the unique funder collaborative has helped build an inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystem in Detroit, providing direct support to over 4,400 companies, helping launch more than 1,600 new companies (39 percent of them owned by people of color and 32 percent by women), and creating more than 17,000 jobs. PolicyLink has advised the initiative on its equity strategy since 2009.

Learn more about our All-In Cities initiative and sign up for updates at


New Report Sets Equitable Development Agenda for Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh is a city on the rise, yet too many residents remain cut off from opportunity by poverty, structural racism, and discrimination. Local leaders must implement a targeted, intentional strategy for equitable development to ensure all can thrive in the new Pittsburgh. PolicyLink, Neighborhood Allies, and Urban Innovation21 convened dozens of Pittsburgh community leaders to create a shared definition of equitable development and craft an agenda to make it the reality. Equitable Development: The Path to an All-In Pittsburgh presents a roadmap to put all of the region’s residents on track to reaching their potential. Through the All-In Cities initiative, PolicyLink equips city leaders with policy ideas, data, and strategies to advance racial economic inclusion and equitable growth.

“Pittsburgh is the perfect place to start an All-In Cities initiative,” said Angela Glover Blackwell, PolicyLink president and CEO. “As the city successfully transforms its economy and sees a wave of new development, an equitable development strategy is essential to ensure that all neighborhoods and residents, including those of color, participate and benefit. Achieving full inclusion will lead to sustainable and shared prosperity.”

This report outlines a five-point agenda for equitable development:

  1. Raise the bar for new development — Growth must happen in a way that benefits and does not displace longtime lower-income residents and neighborhood entrepreneurs.
  2. Make all neighborhoods healthy communities of opportunity — The region needs a comprehensive strategy to increase housing affordability and stability and to unlock opportunity in its highest poverty neighborhoods.
  3. Expand employment and ownership opportunities — Connecting lower-wealth residents to good, family-sustaining jobs and asset-building opportunities is critical to ensuring they participate in and contribute to the region’s resurgence.
  4. Embed racial equity throughout Pittsburgh’s institutions and businesses — To eliminate wide racial inequities and uproot bias, the region’s institutions, organizations, and businesses need to adopt racial equity-focused approaches.
  5. Build community power, voice, and capacity — High-capacity community-rooted organizations and multiracial, multisector coalitions are essential to advancing equitable development policies and practices over the long term.


To learn more, download the full report.

Prototyping Equity: Local Strategies for a More Inclusive Innovation Economy

Since 2014, a visionary group of leaders from New York, NY, Indianapolis, IN, Portland, OR and San Jose, CA have been piloting new approaches to advancing equity in innovation and manufacturing through the Equitable Innovation Economies (EIE) initiative. Over two years, each city in this community of practice has evaluated a particular economic development project through an equity lens, working to increase benefits for all city residents and communities.
EIE’s flagship report, Prototyping Equity: Local strategies for a more inclusive innovation economy documents this work, including the tools guiding this pilot effort, candid perspectives from each city, and broader insights for the field. The Pratt Center for Community Development in Brooklyn, NY, and PolicyLink in Oakland, CA are leading this effort, providing technical assistance and facilitation. The Urban Manufacturing Alliance’s (UMA) expansive network of over 100 cities has served as a platform for this initiative, and the report will be shared with members at the UMA 2016 National Convening in Indianapolis on September 14-16.
Read more about this effort and download the full report and follow the event conversation on twitter at #proequity.

Chart of the Week: Why the Latest U.S. Census Report Matters

To add equity data to the national dialogue about growth and prosperity, every week the National Equity Atlas posts a new chart related to current events and issues.

Yesterday, the Census Bureau released a report on 2015 income and poverty data, announcing that median household income increased by over 5 percent—the fastest growth on record. As President Obama described in a Facebook post and video with Jason Furman, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, the gains were largest among the bottom fifth of households.

To highlight why this gain — especially among the bottom quintile of earners — is so important, this week’s chart looks at real earned income growth for full-time wage and salary workers in the United States from 1980 to 2012.


Over the three decades from 1980 to 2012, the inflation-adjusted earnings of the bottom 10 percent of workers decreased the most at more than 11 percent. In fact, the whole bottom half of workers experienced real declines in their incomes over this period. At the other end, those in the top 10 percent saw their earnings increase by nearly 15 percent. The announcement that real income growth in 2015 was the fastest since 1969 for households at the 10th, 20th, 40th, 50th, and 60th percentiles is a promising finding, though there is still more to be done.

These income increases, combined with refundable tax credits, lifted millions of families and children out of poverty. In 2015, 9.2 million Americans, including 4.8 million children, moved above the poverty line with the help of credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC). Expanding these social safety net programs through a more equitable tax code and advancing pre-tax income strategies like minimum wage increases and stronger collective bargaining rights are key to supporting the more than 8 million families still in poverty. For more information on policies that contribute to wage growth, see the Economic Policy Institute’s Agenda to Raise America’s Pay.

To view the distribution of income growth in your community over the last three decades, visit the National Equity Atlas and type in your city, region, or state. Download the charts and share them on social media using #equitydata.

Investing in Second Chances for Formerly Incarcerated People: An Interview with Department of Justice Fellow Daryl Atkinson

Sixteen years ago, Daryl Atkinson was like many of the 600,000 Americans leaving prison each year — excited to return home, but worried about the welcome he might receive as a formerly incarcerated person. Though his family refused to define him solely by his past mistakes and supported him as he pursued college and law school, society was another story. Not only did he face social stigma because of his past, he lost his driver’s license, making it difficult to find work; was barred from receiving federal financial aid for college; and, perhaps most importantly, is still denied the right to vote in his home state of Alabama.

It is this type of structural and cultural discrimination — the many ways that society forces those with a criminal record to continue to “serve time” even after they are released — that Atkinson now fights as the inaugural Second Chance Fellow at the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). Prior to this appointment, Atkinson was recognized as a White House “Reentry and Employment Champion of Change” for his work as a senior staff attorney at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, where he advocated for the rights and needs of people with criminal records. America’s Tomorrow spoke with Atkinson about his many years working to shift the narrative about those who have been incarcerated, connecting them with the support, respect, and opportunity necessary for them to thrive.

You are the first Second Chance fellow at the DOJ, and you are a founding member of the North Carolina Second Chance Alliance. Can you explain what a “second chance culture” entails?

I often relate it to my personal experience after prison. I served 40 months in prison, much of it in a maximum security institution when I was in my twenties, and when my mom and my stepdad came to pick me up, they rented a Lincoln Town Car. I didn’t pay any particular attention at that time because I was so excited to get away from that place, but a couple of years later I asked my stepdad why. He said they wanted to make a grand gesture to send the message that my experience in prison didn’t completely define who I was and what I could be. They continued to support me — offering food and shelter and financial support — throughout college, and the combination of support and physical investment is a large part of what I view as a “second chance” approach. We need to invest in people’s success, so that they can be contributors to their community and society.

The Obama Administration has been instituting a number of policy solutions to cultivate this concept. The Second Chance Act, signed into law at the end of the Bush Administration, has resulted in more than 700 grants totaling over $400 million to reduce recidivism and improve outcomes for people returning from state and federal prisons, local jails, and juvenile facilities. These investments help people with criminal records by providing basic needs like housing assistance, job training, and substance abuse treatment. More recently, the Department of Education started the Second Chance Pell Program, which will allow over 12,000 eligible incarcerated students to pursue postsecondary education while in prison. These kinds of programs aren’t enough to meet the needs of the entire formerly incarcerated population, but they are helping the Administration build the evidence base for how powerful these programs are, which will aid in advocating for more funding for this work.

When you were at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, you helped to pass a “ban the box” policy in Durham, North Carolina, that had incredible results. Can you describe how that campaign developed?

The Southern Coalition for Social Justice (SCSJ) is a civil rights advocacy organization that follows a community-lawyering model, meaning that we provide general counsel for the most vulnerable communities across the southeast, and we let them set the agenda of what issues are most important. Engaging the community around these issues is something that has guided my work at SCSJ and informs my work at DOJ. For instance, a few years back we were working on voting rights for those with criminal records in North Carolina, but when we engaged the community we realized that barriers to employment were the most pressing need. We were aware of the “ban the box” movement that had started in Oakland, California, and started a similar campaign in Durham, North Carolina, to remove criminal history questions from job applications and prohibit the use of a criminal record as an automatic bar to employment.

We knew that to successfully shift the narrative around employing formerly incarcerated people, we needed to ensure that people with criminal records were integrated into the policy-making process throughout. When there were city council meetings, we engaged with community partners to train local spokespeople who could speak in their own voice about the impact of not being able to work and how that affected their families. We reached out to faith-based organizations to put a moral force behind our campaign. We got some notable endorsements from the sheriff about how ban the box was consistent with public safety, because keeping people with criminal records from employment opportunities can force them back into an underground economy.

We also made the economic argument, pointing out that there are 1.6 million adults with criminal records who shouldn’t be sitting on the sidelines of the economy. By sharing these messages and engaging community members to tell their stories, we were able to convince the city and the county governments to pass ban the box policies that have had a huge effect. In the city of Durham, for example, the total percentage of city hires of people with criminal records was 2 percent in 2011, the year the policy passed; by 2014 it was over 15 percent — a greater than seven-fold increase.

How does the work you’re undertaking at the DOJ continue this work and connect to your larger goals of building a second chance culture?

In my fellowship at the DOJ’s Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), I advocate for the rights and needs of those with criminal history, and I also work to ensure that DOJ is hearing from the stakeholders most directly affected by the justice system. This part of my work draws heavily on the lessons I’ve learned at the local level. Having this bridge between the policymakers and those most affected by the policy is a game-changer. Not only does it provide important feedback on the effects of policy, it also helps change the temperature of the exchanges between communities and the federal government. When policymakers have real exchanges with folks from the community, and hear about their family obligations and experiences — like dropping their kids off at daycare — it diminishes the “us versus them” dynamic that can make it easier to enact negative public policies. In general, I think we need more open dialogue about how common interactions with the justice system are, and how it is not just some fringe part of society that deals with these issues.

Ten to 12 million people in the U.S. cycle in and out of city and county jails, and one in three Americans have an arrest or conviction history. This is a huge segment of our adult population, and to continue to marginalize them through stigma and discriminatory policies has significant consequences for our society as a whole. That is why part of my fellowship includes qualitative interviews with formerly incarcerated people who have gone on to become highly successful. I want to identify which interventions changed the trajectory of their lives, and lift up these successes to the federal government for future policymaking. I am also going to create a digital story bank of their stories, so that the public can access these stories and see that people who have been in prison can go on to be active, positive, influential members of their community. Both the public and policymakers need to hear these stories and realize not only the hunger for opportunity that people who are leaving prison have, but the potential they have to go on to great things. 

Oakland’s Displacement Crisis: As Told by the Numbers

Oakland stands at the center of a perfect storm. The city and surrounding Bay Area region are experiencing extraordinary economic growth, but housing production is not keeping pace with the escalated demands, nor is sufficient housing affordable to many existing residents and the expanding lower-income workforce.  The current displacement crisis undermines the health and wellbeing of its residents, and threatens the historic diversity that gives Oakland its strength and vitality. 
Key Statistics:
  • Nearly half of rental households in Oakland are cost burdened.
  • 63% of African American households are housing cost burdened.
  • Oakland lost 34,000 African American residents – representing a 24% decline, between 2000-2010.
  • In the last year, the median market rent for an available two-bedroom apartment in Oakland has increased by 25%.

Vital community members have been priced out of Oakland. The housing crisis is impacting workers vital to a functioning economy, with little to no options for low and even moderate wage-earners seeking housing on the open market.

  • Number of Oakland units affordable for workers earning the City of Oakland’s minimum of $12.55/hour: Zero (Estimated salary of $26,104, $20,282 after taxes = $508/month towards housing).
  • Percentage of income average an Oakland minimum wage worker would have to devote for a 1BR apartment: 112% ($1900 average market rent (Trulia) out of total $1,690 estimated post-tax monthly income).
  • Number of Oakland units affordable for workers with entrance-level teacher salary: Zero (Estimated salary of $42,497 per Oakland Education Association, $31,634 after taxes = $790/month towards housing).
  • Percentage of income average a worker with an entrance-level teacher salary would have to devote for a 1BR apartment: 72% ($1900 average market rent (Trulia) out of total $2,636 estimated post-tax monthly income).
  • Number of Oakland units affordable for workers earning an entrance-level fire fighter salary: Three (Estimated salary of $81,419 per City of Oakland pay schedule for fire fighter, or $53,755 after taxes = $1344/month towards housing).
  • Percentage of income average entry-level fire fighter would have to devote for a 1BR apartment: 42% ($1900 average market rent (Trulia) out of total $4479 estimated post-tax monthly income).
To learn more, check out the PolicyLink brief: Oakland's Displacement Crisis: As Told by the Numbers, which highlights some of the challenges Oakland tenants are facing in the ongoing housing crisis, and some key policy steps that could provide much needed relief.

$65 Million Reasons to Stop Roadblocking City-Driven Job Creation

Orignal post published in Next City

In the last year, city officials in New Orleans, Cleveland and Nashville have found themselves scrambling to protect “hire local” policies from their respective state governments.

In all three cases, racially diverse cities struggling with high rates of poverty and unemployment sought to stimulate the local economy with provisions that focused on creating job opportunities for disadvantaged residents. And in all three cases, state senators representing wealthier, predominantly white districts sought to preempt city policies to protect business interests.

Read full article >>

How A Business Accelerator Is Literally Cementing Equity into Cincinnati’s Economy

Benefit corporations provide a way for businesses to make profit without having to slash wages or resort to environmentally destructive practices. Ben & Jerry's, for instance, is one of the world's most popular ice cream brands with an annual sales revenue of $132 million. Its lowest-paid worker makes $16.13 an hour, which is 46 percent above the living wage in home state Vermont, and the company offsets more than 50 percent of its greenhouse gas emissions. More than 40 percent of the board and management are from underrepresented populations, such as women, people of color, lower-income individuals, and people with disabilities.

In a time when U.S. corporate profits are soaring but wages remain stagnant, Ben & Jerry's and hundreds of other companies, including Cooperative Home Care Associates profiled below, are choosing an alternative business model – benefit corporations – driven not just by profits but also by fair working conditions, diverse leadership, and environmentally sustainable practice.

One of the fundamental challenges to growing more "triple bottom line" businesses is the legal requirement to maximize profits that applies to corporations. Anything that takes away from profits, such as higher wages or more sustainable environmental practices, leaves the corporation vulnerable to being sued by its shareholders. This limitation hinders companies from advancing any values beyond profit making.

In response to this limitation, a movement was started to pass legislation allowing for a new type of corporate entity called the benefit corporation. The benefit corporation provides legal protection for businesses that choose to treat their workers well, protect the environment, and invest in their communities, even if it means their annual profits are not as high. As of 2013, 19 states plus the District of Columbia passed benefit corporation legislation, including Delaware, which is home to 50 percent of all publicly traded companies and 64 percent of Fortune 500 companies.

In 2012, Ben & Jerry's took a step beyond being a benefit corporation and became a Certified B Corporation, as conferred by a nonprofit organization called B Lab. There are currently more than 1,000 registered B Corps. A Certified B Corp voluntarily meets higher standards of governance, workforce treatment, environmental impact, and community involvement. Companies must score at least 80 points on a scale of 200 to be eligible for certification.

Certified B Corps are part of a community of socially responsible companies and span a large spectrum of goods and services. In 2012, Cooperative Home Care Associates (CHCA) in the Bronx, New York, became the first home care company to become a Certified B Corp. Their overall B Score, at 154, is nearly twice the median score.

One of the reasons CHCA scores so high in the B Impact Assessment is because it is a worker-owned cooperative with the vast majority of the workers and worker-owners being from the Bronx. In an industry where good-paying jobs are hard to come by, CHCA deliberately chose a different business model, one that prioritizes workers over profits, and has flourished for nearly 30 years. The company has grown from 12 people to now over 2,000 employees, 70 percent of whom are worker-owners.

"When we started, a lot of for-profit home-care companies were established and were seen as a way of making a lot of money in a short time," said Michael Elsas, president of CHCA. "You didn't have to pay workers that much, you didn't have to train them that well, and you could move in and make a killing. And, in that environment we wanted to establish something a little different, more socially responsible."

Treating the workers well was not just a social mission, but it made good business sense. Elsas said, "Many of the people we were seeing were women, particularly women of color. The thought was if we train people longer and really spend time with them, if we prepare them for an entry-level position and get them ready to work and remove those barriers to work, and, if we provided a lot of support for those workers both before and after they were trained by us, we could create quality, full-time jobs. And then as a result of that quality job, we would be providing quality care that we could, in fact, provide better services."

CHCA has been a co-op since the company started in 1985. Going from a co-op model to also certifying as a B Corp was an easy decision and made a lot of business sense, Elsas said. "Distinguishing ourselves as a B Corp would be helpful in marketing to be able to say we are the only B-Corp certified home care company. We thought that would be helpful for those entities that want to do business with a B Corp. Quite honestly, it was a natural for us. There was very little that we had to do to get certified because we were already a worker-owned company, we already had everything in place."

Elsas said that CHCA is successful not because it is a co-op but because of the best practices they employ. Currently, 90 cents of every dollar that comes into the company goes to the worker. While paying workers less would result in higher profits and better dividends, Elsas said higher dividends is not what has made the company successful for 30 years. Instead, what makes CHCA successful is "how we train, how we supervise people, how we respect people, how we let people participate in what we do."

Companies like CHCA and Ben & Jerry's show that businesses can make a profit and embrace socially responsible practices. Higher wages and better work environments help working families reach economic security. Consumers can support B Corps and environmentally and socially conscious businesses by buying their products and services. A full list of B Corps can be found here.

Gender and Racial Pay Gaps Stifle Local and Regional Economies

Cross-posted from the Toronto Star

Though they make up nearly half of the workforce in the U.S. and Canada, women — and women of colour in particular — continue to be marginalized in labor markets. Women make significantly less than men of similar experience and education, are vastly overrepresented in low-wage work, and are underrepresented in management — these are not just civil rights issues, they are fundamental failures within the labor market that are holding back economic growth for cities, regions, and entire nations.

When my mother, a young journalist, moved us from her home town of Montreal to New Jersey in the early 1950s, soon after I was born, she was looking for relatively better opportunities to advance in her profession as a woman, and the grass at least appeared to be greener in the States at the time. It did not necessarily turn out to be the case, and both countries still have a long way to go, but there are also promising changes in attitudes and concrete policy steps being taken on both sides of the border, as the imperative for justice intersects in new ways with strong economic incentives for inclusion and fairness.

Urban and regional economies -- in both the public and private sector — have a stake in seeing gender and racial pay gaps decline. As a group, women in the U.S. and Canada are more educated than their male peers and they are the fastest growing demographic of entrepreneurs, with women of colour leading the growth in small-business ownership in the U.S. This, in part, is why many local leaders are doubling down on efforts to address inequities in the workplace, seeking to capitalize on the often underappreciated talent and potential that women in the workforce bring to the table. For example, under the leadership of former Mayor Thomas Menino, Boston sought to become the “premier city for working women”, and current Mayor Marty Walsh recently pledged to become the first U.S. city to eliminate the gender pay gap entirely. Boston is home to the largest proportion of young women between age 20 and 34 — and the highest percentage of college educated women — of any major U.S. city, making the economic opportunity of its young women top priority for local leaders. To close the remaining 18-cent pay gap in the city, Mayor Walsh is leading the charge to educate businesses on the economic importance of closing the gender pay gap. One particular business-focused effort, 100% Talent, is a first-of-its-kind initiative that has enlisted 100 companies to voluntarily pledge to help close the gender gap by sharing payroll data (including metrics on gender and race), implementing recommended practices to reduce pay inequities, and participating in biennial reviews to discuss their progress. The Mayor has also spearheaded a $1.5 million project called Work Smart in Boston, which will provide 90,000 women with salary and benefits negotiation training over the next 5 years.

On the opposite coast, in a city home to the largest gender pay gap among major U.S. cities -- local government in Seattle, Washington is taking inspiration from Boston’s example. After a 2013 analysis found that women in the Seattle metropolitan area were earning 73 percent of what men make, with women of colour earning anywhere from 49 to 60 percent, then-Mayor McGinn’s office convened the City of Seattle’s Gender Equity in Pay Task Force, which has led the city to pass a resolution in 2014 calling on several cities departments, including the Personnel Department, Seattle Office of Civil Rights, and the Mayor’s Office, to promote progressive policies in hiring, pay, and benefits that specifically target both gender and racial inequities. Within the private sector, the city’s Chamber of Commerce and the Women’s Funding Alliance launched their own 100% Talent in 2015 whereby businesses will be obligated to identify internal gender equity issues, share lessons learned with other employers, and implement at least three of the 33 best practices identified by the initiative, including flexible scheduling, greater wage transparency, and increased diversity in hiring practices.

Though these efforts are still in their early stages, these leaders are proving that they understand the crucial opportunity facing cities and regions today: the places that will thrive the most in the 21st century economy will be those that embrace inclusion and capitalize on the talent, creativity, and potential of all residents — especially those who have too often been left behind. This dedication to inclusion is at the heart of All-In Cities — an initiative to promote inclusion and equitable growth in cities launched this year by my organization, PolicyLink.

Like the recommendations made by the 100% Talent initiatives above, All-In Cities seeks to support policymakers and businesses within metropolitan areas to foster comprehensive economic and racial inclusion. For gender and racial inequality in the workplace, this means looking beyond the pay gap to the very structure of the labor market — asking not only, how can we lift stifled wages for women, but how can we build work environments that are conducive to the needs of the ever-growing segment of female workers and their families.

In addition to reevaluating wage, hiring, and scheduling practices as mentioned above, this means policymakers and businesses should foster female entrepreneurship and leadership within organizations. They should promote women’s education and recruitment within high-paying fields — such as math, science, and technology — where they are historically underrepresented. Employers should offer paid family leave and sick leave, so that working mothers do not have to choose between a paycheck and taking care of a sick child.

Overcoming an issue as stubborn as the pay gap will require widespread cultural shifts — in classrooms, in boardrooms, in local councils and halls of parliament —but the rewards we will reap in justice and prosperity are well worth the effort. Advocates for equality from an earlier time, like my mother, would have appreciated how much the ground has shifted.

Read the full article in the Toronto Star (page 2).

Art Is an Asset in Every Community: An Interview with ArtPlace America’s Jamie Bennett

Just outside of Minnesota’s Twin Cities, a winter arts festival takes place in a pop-up village of ice fishing shanties. In Louisville, Kentucky, an artists’ collective is leading public workshops that blend traditional West African and Appalachian arts with contemporary urban performance. In Detroit, artists and local youth are designing a plaza and green space to boost entrepreneurial activity. These projects and 35 others are recipients of the ArtPlace America 2015 National Grants program, which aims to support artists and arts organizations to strengthen and transform the physical, social, and/or economic fabric of communities.

Jamie Bennett is the executive director of ArtPlace America, a 10-year collaboration of foundations, banks, and federal agencies launched in 2011. (PolicyLink is working with ArtPlace on its Community Development Investments Initiative, which is investing $3 million in each of six place-based organizations to investigate what it means to sustainably incorporate arts and culture into community development work.) Bennett sees creative placemaking as a way for arts and culture to act as a core sector of comprehensive community planning and economic development. America’s Tomorrow spoke to Bennett about the philanthropic world’s embrace of place-based strategies and the equitable economic impacts of ArtPlace America’s work.

Q: How are you trying to promote equity within the world of philanthropy and the arts?

A: The general definition [of arts and culture] we use is one that we borrowed from National Endowment for the Arts, which is “any generative act that's intended to communicate richly to others.” And when you use that definition, yes, you're talking about symphonies, operas, and ballets, but you're also talking about my grandmother's lacemaking; you're also talking about a Lakota dance. We tend to plot it out on a matrix, just by way of understanding it. And when you have that kind of bingo card, you can begin checking yourself and asking, “Am I working with all parts of this landscape or am I only connecting with certain parts?” So I think having that understanding of how the arts and culture ecology is organized really is a necessary first step towards making sure that you are engaging with all of it — and all of it equitably. 

Q: How is ArtPlace trying to bring equity into the language, traditions, and rituals of the philanthropic world?

A: I think it is important to understand philanthropy as a sector that does require a certain level of cultural competency in order to intersect with it.  And exactly as you said, there is a language, there is a series of rituals, and there is a semi-hidden, opaque power structure in place.  Navigating all of that can be tricky. I think it's really incumbent upon those of us in philanthropy to make sure that we offer an on-ramp that is as easy as possible and that is as accommodating as possible to the broadest range of people. 

An example is that those of us who have been working in philanthropy for 25 years know what an LOI [Letter of Interest] is.  Right?  It's a shorthand.  To the other 98 percent of America, LOI are three letters that might as well be PDF or STD or whatever other three-letter abbreviation you use.  So instead of saying we're releasing an LOI, we're simply saying, “Would you like to ask us for money?” We've [also avoided certain language] around outcomes assessment, outputs, and project evaluation.  And instead we simply say, “What is it you're trying to do?” and, “How are you going to know if you've done it?”

Q: What do you see as the role of arts and culture in community development and neighborhood change?

A: Arts and culture are assets that are present in every community. Not every community is on a waterfront, not every community has strong public transportation, and not every community has a hospital or university to anchor it.  But every community has people who sing and dance and tell stories.

We have to understand that every artist is somebody's neighbor and almost everyone has an artist as a neighbor. Issues of displacement are hugely important and need to be addressed, but I don’t know that arts-driven displacement issues are any different than any other kind of displacement issues driven by community development. I think we need to solve them together.

Q: Should place-based interventions be tailored to a neighborhood’s income level?

A: The mayor of New York City has just upzoned East New York, a neighborhood in Brooklyn.  Change is going to come to that neighborhood and we know what the change is going to be and when the change is coming

At the moment, there are many people focusing on affordability. How do we keep it so that if you are low-income you can continue to live there? Another thing that can help solve involuntary displacement is you can also make residents richer. I think we need to think about a strategy, for instance, that comes in and says to the barbershop that's been in the community for 30 years, “Change is coming; You need to negotiate a lease now that will be 20 years, or you need to try and buy your site; and maybe you want to put in three manicure stations and take advantage of the change in the market that's coming.”  And so if we came in with a market investment, if we came in with an equity investment for that, I think that is going to do so much more to keep that small business in that neighborhood than just giving a local group a $50,000 dollar grant for organizing around preserving affordability.  So I think in general my question is, “How do we bring in the market as a tool to work alongside philanthropic investment and/or community organizing investments?”

Q: Why are place-based strategies in philanthropy more than a trend du jour?

A: If you build really high-quality fabulous housing, but it's two hours away from any job, that's not going to work in terms of helping someone to build wealth and have an extraordinary life. So, the current movement I've seen with a lot of philanthropy is to really look at all of the systems that are at play in a community. So if a foundation cares about children, they realize that a child can't be healthy, happy, and achieve his or her full potential unless that child's family is also healthy and happy.  So if you care about children, you also care about their parents and caregivers having jobs.  And you care about all of them being educated.  And you care about there being a safe environment.  So whatever your point of entry, you really have to care about how all of these systems work together, which, I think in many ways, is Angela [Glover Blackwell]'s point about the series of systems that together add up to equity or inequity.  It is about how housing intersects with transportation, which intersects with the economy, which intersects with the education system.  So for ArtPlace and for philanthropy and government to say, “Okay, let's understand all these systems and how they intersect in their totality,” I think is a good move. 

Youth Take the Lead in Foodie Business Programs

At Whole Foods Markets and farmers’ markets in the Detroit metropolitan area, you can purchase a box of Mitten Bites, the yummy no-bake granola treats dreamed up by Hassan Amaleki and a group of his former high school classmates. These all-natural snacks come in two delectable flavors — dark chocolate peanut butter and cranberry date — and are healthy and sustainable to boot.

Mitten Bites are the first youth-created product of Small Batch Detroit, a social enterprise subsidiary of the youth leadership organization Detroit Food Academy.

“We had the task of figuring out a snack that everyone would want, whether you are a mom at home that has kids and need something healthy, or a biker that needs an energy snack to go,” said Amaleki, now 19, who first started attending Detroit Food Academy’s afterschool programs when he was a freshman at Cody High School.

Launched in 2011 as a one-semester program at Cody High, the organization currently offers afterschool programming in culinary arts, business basics, and leadership in 10 high schools through the school year, as well as a citywide six-week summer program. The Academy works in public, private, and charter schools: anywhere students and educators have expressed interest, administration staff have shown support, and the budget allows. “We encourage young Detroiters to raise their voices, explore their communities, and to actualize their vision for what they want to see in our city—all through the medium of food,” said Jen Rusciano, co-founder and executive director of the Academy. This year, 200 youth are participating (around two-thirds from their public and public charter school partners and the remaining in private schools). About 95 percent of the students are young people of color.

The focus of the fall semester is cooking basics: learning about knife skills, nutrition, grocery budgeting and shopping, and meal planning; this work culminates with a student-planned community dinner for friends and family. In the spring, students design their own healthy, local food products, with guidance on how they would turn their ideas into full-fledged food businesses. When summer rolls around, Academy graduates can apply for a paid internship within either a culinary arts or food entrepreneurship track.

Detroit Food Academy launched Small Batch Detroit last year as a way to help the organization grow toward financial self-sufficiency. Profits from products like Mitten Bites have so far helped to cover production expenses and some of the wages for graduates, like Amaleki, to work part-time for the enterprise. “It’s an alternative for someone who doesn’t want to go to college right away, like I didn’t,” he said. Wages for students who work for the Small Batch program year-round start at $12.50 an hour and can go as high as $15 an hour.

Rusciano said that it’s been challenging to scale the business up to fund more youth staff positions and programming, but with support and knowledge-sharing from local groups like FoodLab Detroit and the Product Center at Michigan State University, they are making their way through early-stage hurdles, like mastering the legal requirements for packaging products sold in grocery stores.

Rusciano mentioned that the goal of the enterprise — and what they instill in their students for their own businesses — is that entrepreneurship is more than profit. “We talk about going into business as a tool not just for making money, though it can be used that way,” she said, “but rather that it’s a powerful tool that can be wielded either for good or for dehumanization. You can make a lot of change if there are values built into how you run a business.”

Even if students choose not to pursue food entrepreneurship or employment in the future, Rusciano said experiences like staffing Detroit Food Academy’s table at a farmers’ market or receiving mentorship from local chefs in the afterschool program, helps to weave them more into the social fabric of the city. Often they are cut off from fair wage jobs, career pathways, and the opportunities for innovation that are helping Detroit to rebound from insolvency.

“[Students learn] there are communities out there that are willing and excited to embrace them,” she said. “They learn they are needed and wanted in the city, not just tomorrow when they get their degree, but right now, today, as young people.”

A new leadership model in culinary training programs

In other cities, youth-oriented organizations are combining the social enterprise model with leadership and culinary skills training. At Old Skool Café, a youth-run, jazz-themed supper club in San Francisco, teens are behind decisions related to everything from the restaurant’s entrées to uniform design.

Teresa Goines, a former corrections officer, envisioned a violence prevention program taking the form of a dinner theater in 2004. Finally opening four years ago in the Bayview-Hunter’s Point neighborhood, Old Skool Café is staffed by youth who have either been incarcerated, gone through the foster care system, or are otherwise disconnected from traditional work opportunities.

The cuisine is international comfort food, specifically designed to reflect the cultures of the youth in the program. “We always encourage them to submit family recipes,” said Goines. “If their mom or dad or grandmother wants to come in and teach us how to make something, we’ll have them come in and there’ll be a tasting.” If restaurant staff like the dish, it will be produced as a special and get the chance to become a regular menu item. That’s how “Abu’s Peanut Butter Stew” got on the menu; the chicken dish is named after a staff member who created a take on his grandmother’s recipe from Sierra Leone.

In one case, two program participants were more interested in fashion design than food. Through a collaboration with retired NFL player Dhani Jones’s BowTie Cause initiative, they were able to design a bow tie worn by restaurant staff.

“We really want to encourage them to find what they love,” added Goines. “But also they’re getting to make money and have access to mentorship and life coaching.” As of 2014, the recidivism rate for graduates of the program is 10 percent (compared to the national rate of 76 percent). Ninety-four percent have either found outside employment or are enrolled in school. One alumnus has recently completed the University of Southern California’s master’s degree program in screenwriting. Goines said the student found her career passion outside of the food industry, but was able to pay for some of her tuition through waitressing after having gained work experience at the café.

Back in Detroit, other young people are flexing their training skills in interesting and innovative ways after graduating from Detroit Food Academy. Hassan Amaleki has been doing food demonstrations for Mitten Bites at local grocery stores, earning money for when he attends college in the fall. He is now enrolled to attend Schoolcraft College on a culinary arts track. “Right after I found out the right way to do business from scratch, it didn’t seem so hard,” he said. He added that his current hope is to work his way up to running Small Batch Detroit full-time.

Read the rest of the March 10, 2016 America's Tomorrow: Equity is the Superior Growth Model issue.