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.

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