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Civic Leadership

By prioritizing the needs of marginalized groups, addressing systemic barriers, and creating inclusive policies, civic leaders can help to build a more just and equitable society.

The following resource provides guidance to support civic leaders in advancing equitable community planning by applying Fourth Economy’s Equitable Community Planning Toolkit. The toolkit is designed to help you and your community become stronger and more vibrant through equitable planning practices. It includes a step-by-step framework to approach systems change plus resources, activities, and tools to help communities advance their equitable planning processes.

A Framework for Equitable Community Planning

Identify and Engage Community Members

Identify, Evaluate, and Implement the Methods

Identify and Measure


Step 1

Establish a Baseline

A first step in planning for equity work is assessing current conditions and establishing a baseline. In addition to assessing the conditions in your own community, civic leaders should also scan the civic landscape to identify best practices and innovative strategies employed by other communities. The tools and resources developed by these cities can be used as case studies for other communities looking to advance equitable development. 

As part of our revamp of the Equitable Community Planning Toolkit this year, the Fourth Economy team updated our research from 2019 to understand how cities support the advancement of equitable economic outcomes. We analyzed the largest 100 cities to see if they had an office or designated entity for equity and inclusion issues; a strategic plan that included equity or was specifically about equity; and interesting efforts, initiatives, or collaborations that can serve as models for growth. You can read more about our findings here.

Throughout our analysis we also found numerous examples of innovative tools and resources that cities developed to advance equity:

Understanding what’s possible is an important first step in setting a course for your own planning. While not every strategy may be a good fit for all communities, these examples can provide a glimpse into what has been successful as other cities take on equitable planning and development. In developing their own strategies, communities are encouraged to identify these and other potential solutions, evaluate their strengths and limitations as they relate to their own conditions and goals, and implement these methods accordingly.

Identify and Understand the Work

Deploy Inclusive Planning and Implementation 

Inclusive planning and resulting implementation should seek to involve a full range of community members from a variety of groups, including across a vast spectrum of interests, ages, and socio-economic backgrounds. To identify and engage these partners, civic leaders should think critically about who is in their ecosystem and the best channels with which to reach them. After confirming potential partners, civic leaders should conduct outreach through their chosen methods, which could range from in-person or virtual events to digital media sources to community bulletin boards and more. 

Effective identification and engagement of partners in working to deploy inclusive equity planning and implementation should look to all manner of stakeholders and changemakers in the community. Moreover, equitable development efforts should be localized and serve marginalized groups, including but not limited to: Women, LGBTQ, Immigrants, People with Disabilities, Communities of Color–often African Americans and Latinx–, and Low-Income Individuals and Families. Working to identify and engage these members of the community, including those in formal and informal networks, is essential to successful equitable development.

Identify and Engage Partners

Anchor 2

Identify, Evaluate, and Implement the Methods

Develop Strategies to Advance Equitable Development

In developing effective strategies to advance equitable community development, it is important that civic leaders seek out promising practices from other communities doing similar work. These methods should be properly evaluated to determine if they are a good fit for the community to which they will be applied. Although there are a lot of good ideas and concepts being applied in communities nationwide, civic leaders must have a deep understanding of the needs and existing ecosystem of their community to determine which methods should be pursued. 

Despite the absence of a one-size-fits-all approach to equitable development, there are a variety of resources available to civic leaders looking for assistance in identifying, evaluating, and implementing appropriate methods for their community. The Office of Race and Equity Research at The Urban Institute, for example, provides research, advisory services, thought partnership, and technical assistance for a wide range of changemakers, including front-line practitioners, advocacy partners, and public officials at all levels of government.

Anchor 3
Anchor 4

Identify and Measure Outcomes

Measure Effectiveness of Interventions by Tracking Indicators

After identifying, evaluating, and implementing the methods necessary to advance equitable development in the community, it is essential to determine the outcomes of these strategies through meaningful and measurable indicators. This is the only effective way to evaluate if the chosen methods and strategies had an effect on development in the community, let alone if these strategies had the intended, equitable effect.

Metrics to measure equitable outcomes in economic development will vary based on the needs of the community. However, the Brookings Institution offers some guidance by identifying measures of success that robust, action-oriented development plans should have (in regard to climate action planning, but applicable here):

  • Detailed components

  • Frequently updated goals

  • Tracking of strategy implementation

  • Equity benchmarks

  • Community buy-in and support within and outside of government

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