By Carly Horne, Community & Economic Development Consultant
Fourth Economy is committed to advancing positive economic outcomes for the historically disadvantaged through our work in Economic Equity, empowering communities to establish bold plans that specifically address economic disparities.
This work requires intentionality, and is critical to building more just, resilient, and inclusive economies. Our approach to this work includes inclusive recovery efforts, economic disparity mitigation, and barrier elimination—all focusing on connecting underrepresented communities to economic growth opportunities.
As part of our economic equity work, we continue to explore and study best practices that serve as models for positive change in communities across the country. Here are ten stand-out DEIB initiatives that are making a meaningful impact across various aspects of community and economic development:
1. Workplace, Marketplace, Equity Performance Tracking
The Center for Economic Inclusion is offering comprehensive assessments to help businesses measure their progress in meeting racial equity performance goals across their various areas of operation including culture, leadership, talent, procurement, philanthropy, public policy, and involvement in the marketplace.
How it works: The assessment promotes sustainable equity action plans by providing precise progress measurements and resource sharing. Businesses who participate in the Index receive a score and detailed report providing recommendations within their areas of opportunity.
2. Microbusiness Funding, Disaster Recovery
Many small businesses across the country could not participate in the CARES Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) due to the complex nature, expedited timeline and ongoing changes of the program. Additionally, much preference was given to larger enterprises with existing business banking relationships, leaving many smaller ventures without access.
To address the unmet needs of microbusinesses, the City of New Orleans partnered with the New Orleans Business Alliance and the InvestNOLA CDFI Growth Capital Consortium to establish the InvestNOLA COVID-19 Relief Loan Fund. This program is structured to lessen the administrative burden of businesses while addressing their most pressing financial needs beyond payroll.
How it works: The fund provides loans between $10 and $50K at 6% APR with loan terms up to 5.5 years. The first six months of payments are deferred, and the final 10% of the principal loan amount may be forgiven at the end of the loan term.
3. City-Level Public Policy Framework
In 2020, Long Beach (CA) City Council led conversations to acknowledge and address racism as a public health crisis. The council recognized the need to restore public trust in the City government while reconciling the gap in community experiences caused by current policies, especially as they relate to the Black community.
As a result of this work, Long Beach adopted its Framework for Reconciliation, outlining the four critical components needed to end systemic racism in their community: (1) Acknowledging the impacts of systemic racism, (2) Listening to the accounts of those experiencing inequity, (3) Convening stakeholders to shape policy and programmatic reform based on racial disparity data, and (3) Catalyzing action for improving equity in the near and long term.
How it Works: With the assessment completed, the next steps will be to follow the steps outlined in the Reconciliation process to include developing an implementation plan with specific strategic actions, funding sources, lead department/staff, and timelines for completion.
4. Policy & Strategy Research
Aspen Institute’s Economic Opportunity Program (EOP) advances an inclusive vision of economic justice by addressing how race, gender, and place intersect with and intensify economic inequality.
How it Works: EOP works locally and nationally to provide actionable solutions that expand economic opportunities for low- and moderate-income people. Its Job Quality Center of Excellence, for example, offers practical tools, research, and resources for individuals, organizations, and policymakers to expand quality jobs that support economic dignity for workers while mitigating strain on public and private budgets. EOP’s major initiatives include the Business Ownership Initiative, the Future of Work Initiative, Good Companies/Good Jobs, UpSkill America, and the Workforce Strategies Initiative.
5. Regional Talent Attraction & Retention
With the understanding that a diverse workforce is essential to the ongoing economic vitality of its region, Vibrant Pittsburgh is building a thriving and inclusive region by attracting, welcoming, retaining, and elevating a diversity of talent.
How it Works: This nonprofit organization accelerates the growth rate of diverse workers in its region by: (1) working with employers and community groups to organize, promote, and implement attraction and retention strategies, (2) conducting targeted initiatives at national conventions, cultural festivals, and career fairs, and (3) serving as a central resource, spokesperson and convener on inclusion issues.
6. Health Equity
The Healthcare Anchor Network (HAN) is a collaborative of 65+ leading healthcare systems focused on their role within their communities as anchor institutions with significant economic power in hiring, procurement, and investments.
How it Works: HAN exists to incubate and scale innovative strategies that address root causes and structural determinants of health. The network provides resources for values-aligned peers to learn from a shared base of research, learn about strategies that are producing impactful outcomes, and tools for advancing and advocating for institutional changes that address the economic and racial inequities that create health barriers for people and communities, impeding their opportunity to thrive.
HAN’s long-term goal is to reach a critical mass of health systems, prioritizing their responsibility as anchor institutions to promote community health, and thus, more inclusive, sustainable economies overall.
7. Climate Resilience
With an emphasis on sustainable neighborhood growth, Detroit’s Eastside Community Network has established itself as a leader in urban climate resilience through policy advocacy, green infrastructure development, and community education.
How it Works: Through its LEAP Sustainability Fellowship, ECN provides 1-year training and funding for residents interested in developing their climate sustainability projects for the community. In 2021, ECN announced plans to convert its headquarters into a wellness and resilience hub, including stormwater management solutions and energy resilience against power outages.
In addition to promoting holistic health, the hub will provide resources and community refuge during climate emergencies.
To reverse the disparity trends through intentional growth, Atlanta Land Trust (ALT) delivers and stewards permanently affordable housing to support communities at risk of gentrification and promote equitable development. The number of public, private, non-profit, and community partners who collaborated to form ALT is unprecedented, with more than 30 collaborators.
How it Works: The trust acquires properties and offers long-term, affordable, renewable leases on the land. The homeowner agrees to sell the home at a resale-restricted price to another low-income homebuyer in the future. The homeowner is able to build wealth from their investment while ACLT preserves the public’s investment in affordable housing.
By the end of 2021, ALT had grown its pipeline of homes and homebuyers to 250+ and 175+, respectively.
9. Arts & Culture
The Art of Community: Rural SC (Arts & Culture)
The Art of Community program, which was started by the South Carolina Arts Commission (SCAC) in 2015, has grown to serve 15 rural and tribal communities, nearly one-third of all counties across the state.
How it Works: SCAC provides grants to fund the initiatives which address issues across health care, education, public safety, housing, capital, and economic and community development. Through this program, each community is represented by a local cultural leader and a team of community members who are charged with identifying a current challenge and building an action plan for how arts and culture can solve the issue.
Overall, the program promotes cultural exchange across the state, creating greater opportunities for communities to share best practices.
Nashville’s Community Achieves model calls for deep engagement with school populations to understand what needs arise for families and lean on the external community – government agencies, faith organizations, non-profits, and businesses – to help provide resources.
Aside from academic instruction, schools provide numerous and often unrecognized, wraparound services and enrichment opportunities to care for students and families. Such services include college and career readiness, parent/family engagement, health and wellness, and social services.
At Fourth Economy, we believe equitable economic development is achieved when the policies and programs used to spur growth are specifically designed to ensure that historically underserved communities and individuals share in the benefits of growth.
The end goal is for individuals to be both benefactors and beneficiaries of community and economic development initiatives.
For more resources in support of advancing equity, visit our Equitable Development page.