• Rich Overmoyer

Fourth Economy’s Commitment to Fighting Racism


Credit: Leeya Jackson (www.noisemakerdesign.com) from our Economic Competitiveness & Inclusion Plan for Ramsey County.

Last June, we shared our commitment to fighting racism. As individuals we support our communities in unique ways — we march, donate, speak out, and learn to be stronger allies. Together we pledged to more deeply explore how racism impacts our communities and what we as consultants can do to change our own behavior and share ideas and tools with those that we work with so they can also do better.

Inequity in all forms harms our communities and prevents economic wellbeing for all. Equitable development is a need in every community, and we’re committed to using it as a lens to help communities grow and change.

These are actions we have taken in the past year to fight racism:

  • We were fortunate to be able to support the development of an Economic Competitiveness and Inclusion plan in Ramsey County Minnesota. Through collaboration with the Center for Economic Inclusion and community leaders, we were able to document the impacts of racism and identify actions to begin the journey for repair.

  • We pursued a more equitable hiring process, engaging outside support, Abe Taleb with Equitable Hiring Group. In the process, we review candidate responses void of names and educational affiliations to avoid biases and expand our candidate pool.

  • We provided analysis on recovery efforts including, income disparities, the Paycheck Protection Program, vaccine distribution, and child care that demonstrate lingering bias and barriers for minority businesses and residents.

As a team, we regularly review our practices — how we engage residents during our planning, how to end the marginalization of community voices, how to listen to the present and past experiences in communities that set in motion the systemic racism and exclusion that we see today. As part of that process, we have:

  • Created a shared space, meeting bi-weekly, to discuss content related to racism, equity, policies, and actions that limit and steal wealth from minority communities. We have explored Tulsa, Wilmington, NC, New York City School Systems, redlining and restrictive covenants, the case for reparations and more.

  • Created an equitable approach to identifying Steering/Advisory Committee members on client projects.

  • Developed a stipend model to support equitable representation in community engagements that will be deployed later this year. The stipends financially support those who do not have the privilege of attending meetings on their employers’ time.

  • Continued to review how we scope our work towards more inclusive engagement, more specific data to identify disparities, and more time for exploring promising practices that repair legacy impacts and offer more equitable futures.

We made the following statements last year in response to the murders of several people including George Floyd and unchecked police violence against Black people and they are still true:

  • We take a firm stance against all forms of violence, discrimination, and racism towards Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, especially anti-Black racism.

  • We value Black lives. We oppose the criminalization and dehumanization of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.

  • We denounce police brutality and support the first amendment rights of those who are demonstrating in our communities to demand change.

Upon reflection during a year when a raging pandemic took the livelihoods and lives of a disproportionate number of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, continued police violence, uncontrolled gun violence, and a wave of new era Jim Crow laws designed to restrict voting rights we add a few commitments:

  • We will work to bring to light information on racial and ethnic disparities in the communities where we work.

  • We will collaborate with groups that are advancing tangible solutions to confronting these issues and improving equitable outcomes for all residents.

  • We will invest in ways to demonstrate to community leaders that the status quo is unacceptable and costs their community substantially.

  • We will reject actions that restrict LGBTQ rites and champion inclusive communities in our work.

We share this with you, our community, as an update and an opportunity for further discussion. The journey we embarked on has been rewarding and also challenging, but we are committed to continuing and hope that you can join us.