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The ‘Who’s Who’ in Support of Equitable Economic Development

Part II of the Equitable Development Series by Josh Devine & Kristina Harrold

When Fourth Economy is engaging with a community, our process always involves comprehensive and multi-layered data analysis and dynamic stakeholder conversations. We apply an equitable development lens throughout our work and often utilize a large volume of tools and resources made available by national actors. Hundreds of foundations, think tanks, organizations, and educational institutions are contributing to our collective, evolving understanding of equitable development.

Navigating these resources is quite a challenge, but here’s our (not nearly exhaustive) synopsis of national support available at every stage of equitable economic development planning:

Assessing Equity and Establishing Indicators

As addressed in an earlier blog post, there are innumerable ways to assess how well your community is doing to advance equitable growth. At Fourth Economy, we often reference our very own Community Index, which measures county-level economic vitality. Many cities and regions are looking to national resources as a starting point, such as Harvard and Brown’s Opportunity Atlas, and the Equality Indicators from the Institute of State and Local Governance. These provide data on racial and economic inclusion and can help inform policy. The Urban Institute also ranked the largest metros in the U.S. on inclusion policies and programs.

Researching Best Practices

There are a large number of think tanks that provide resources to better understand equitable development practices across the country. The Aspen Institute captures new and innovative approaches being employed, and you can also browse the Brookings Institution or the Washington Center for Equitable Growth’s articles about national trends.

Building Consensus and Developing Strategies

Organizations are developing toolkits that offer community leaders and advocates guidance on how best to define, organize and plan around equitable development. Check out Forward Cities’ Inclusive Innovation Toolkit; All-In Cities’ toolkits exploring six different policy areas such as economic security, healthy neighborhoods, and anti-displacement; and NALCAB’s equitable development neighborhood guide with tools for engaging community.

Moving Toward Action

When there is a lack of capacity (leadership and/or financial resources) to implement strategies, national partners can come alongside communities and move them toward action. Communities benefit from technical assistance providers in that they can leverage a broad network of educational resources. For example, The Strong, Prosperous, And Resilient Communities Challenge (SPARCC) provides technical assistance, grant funding, and network opportunities for six cities across the U.S.. The National League of Cities, Policy Link, and the Urban Land Institute’s Equitable Economic Development Fellowship provides one year of technical assistance and peer learning to cities (Check out the fellowship blog).

Institutions are also organizing around specific strategies such as Accelerator for America assisting communities in delivering equitable investments in Opportunity Zones; and the Government Alliance on Racial Equity emphasizing structural racism in governance.

Measuring and Evaluating Success

The National Equity Atlas from Policy Link tracks and measures cities’ inclusive growth using a set of common metrics; there are small scale efforts utilizing displacement measures to evaluate neighborhood investments; and we know of many places - such as New York City and Greater Minneapolis region - who are developing their own dashboards to evaluate in real time their equity progress (more on this later in our series).

This is only a small sampling of the partners and supporters of equitable development work in the country, and every day more voices join the conversation. They help build a foundation and framework for communities committed to equitable economic development. As we continue to learn more and build upon our work, we enjoy bringing attention to equity work and connecting with partners in the field.

What resources do you know of in this topic? We’d love to know!


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