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Neighborhood Allies and Urban Innovation21 Engage National Experts to Help Create Equitable Development Strategy for Pittsburgh

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In a joint collaboration with Urban Innovation21 and through the financial support of The Heinz Endowments, we have solicited the expertise and support of PolicyLink to help us engage the local community to help make Equitable Development a reality in Pittsburgh.

The primary goals of this initiative are fivefold:

  1. Frame the case for equity
  2. Create a working definition of equitable development
  3. Put forth a set of policy strategies and action items (short and long term)
  4. Build a stronger constituency for an equity agenda
  5. Engage and cultivate local equitable development champions
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Sarah Treuhaft of Policy Link, listening diligenty to the community conversation

As a kick-off to this critical initiative, Sarah Treuhaft and Rosa Bravo of PolicyLink visited Pittsburgh from February 1st thru the 3rd to conduct in-person interviews with key decision-makers and to co-facilitate a discussion with community leaders about equitable development. Over these 3 days, eighteen in-person interviews were conducted with leaders from a wide range of sectors including: elected officials, philanthropy, universities, health care, public health, community and economic development and financial institutions.

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                 Dr. Jamil Bey co-facilitates the community conversation

At the gathering, over thirty individuals from local government and community-based organizations participated in a discussion co-facilitated by Sarah Treuhaft and Dr. Jamil Bey of UrbanKind. The majority of them were part of the Pittsburgh delegation to the PolicyLink Equity Summit held in Los Angeles in October:

During the presentation, PolicyLink conveyed the following principles and elements of equitable development:

  • Identify and undo historical and current policies and practices that perpetuate racial inequity and uneven development in Pittsburgh.
  • Develop intentional policies and strategies to ensure low-income people and communities of color participate in and benefit from decisions that shape their neighborhood and regions.
  • Prevent displacement and ensure residents can choose to stay in their neighborhoods as they improve.
  • Reduce racial economic disparities and promote equitable, catalytic, coordinated “triple-bottom-line” investments.
  • Integrate people- and place-focused strategies that ensure meaningful community participation, leadership and ownership in change efforts.
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Marimba Milliones and DeWitt Walton participating in the community conversation

At the meeting, we heard loud and clear from participants that they want to move beyond another report on racial disparities and the need for equity, and are ready to progress into collective action to reach real results. This message will serve as a guide as we move forward.

Our effort is a part of the new PolicyLink All-In Cities initiative: in fact, Pittsburgh is the first city to be included in this national effort to advance racial inclusion and equitable growth in cities. “Pittsburgh is the perfect place to be starting this initiative,” says Treuhaft. “Linking residents of long-struggling communities to the city’s economic transformation is critical for the long-term prosperity of the whole region.”

Over the upcoming months, we’ll be working with PolicyLink and other partners to broaden community engagement and ensure the success of the effort. A top priority is to uplift the voices of residents and to ensure equity is a driving value and practice in the p4 initiative. As an example, Neighborhood Allies staff recently met with Toni Griffin, Harvard Professor and founding Director of the J. Max Bond Center on Design for the Just City, who is advising the p4 effort.

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Neighborhood Allies Staff With Toni Griffin

For us, it’s very important that efforts to advance equity in Pittsburgh are aligned to maximize opportunity for impact. The initial findings and recommendations on equitable development work with PolicyLink will be issued in a report and publicized at a community event in July of 2016. Our hope is that the report will serve as a backbone for a detailed equitable development agenda for Pittsburgh and spur the multi-dimensional partnerships needed to advance it.

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