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PolicyLink Returns to Pittsburgh to Continue the Local Equitable Development Conversation

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Our allies at PolicyLink, a national research and action institute that works to advance economic and social equity, returned to Pittsburgh earlier this week to continue the local equitable development conversation, which is part of a larger, nation-wide inclusion and equity initiative called All-In Cities.

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Back in February 2016, with support from The Heinz Endowments and in partnership with Neighborhood Allies and Urban Innovation21, the team kicked off this engagement with the ultimate goal of making Equitable Development a reality in Pittsburgh. In-person interviews with dozens of key decision-makers as well as a very well attended community gathering and discussion helped to frame the local equity and inclusion conversation.

This week, our collective work continued with the PolicyLink team, including Founder and CEO Angela Glover Blackwell, returning to Pittsburgh to work with local leaders to craft a workable definition of equitable development for our city/region and create an action strategy to make it our reality.

PolicyLink began the week by engaging members from the Latino, immigrant and refugee communities before conducting multiple round table discussions with ten Pittsburgh developers and leaders from Pittsburgh communities and organizations. In addition to discussing equitable development and how to achieve it, we conversed about the critical role the development community plays in realizing the vision of an “all-in” city.

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National experts from Policy Link including Angela Glover Blackwell and Sarah Treuhaft also facilitatedDSCN1752 DSCN1745a session for leaders to participate in and contribute to crafting the local definition of equitable development. The event attracted more than 75 people, including key decision-makers from the foundation community, community-based organizations and local government. Kevin Acklin, Mayor Peduto’s Chief of Staff provided opening remarks, noting what an important initiative this is and how these efforts align with and complement other efforts the City is engaged in including the P4 initiative, the Affordable Housing Task Force, Welcoming Pittsburgh, and more. The participants discussed potential action strategies including:

  1. Implementing a multi-faceted housing affordability, stability and opportunity strategy tailored to neighborhood contexts
  2. Linking people of color and women to business start-up and growth opportunities
  3. Connecting residents to good, living-wage jobs
  4. Making targeted investments that transform high-poverty neighborhoods into communities of opportunity without displacing residents or their culture
  5. Increasing community ownership and control of land
  6. Selecting and monitoring equitable development metrics at the city/region, neighborhood, and project level to track progress and ensure accountability
  7. Improving the quality of public education and transportation systems to prepare and connect people to opportunity
  8. Making civic institutions and leadership more diverse, inclusive and representative of the community
  9. Building community power, voice, and capacity to advance these strategies

Over the past few months, we’ve heard loud and clear from participants that we need to move beyond producing another report on racial disparities and the need for equity, and are instead, focusing on progressing into collective action to reach real results. We know we must implement a robust equitable development strategy that advances regional and citywide goals for racial and economic inclusion and is tailored to the developmental needs, assets, and challenges of specific neighborhoods.

“As Pittsburgh undergoes a tremendous economic transformation from its industrial roots toward a new economy driven largely by its educational and health care institutions, portions of the city are experiencing a development boom. With these market forces comes great potential for reinvestment in long-distressed neighborhood and economic  opportunities for their residents, but also the risk that rising rents and landowners’ project motives will lead to the displacement of lower-income residents and their cultural dislocation from gentrifying areas catering mainly to wealthy, white residents.”  

-Sarah Treuhaft, PolicyLink

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Stay tuned for future updates on our equitable development agenda. In the meantime, check out the Heinz Endowments’ #JustPgh hashtag on Twitter for ongoing conversation around justice, equity and inclusion in Pittsburgh.  Contact Shad Henderson for more information!

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