By Equal Voice Action
Urban areas bring with them diversity, opportunity, and innovation, but when the subject of long-term equitable growth is broached, even the most well-intentioned cities often find themselves perpetuating deeply rooted, systemic marginalization – specifically within low-income communities and communities of color. PolicyLink, an organizational ally and supporter behind the Equal Voice National Family Platform, is aiming to counter this trend through their new resource focused on sustainable and inclusive urban development policy.
PolicyLink is a national research and action institute based in Oakland, California, that supports communities, particularly low-income communities and communities of color, in driving local, state, and federal policy changes to benefit everyone. “Growth is grounded in community,” writes CEO Angela Glover Blackwell, and this value, along with the PolicyLink Equity Manifesto, inspires their research, outreach, and work on the ground.
In line with PolicyLink’s vision, when city leaders, community-based organizations, advocates and local institutions are strategic and united in their policy planning and implementation, urban development, racial equity and economic inclusion are achievable, complementary goals.
As part of PolicyLink’s broader All-in Cities initiative, the recently launched All-In Cities Policy Toolkit is a robust online resource that can be used by community leaders and engaged supporters and allies working within the policy sphere and beyond. The toolkit is designed to facilitate open dialogue and action on equitable growth strategy by providing guidelines for major social and economic policy initiatives.
The toolkit is divided into six major policy areas: good jobs, economic security, homegrown talent, healthy neighborhoods, housing/anti-displacement, and democracy and justice. For each focus area, the toolkit provides key strategies and specific policy tools that leaders can adapt to their unique contexts.
These tools – 21 in total – contain clear policy information in simple language, opening with a brief explanation of the issue area at hand, and providing links to additional research and resources. They also denote which community members can use or benefit from the information to ensure the most effective, collaborative implementation. For example, in the case of advocating for the adoption of quality universal preschool, community stakeholders can include school districts, community-based organizations, and parents of students.
Additionally, the toolkit details key considerations for each policy tool. As one example, in regard to fair-chance hiring policies that “ban the box” on employment applications indicating if applicants have a criminal record, the toolkit suggests that some policy reforms are more enduring when there are complementary support structures in place, like programs to facilitate reentry into the workforce for formerly incarcerated people. These kinds of details are helpful for aiding civic leaders and engaged allies in thinking through the broader implications of such policy initiatives in the context of their own cities.
Perhaps most insightful are real-world examples of how these equity-based policies have successfully been integrated into various cities across the nation. For example, cradle-to-career systems, which due to their long-term nature often experience waning support from policymakers, have success stories in Texas and New York that show incredible promise in bolstering community development through education.
With the toolkit’s accessible format and commitment to evidence-based analysis, PolicyLink empowers community members to engage with and promote the use of these policy tools and hold officials accountable for their implementation. They recommend that a city first conduct a racial equity impact assessment of existing and proposed policies to get a better idea of the work required to begin operating with a focus on equity. This process can establish a baseline for the community to measure its progress.
With plans to widen their scope and add more policy areas in the future, PolicyLink hopes that the toolkit enables city and community leaders to create solutions for cities to thrive through equity and inclusion. The driving philosophy behind the initiative is that as urban areas continue to grow and diversify, it is the responsibility of elected officials, business leaders, local community groups, and funders to work together to build stronger cities, making certain that urban growth is long-term, fair, and just. As Tracey Ross, the associate director of the All-In Cities initiative writes, “Cities reflect the diversity that is in our nation’s future and represent our best chance to create a stronger country. When they insist upon equity, it doesn’t just benefit the most vulnerable people in our country; it benefits all Americans.”
To learn more about the toolkit and its recommended policies for lifting up low-income communities and communities of color, visit: allincities.org/toolkit.
PolicyLink is a national research and action institute based in Oakland, California, with offices in Los Angeles, New York, and Washington, DC. Their work is grounded in the conviction that equity – just and fair inclusion – must drive all policy decisions. To learn more, visit: policylink.org.