Monday, August 29, 2016

The Four Steps To Make Cities More Inclusive

Step One: Admit you have a problem
Flickr/Puparrazi Photography
Hello Everyone:

Welcome to a new week on the blog.  Just a quick reminder, Blogger will going on a much needed vacation the end of next week.  Instead of the usual posts, Blogger will post photo blogs and Blogger Candidate Forum will take a two week hiatus.  Blogger will be back at toward the end of September with the regular posts and the Candidate Forum will be back with live blogging from the first presidential debate.  On to today's post, how to build more inclusive cities.

What is an inclusive city?  Tanvi Misra, in her CityLab article "How to Build Inclusive Cities," defines inclusive cities as places where anyone, "...regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, age, or ability-can live and thrive."  Unfortunately, there is not a magic solution or template to follow.  However, there are solution worth imitating that cities and citizens around the world are using and recently discussed at Brookings Institute.

Mother pushing a stroller
The session was started by Ángel Gurría, the secretary general of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, which initiated its Inclusive Growth in Cities Campaign (; date accused Aug. 29, 2016), in conjunction with Ford Foundation.  Ms. Misra reports, "This initiative brings together city leaders from around the world with explicit purpose of tackling urban inequality."  Secretary Gurría was followed by a panel discussion featuring private, public, technology, and business leaders who shared their unique and novel successful strategies.  Based on the presentation, the following are four basic steps toward creating more inclusive cities.

"Everyone Counts"
Step One: Acknowledge the problem

Admitting you have a problem is not reserved for 12-step groups.  You cannot send a city to alcohol-addiction treatment but it is an absolute necessity.  Cities are centers of global innovation, power, and economy.  This puts them in the perfect position to lead the way toward a more equal society, especially in the face of political gridlock at the national level, observed Amy Liu, the vice president of the Institute's Metropolitan Policy Program.  Like admitting to an addiction, the first step to creating more inclusive cities is acknowledging there is a problem.

The Brookings Institute's Metro Monitor 2016: Tracking Growth, Prosperity, and Inclusion In 100 Largest U.S. Metropolitan Areas
(; date accused Aug. 29, 2016) is one measure of how far cities have advanced in context to economic inclusion.  Tanvi Misra writes, "According to its finds, nearly all large U.S. metro have seen a boost in jobs and economic outputs in the years since the recession."  However, with respect to economic inclusion-defined as "...the well-being of the middle and low-income residents-" only eight metropolitan saw system-wide improvements between 2009 and 2014.  The report cited Charleston, Chicago, Dayton, Denver, provo, Salt Lake City, San Jose, and Tulsa as the sole American metropolitan areas that demonstrated growth in median wages and employment rates, as well as a decline in poverty.  Be that as it may, these cities still experienced racial disparities.  Further, "...80 out of 100 largest U.S. metros, median wages actually declined in this period.

"Composite Inclusion rankings among the largest 100 U.S. Metropolitan Areas
Brookings Institute

During the presentation, Ms. Liu told the audience,

Economic growth is easy, but inclusion is harder...We need to be much more intentional about how we extend the benefits of growth and engage more people in our prosperity.  (Ibid)

The map on the left is from this, American metropolitans ranked according to the progress they made in economic inclusion between 2009 and 2014.  You can find an interactive tool on the Brookings Institute website.

Economic inequality is just one component in making cities more inclusive.  Antoinette Samuel, the deputy director of the National League of Cities told the conference,

'Inclusiveness' means affordability and non-discrimination in housing so that neighborhoods are diverse and representative of a city's population; it means acceptance of new immigrants and respecting and celebrating their culture and religious traditions.  And...protecting the rights of the LGBT community and promoting religious tolerance. (Ibid)

Light rail in Martin Place
Step Two: Push for transit-oriented development

When it comes to policy remedies, priorities vary from city to city across the United States. Suffice to say "...every single one needs to do a better job with providing affordable housing, transit access, and sage and up-to-date infrastructure."  Secretary Gurría said,

But it's too often divorced from a broader strategy for urban development and transport and access to services.  So we need housing policies that aim to build cities, rathe than build houses.  (Ibid)

Dow Constantine, executive of Kings County in Washington state (including Seattle), emphasized the urgency to invest in transit option that connect low-income communities at fringes of major cities in the urban center, and the necessity making an allowance for affordable housing close already existing transit line.  He also cited his municipalities plan to reduce bus fare for low income riders as a successful way to bring down barriers to transit access.

Bus oriented transit
Cleveland, Ohio
Cecile Bedor, executive vice president at Greater MSP, a Minneapolis-Saint Paul-based economic development non-profit, stressed that it was import that ensuring that no community was overlooked was a continuous process.  She told the assembly,

Ultimately, [Transit Oriented Development] around light rail and ensuring that there's housing for all and choices for all really only happens with intentional policy by elected officials...The market's going to do what the market does...[W]e really meed to make sure the pressure is on our elected officials to ensure that it is inclusive growth.  (Ibid)

Step Three: Invest in people, and "be nimble"

Investing in the future of cities means investing in its citizen beginning at an early age.  Mr. Constantine pointed to King's county Best Start for Kids (; date accessed Aug. 29, 2016), a multi-pronged approach to early childhood education.  The program provides a range of services, from prenatal support to educational resources for high school students.

Best Starts for Kids logo
With respect to the adult population, attention is given to include women, new immigrants, and communities of color into the workforce.  Paid family leave and equal-pay policies as two more ways women can enter and remain employed.  Madame Secretary and Mr. Trump are you paying attention?  Vocational training and entrepreneur programs for communities color (including in foreign language for immigrants) can also prepare traditionally disadvantaged groups for employment.

OECD conference
Rodney Sampson, the chairman at Opportunity Hum and head of diversity and inclusion at Tech Square Labs in Atlanta, told the group,

Minorities, and women immigrants suffer from intentional or unintentional invisibility that is often met with tokenism...We need to hack and disrupt that mindset.  (; date accused Aug. 29, 2016)

Mr. Sampson's organization work with Atlanta public schools to train "disconnects youth" in coding languages, computer skills, and financial literacy.  His organization also provides them with housing, a living stipend, and puts them in touch with potential employers.

All that aside, what workers genuinely need is predicated on their location.  To wit, JP Morgan Chase has been working with the Brookings Institute to publish information that allows global cities to understand what industries are experiencing growth and what jobs are being created by them.  Be that as it may, the working landscape is also rapidly transforming and cities need to keep pace with the changes.  Ms. Bedor shared during the discussion,

The systems that we build a decade ago don't work today because of the changes in technology, globalization, and automation...We also need to be really nimble and know that we're training [for] today may not be what they need tomorrow.  So it's not a speck in time-this is an iterative process.

Step Four: Make sure everyone is at the table

This is a given.  It is very easy for a wide range of experts to gather at conferences, present papers, hold panel discussions on making cities more inclusive but without including the actual stakeholders, all that talking is pointless.  One might even say a little patronizing?  To truly make cities more inclusive, you have to actually collaborate with different sectors, agencies, interests, and work across multiple platforms.  After all, if you want to make cities more inclusive, you cannot leave anyone behind.

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