Equity and Economic Development Must Go Hand in Hand

Traditional approaches don’t always work. Cities need to be intentional about targeting their economic development programs at the people and communities that are increasingly distant from the growth sectors of their local and regional economies.

The city of Cleveland is incorporating innovative approaches to economic development like the Evergreen Cooperative Initiative, a new model of equitable economic development that focuses on creating living wage jobs and asset building opportunities in six low-income neighborhoods. (Getty Images)

This is a guest post by NLC President and Cleveland Councilmember Matt Zone. It was first published in the 25th anniversary edition of PACDC magazine.

In today’s rapidly-changing demographic, social, environmental and economic environment, the need for equitable economic development programs is particularly urgent. According to the Brookings Institution, states and localities spend $50 to $80 billion on tax breaks and incentives each year in the name of economic development despite a mountain of evidence showing that tax incentives produce mostly marginal returns. These traditional approaches to economic development by local governments have not benefited all populations — and, in many cases, the policies and programs have particularly neglected or even shortchanged people of color, immigrants and low-income communities.

When cities instead invest in making economies more equitable from the bottom up, or from the middle class out, economic growth is likely to be better for all residents, and that growth is more likely to be sustained over longer periods of times. Cities need to be intentional about targeting their economic development programs, funding and policies at the specific populations and neighborhoods that are increasingly distant from the growth sectors of their regional and city economies.

In my city, we have a nonprofit organization called the Democracy Collaborative that is a national leader in equitable, inclusive and sustainable development. In partnership with the city, the Cleveland Foundation, the Ohio Employee Ownership Center, and major hospitals and universities, they helped to implement a new model of large-scale, worker-owned and community-benefiting businesses. The Evergreen Cooperative Initiative is beginning to build serious momentum in Cleveland, and we’re very proud that this model is being referred to nationally as “The Cleveland Model.” We see innovative approaches to economic development emerging in other cities nationwide to bring green job creation and neighborhood stabilization, and I’m very proud that the National League of Cities (NLC) is working to speed up the learning process in this area.

To that end, and in partnership with PolicyLink and the Urban Land Institute (ULI), NLC launched the Equitable Economic Development (EED) Fellowship last year with the generous support of the Surdna and Open Societies Foundations. Specifically, the EED Fellowship provides one year of technical assistance to a class of six cities to help them pursue more equitable and inclusive economic development policies and programs in traditionally underserved communities — those that have the highest levels of unemployment and the lowest levels of income and educational attainment, and represent the highest needs for job- and workforce-related programs in the city. Through leadership development, technical assistance, peer learning and sharing best practices, the fellowship provides city leaders with insights and tools to make equity, transparency, sustainability, innovation and community engagement driving forces for how they conduct economic development and bring an intentional focus on communities that have been historically disconnected from economic growth and prosperity.

The inaugural EED Fellowship class consists of three fellows each from the cities of Boston; Charlotte, North Carolina; Houston; Memphis, Tennessee; Milwaukee and Minneapolis. The participants in NLC’s Equitable Economic Development Fellowship are tackling unemployment, low income levels, and workforce-related issues in their communities — but each city is employing different tactics.

The EED Fellowship includes a year-long program of working retreats, web-based discussions, site visits and peer exchanges to introduce the teams of practitioners from each participating city to best practices, national experts, and their peers across the country. Throughout the year, the EED Fellowship also offers technical assistance via webinars on different topics identified by the six cities.

Each city in the program has also identified an economic development policy or program that they want to advance with a more equitable approach, and NLC, PolicyLink, and ULI deliver technical assistance to them on that project throughout the year. Some of the topics covered include: inclusive strategies for small business development and entrepreneurship support, best practices in collecting data for equitable economic development, institutionalizing equity in economic development programs and policies, and presenting a framework to incorporate an equity lens in economic development incentive package.

The work of the EED Fellowship cities also serves as a model for a new Economic Mobility and Opportunity Task Force at NLC. Based on years of work that NLC has done on antipoverty efforts and family economic security, I created this task force last fall, and asked Mayor Kasim Reed of Atlanta to chair it. The task force is comprised of 22 elected officials around the country, and Mayor Reed issued a challenge this month that each of those leaders should implement a new policy or program in their city before the task force concludes its work at the end of the year. That charge — to move from talking about innovation to actually acting to bring it about in our cities — is exactly the kind of leadership that NLC wants to bring to the challenges facing cities. We’re very proud to be leading this work with our Equitable Economic Development Fellowship. Please follow the task force’s progress and look for a report on a set of recommendations for local leaders at the end of the year.

Stay up-to-date on the Economic Mobility and Opportunity Task Force and the EED Fellowship by following this blog series. Ready to take action in your own city? Take the Local Action Challenge for Economic Mobility and Opportunity and sign a pledge to increase economic mobility and opportunity for your residents in 2017.

About the author: Matt Zone is the 2017 president of the National League of Cities (NLC). He serves as a city councilmember in Cleveland, Ohio, representing Ward 15, which includes the Detroit-Shoreway neighborhood where he and generations of his family grew up.

City Leaders – Here’s Why the Better Buildings Summit Should Be on Your Calendar

More than 900 participants at the Department of Energy’s 2017 Better Buildings Summit will share proven approaches to cutting energy use in their buildings over the next 10 years.

Among other offerings, the Better Buildings Summit will provide city leaders a sneak peak of cutting edge and emerging clean technologies that will increase energy efficiency in buildings and infrastructure. (Getty Images)

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is hosting the Better Buildings Summit May 15–17 in Washington, D.C. The Better Buildings Summit is a national meeting where leading organizations across key sectors showcase solutions to cut energy intensity in their buildings portfolio-wide by 20 percent over the next ten years. As one of the premier events for energy and sustainability professionals, the summit is the forum to engage with peers, explore innovative organizational strategies, learn about financing and technology trends, and much more. Check out the agenda for a list of all the sessions and watch this video to learn more.

The summit features numerous sessions and workshops designed to give city leaders fresh insights, inspiration and practical advice. They include:

All-In: States, Localities, Utilities and Nonprofits Creating Solutions for Underserved Communities

DOE is partnering with states, localities, utilities, housing agencies and nonprofit organizations to support the planning and implementation of clean energy programs in disadvantaged communities as part of its Clean Energy for Low Income Communities Accelerator. Session attendees will gain a better understanding of the diverse opportunities to ensure equitable and affordable access to energy efficiency and solar energy in American communities.

An Electrifying Transition: Electrification Barriers and Opportunities

A shift toward greater electrification is needed to effectively reduce energy waste and costs, increase energy independence, strengthen industry, and create jobs. This three-hour workshop explores the opportunities and barriers for state and local governments to electrify their transportation sectors, building technologies and ports. Join the workshop to discuss the latest trends, success stories and innovative strategies in electrification.

Expect the Unexpected: Planning Energy-Resilient Communities

The nation’s energy sector is subject to an increasing number of threats from natural and human events. Greater resilience is required to confront these risks, including a comprehensive plan and infrastructure with the ability to avoid disruptions, minimize impacts, and recover from and adapt to a changing environment. Attend this three-hour workshop to learn about the technologies, planning and partnership approaches governments are pursuing to overcome these challenges.

Shedding Light on LED Street Lights

The Better Buildings Outdoor Lighting Accelerator dove deeply into the deployment barriers of LED street lights, a performance technology with evidence-based energy savings and other benefits for many cities. Partners will share advice for overcoming the challenges for successful LED street lighting conversion projects. Attendees will leave with actionable information and resources to plan their own projects.

Reimagining Cities! Achieving Efficient, Resilient and Sustainable Communities Through Zero Energy Buildings

Exemplary Zero Energy Buildings (ZEBs) are setting the standard for more sustainable communities. Over the last year, ZEB projects grew by 74 percent and have covered every climate zone in the U.S. This session will cover the planning, innovative technologies and processes that make Zero Energy Buildings a reality while highlighting ZEB projects in Denver and Washington, D.C.

Addressing the Energy-Water Nexus: The Next Wave of Challenges and Solutions

Our nation’s energy and water systems are inextricably linked. Solutions that address the interdependencies of these systems are growing in importance as concerns over water scarcity continue to rise. In this session, experts from the public and private sectors will share their perspectives on key technology, business and policy solutions that address the energy-water nexus.

There are also great opportunities to tour high-performance buildings, speak with technical experts from national labs, and network with public sector peers:

  • Monday, May 15: Local government meet-up and post-summit networking event
  • Tuesday and Wednesday, May 15 and 16: Ask-an-Expert between sessions to get technical advice on building technologies or reserve a meeting to get one-on-one assistance with your community’s energy performance data
  • Tuesday May 16: Meet & greet with attendees during an evening networking event

Register now and get an invite to join the summit app community!

Financial assistance is available. A limited number of travel stipends and registration scholarships are available upon request for representatives from state or local government energy/sustainability offices that do not have administrative funds available for such purposes through an existing federal funding agreement with DOE or another federal agency. Please submit financial assistance requests through the registration website.

The Better Buildings Summit is produced by the U.S Department of Energy.

About the author: Nick Kasza is a Senior Associate with the Sustainable Cities Institute at the National League of Cities. He is part of a team that administers the SolSmart program and helps deliver technical assistance to cities pursuing SolSmart designation.

NLC, LinkedIn Use Data to Help Six Cities Expand Access to Higher Education and Workforce Development

“Cities will be able to look at the broader landscape of employers, higher education institutions, jobs and local skill sets, and connect these data points to better understand the trends showing how individual residents are connecting to education and gaining meaningful employment.”

Together with the Kresge Foundation, NLC is working to create opportunities in education and employment by partnering with LinkedIn to use data-driven solutions to support local economies. (Getty Images)

As part of the Institute for Youth, Education, and Families’ Kresge Foundation-funded work, the National League of Cities (NLC) has teamed up with LinkedIn to provide six cities data support in their efforts to increase postsecondary and workforce success in their communities.

The partnership gives the cities — Austin, Texas; Charleston, South Carolina; Corpus Christi, Texas; Houston, Texas; Jacksonville, Florida; and Nashville, Tennessee — access to LinkedIn data and resources such as the LinkedIn Workforce Report. These insights include whether hiring in the city is up or down, which skills workers have and employers need most (and the gap between the two), and how many people are moving in and out of cities (and what their skills are).

”Cities will be able to look at the broader landscape of employers, higher education institutions, jobs and local skill sets, and connect these data points to better understand the trends showing how individual residents are connecting to education and gaining meaningful employment. We define skills gaps as the mismatch between the skills workers have and the skills employers need. Skills gaps are local, and specific to individual cities. When cities know which skills are in local demand, they can create workforce development programs that are responsive to the needs of both workers and employers, and ultimately boost employment and productivity,” said Nicole Isaac, LinkedIn’s head of U.S. policy. “We are excited to be able to share these types of insights with our partner cities.”

NLC believes its partnership with LinkedIn and the structure of the city teams participating in the technical assistance cohort will help local stakeholders, including city governments, to come together to find meaningful and sustainable solutions for their communities.

“Over and over again, we stress to our cities the importance of using data to develop and strengthen policy, as well as the need for critical partnerships with local stakeholders,” said National League of Cities CEO and Executive Director Clarence E. Anthony. “Our partnership with LinkedIn in this Kresge-funded work epitomizes this approach. City leaders working with teams that include higher education and Chamber of Commerce partners, as well as NLC and LinkedIn experts, will be able to use local data to craft programs that ensure their residents have equitable access to postsecondary education and workforce success.”

To participate in this NLC technical assistance cohort, city teams are required to include representatives from local institutions of higher education and the local chamber of commerce. In understanding the role of cities as economic engines, mayors and their partners will work together to ensure pathways exist for all citizens to earn both education and employment, with the ultimate goal of building vibrant local economies.

“The partnership with the NLC comes at a great time — really, an ideal time — to connect the dots on what we’re already doing around the city,” said Gilda Ramirez, vice president of small business and education for the United Corpus Christi Chamber of Commerce. “We have such a wonderful economic forecast, so we’re setting out our career pathways and preparing our workforce.”

These civic leaders from government, business and higher education know that a college-educated community brings both personal and citywide benefits. On average, an individual who earns a four-year degree contributes $278,000 more over their lifetime to a local economy than a high school graduate, and an associate’s degree earner contributes $81,000 more, according to the Brookings Institution and an analysis of U.S. Census data. NLC is well positioned to create pathways to opportunity, working alongside local government, chambers of commerce and higher education to increase postsecondary and workforce success, and through this partnership with LinkedIn looks to find scalable solutions for cities beyond the six taking part in the technical assistance cohort.

Learn more about NLC’s work in this arena and get the latest updates here.

About the author: Dana D’Orazio is the program manager for postsecondary education at the NLC Institute for Youth, Education, and Families.

Cities Are Fighting to Close the Pay Gap – But States Are Standing in the Way

NLC Research Director Christy McFarland discusses how state preemption of local authority may be adding to the gender wage gap.

NLC’s report City Rights in an Era of Preemption analyzed state preemption of local authority across seven key issue areas, including paid leave and minimum wage.

The full version of this post can be found on Route Fifty.

Tuesday – dubbed Equal Pay Day – symbolizes roughly how many days into the new year that women must work to earn what men did the previous year. As grassroots efforts and awareness activities take place across the country, cities are working every day to find innovative solutions that address the discrepancy.

From Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota, to Morristown, New Jersey, and Santa Monica, California, cities are recognizing the need for policies that help close the persistent wage gap between men and women. And in the latest effort by cities to address the pay divide, the city of Philadelphia unanimously passed a law that bans employers from asking about wage history.

Nationally, though, women are still at a disadvantage, making 80 cents to every dollar of male earnings. Historical discrimination facing women in the workplace, as well as social expectations and the “motherhood penalty” are contributing factors.

Given the scale and multidimensional nature of the challenge, cities are confronting it on a variety of fronts, from salary history bans to minimum wage ordinances to paid leave laws. These efforts, however, are often thwarted by state actions against cities.

Read the full piece on Route Fifty.

About the author: Christiana K. McFarland is NLC’s Research Director. Follow Christy on Twitter at @ckmcfarland.

An Inside Look at Equitable Economic Development in Charlotte

We meet one of NLC’s Equitable Economic Development (EED) Fellows, Holly Eskridge of Charlotte, North Carolina, and discuss her experience in the EED program, Charlotte’s equitable economic development priorities, stakeholder engagement and challenges.

Included in the city of Charlotte’s equitable economic development work are interventions that drive both short- and long-term change in order to narrow the economic mobility gap between businesses and job seekers. (Getty Images)

This post is part of a series on NLC’s Equitable Economic Development (EED) Fellowship.

Holly Eskridge serves as the city of Charlotte’s entrepreneurship and small business development manager. In this role, she leads a team that executes policy and programs directly supporting startups, small businesses and high growth entrepreneurial firms.

The participants in NLC’s Equitable Economic Development (EED) Fellowship are tackling unemployment, low income levels, and workforce-related issues in their communities. This week I had the opportunity to speak with one of this year’s fellows, Holly Eskridge, who manages entrepreneurship and small business development for the city of Charlotte.

Carlos Delgado: Hi Holly, thank you so much for the time today. To start off, can you tell us a little about your background?

Holly Eskridge: I currently serve as Charlotte’s entrepreneurship and small business development manager. In this role, I lead a team that executes policy and programs directly supporting startups, small businesses and high growth entrepreneurial firms. I also provide project management support on large-scale city projects in the organization’s smart cities and transportation programs that impact distressed corridors in the city.

CD: And previous to this role? I heard you have some political staff experience? How about your academic background?

HE: Yes, previously I served as an assistant to the mayor of Charlotte and the intergovernmental affairs director in the city of Rock Hill, South Carolina. I hold a Bachelor of Social Work from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and two masters in community and organizational social work and in public administration from the University of South Carolina. On a personal note, I am a huge football fan and have an annual tradition of attending at least one game per year in a previously unexplored stadium.

CD: That’s great! Let’s talk more about your city’s project – could you tell us why an equitable economic development agenda is a priority for Charlotte?

HE: Charlotte’s population is rapidly growing and is the nation’s seventeenth largest city with a population of over 850,000. Our healthy economy, access to highly-regarded educational opportunities, proximity to the Charlotte Douglas Airport (the 6th busiest airport in the world) and numerous quality of life attributes for all ages make it an attractive destination for newcomers and a place that native Charlotteans feel proud to call home.

In spite of the positive quality of life elements and strong economic trends, Charlotte is a city with residents and struggling small businesses that are not participants in nor beneficiaries of the city’s robust growth. There is a growing economic mobility gap in which various segments of the population are separated along racial lines, by income, family structure, educational level and geography. A 2015 Harvard University Study ranked Charlotte as 50th among 50 American cities in terms of the ability of a person in a lower income level to ascend to higher income levels during the course of his or her lifetime.

This reinforces why equitable economic development is the only responsible way to do our work. It ensures the city of Charlotte and its community partners are actively engaged in being part of the solution to address the mobility challenges many of our residents are facing. This is a critical part of accountability as a public servant.

CD: Thank you, that’s helpful framing. As you pointed out during our visit last year, your team is addressing the economic mobility gap with a set of tactical programs and larger-scale economic development policy reforms focused on small business and entrepreneurship, workforce development, and business incentives. What progress have you made since last June when the EED Fellowship kicked off?

HE: Included in our equitable economic development work are interventions that drive both short- and long-term change that build capacity and connectivity to job and business development opportunities for job seekers, small businesses and entrepreneurs in order to narrow the economic mobility gap between businesses and job seekers. Through the support of your organization’s leadership and collaboration with our community partners, we have seen significant accomplishments since June 2016.

When in comes to small business capacity-building, we started by organizing a small business stakeholder group that included business owners, BAC members, Business Resource Providers and government officials. We also established focus groups and conducted a survey of over 200 small businesses, which is currently under analysis and will be used to strengthen capacity-building efforts. In an effort to make resources and tools more accessible to small businesses, we redesigned the city’s business resource website with an interactive search tool, greater emphasis on storytelling around small business success, and an easy-to-navigate home page based on industry best practices.

On the workforce development front, we launched a new training program for adults with multiple barriers to employment called Partnership for Inclusive Employment and Career Excellence (Project PIECE) in partnership with Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont and Urban League of the Central Carolinas. To get Project PIECE off the ground, corporate advisory councils convened and provided advice on curriculum design and we held several community outreach sessions for applicants. We now have approximately 200 community contacts contributing to the project, and have had 46 individuals enroll to-date. Some of our first training opportunities include trainings for careers in broadband and fiber optics, residential and commercial construction, and highway construction.

The city has also focused on increasing the availability of youth talent development programming – for example, we’ve had nearly 1,000 students from 19 high schools complete job readiness training, nearly 500 youth participate in interviewing skills training since July 2016, and received a $50,000 grant commitment from Microsoft for technology training.

And finally, policy considerations around business investment grants and business corridor revitalization have been presented to the City Council Economic Development (ED) Committee. Full city council consideration is pending.

CD: Could you expand a little more on the partnerships you have created with different stakeholders to successfully achieve your EED project outcomes?

HE: At the core of Charlotte’s success is our focus on partnerships and collaborative spirit. We approached our EED work by convening three partner groups with expertise in each element of our project scope (small business, talent development and business incentives and corridor revitalization). Each partnership team has a role in the EED work and collaboration is centered on the four Cs of commitment, compassion, collaboration and communication. Each partner has a role in the implementation of the EED Fellowship work program. These alliances are successful because they rely on the principle that the work involved in maintaining a partnership, and the benefits from the collaboration are spread equally among the organizations involved.

CD: Looks like you are doing a lot of progress and we at NLC, ULI, and PolicyLink feel extremely happy to be contributing to Charlotte’s success and progress. So far you have been the only EED Fellow to experience both peer-to-peer exchange opportunities, i.e. as a visiting EED Fellow to Houston and as an EED Hosting City Fellow during the technical assistance visit to Charlotte few weeks ago. Can you tell us about both experiences and what kind of advice did the group of visiting experts and visiting peer fellows gave to Charlotte?

HE: As a visiting EED Fellow, I was humbled to be engaged with the expert panel that provided recommendations to Houston EED project. NLC did an excellent job ensuring the visiting panel was one that both met their project scope and included professionals from both the public and private sector. The ability to learn from peers with such a wealth of knowledge was not limited to just the City of Houston. I felt like a sponge soaking up the intellect and wisdom of the other visiting fellows and I developed some string professional relationships in the process as well. This experience reinforced the need to prioritize the time to expand my professional networks.

On the hosting side, having visiting EED fellows and experts in Charlotte and gaining their insight in our work was a critical step in taking our community’s work to the next level. The attention the visiting panel paid to the experiences and ideas of our partner teams was genuine and gave tremendous credibility to the Equitable Economic Development initiative. Partners on multiple occasions have commented on the impact actively being part of the experience has had within their own organizations. The talent that was brought to Charlotte for those three days provided our community with thoughtful, realistic recommendations that are grounded in the core values of the city of Charlotte and its partners. The impact of this visit and our engagement in the EED Fellowship will last for many years to come.

CD: Before we conclude this very engaging conversation, I want to ask you one more question. In your opinion, what role is the EED Fellowship playing in your professional development??

HE: The professional development I have experienced as an EED Fellowship has been tremendous. First and foremost, how my team and I do our work has been transformed through the lens of equitable economic development. This intentionality in how we do our work I believe has led to significant accomplishments in our goal of increasing economic opportunity for all Charlotteans as well as strengthen the partnerships we have with community stakeholders. Having the opportunity to reframe how I do my work with the support of the resources and my peers from across the country has made me a more effective, accountable economic development professional.

EED Fellowship visit in Charlotte. From left to right: Carlos Delgado (NLC), Ann Wall (Assistant City Manager, Charlotte), Lewis Brown (PolicyLink), Julie Eislet (Councilmember, Charlotte), Mary Ellen Wiederwohl (Louisville Forward), Martha Brown (Deputy Commissioner, Milwaukee), Jason Perkins-Cohen (Baltimore Mayor’s Office of Employment Development), Matthew Haessly (Real Estate Specialist, Milwaukee), Holly Eskridge (Small Business and Entrepreneurship Manager, Charlotte), Kevin Dick (Economic Development Director, Charlotte), Vi Lyles (Mayor Pro Tem, Charlotte), Kevin Johns (Economic Development Director, Austin), Ed Driggs (Councilmember, Charlotte), Trinh Nguyen (Director, Office of Workforce Development, Boston), and Emily Robbins (NLC). Not pictured: Dana D’Orazio (NLC).

Charlotte is just one of six cities participating in this year’s EED fellowship. Later this month, we’ll share stories and experiences from other fellows.

carlos_delgado_125x150About the author: Carlos Delgado is the Senior Associate for the Rose Center for Public Leadership in Land Use at the National League of Cities.

Cross-sector Collaboration is a Critical Tool for City Leaders

The Intersector Project’s Neil Britto offers a number of resources to help local officials cope with declining budgets, a changing public-private partnership arena, and the inadequacy of a single-sector approach to problem solving.

(Wikimedia Commons)

As in the world of motorsports, collaboration in the public service arena can produce results that are impossible to achieve without the efforts of many individuals working together. (Wikimedia Commons)

This is a guest post by Neil Britto of the Intersector Project.

While cross-sector collaboration isn’t new, city leaders across the country are adopting collaborative approaches in increasing numbers. Why is collaboration in the United States more important now than ever?

Single-sector inadequacy
There seems to be consensus from leaders across sectors and issues that the critical challenges facing our communities today are unsolvable, or at least not easily solvable, by single-sector efforts. Arguably, this has always been the case – but trust in government is at a notable low, and there is increasing recognition that sectors have complementary strengths and ought to find ways to work together.

Declining public budgets
In an era of constrained public-sector budgets, the assets of other sectors need to be deployed to support public well-being. Since the Great Recession, the public sector has lost more 700,000 jobs. Discretionary spending budgets by public-sector managers have been severely cut. At the same time, citizens are demanding more, better and faster services from their government.

The evolving nature of public-private partnerships
A recent report from the Fels Institute suggests that 92 percent of the National Association of State Chief Administrators agreed that government and private organizations should develop new processes to create partnerships that were not simply transactional but relational, relying not only on contracting but shared resources, risks and decision-making processes.

Our Work

At the Intersector Project, we work to advance cross-sector collaboration by creating accessible, credible and practically valuable resources and research that are publicly available in full through our website.

  • We’ve developed one of the country’s leading case study libraries on cross-sector collaboration in the United States. Our 40 cases range in issue area from infrastructure to education, are written with a practitioner audience in mind, and all are freely available online.
  • We’ve also created a Toolkit – a “how-to” guide for practitioners of cross-sector collaboration in every issue area. We recommend practitioners download the Toolkit from our website, distribute to core partners in early planning stages, and use the resource to support shared understanding of key elements for their collaborative process and to create a common language for those elements.
  • Another key resource we’ve created for practitioners is our Resource Library, an online, searchable catalog of hundreds of quality resources related to cross-sector collaboration from research organizations, advisory groups, training organizations, academic centers and journals, and other sources. These resources relate to a wide variety of partnership types (from contractual public-private partnerships to community partnerships) and a broad array of issues such as transportation, education, public health and more.

The Intersector Project has made a unique commitment to connecting research to practice by maintaining active relationships with groups in both arenas and working to produce content that brings them together. For example, we publish a research brief that highlights the latest research relevant to cross-sector collaboration, and an in-depth look at one article per month through our Research to Practice series. We also invite scholars to distill their research for our practitioner audience in our Researcher Insights series.

We work to engage with a wide variety of thinkers and practitioners on this topic as well, from designers of innovative public-private partnership mechanisms at NASA to local government managers pursuing improved service delivery for their constituencies. We teach, facilitate, moderate, and lead events with leading membership organizations like the National League of Cities, the American Society for Public Administration, CEOs for Cities, the Alliance for Innovation, the National Association of Counties, and the International City/County Management Association. We also work with leadership development and fellowship organizations like the Presidio Cross-Sector Leadership Fellows and Coro Leadership programs in New York, and with issue-oriented groups like the National Resources Defense Council to provide resources and expertise to personnel who work across sectors.

Throughout our work, we strive to maintain the key features that distinguish us. While many organizations focus on cross-sector collaboration in a global context, our commentary, research, and thinking focuses particularly on the United States. Our work is sector- and issue-neutral, created for practitioners from all sectors working on a range of issues across the nation. Also, because the models and methods for cross-sector collaboration are proliferating, the Intersector Project’s resources speak to the broad array of collaborative approaches that practitioners in the field are actively using to solve problems.

Our NLC University Seminar

This March, we’ll be hosting a NLC University seminar, “An Introduction to the Intersector Process: Cross-sector Collaboration in the Public Sector,” at the 2017 Congressional City Conference. The seminar is designed to introduce public-sector officials and staff to key management tactics for cross-sector collaboration through an interactive training session.

Each sector – and indeed, each entity within the sectors – has its own language, culture, and work practices, which can prove challenging to align when pursuing shared goals in a consensus-oriented environment. Our three-hour training session includes interactive activities designed to help participants deepen their awareness of these differences, commentary on trends relevant to cross-sector collaboration, and a facilitated discussion to support peer learning. It also includes an introduction to the Intersector Project Toolkit as a planning guide designed to assist practitioners in navigating differences between sectors and overcoming barriers to effective partnership.

The session also includes a simulated exercise through which stakeholders will design and negotiate a detailed partnership agreement to create an effective framework within which the partners can work and lay a foundation for sustained collaboration. In the context of a transportation and air quality collaboration comprising 48 organizations, including local, county, and state government, business, environmental interests, community groups, and more, participants will consider key design choices related to decision-making structure, resource allocation, project management and more.

In an era of rising public expectations and declining resources, our NLC University session will equip you with tools and resources to lead effective cross-sector collaborations in your community. We look forward to seeing you in March.

The Intersector Project previously published a CitiesSpeak blog post on Boston’s innovation district.

About the author: The Intersector Project is a nonprofit organization that seeks to empower practitioners in the business, government, and nonprofit sectors to collaborate to solve problems that cannot be solved by one sector alone. We present real examples of collaborations in many places and across many issues, and illuminate the tools that make them successful. Visit us at intersector.com, and follow us on Twitter @theintersector.

When It Comes to Innovation, Partnerships Are Key

NLC’s Brooks Rainwater examines federalism in the context of innovation and explains why the Small Business Administration is of critical importance to cities.

(NLC)

(NLC)

In the first installment of this series, we looked at the basics of federalism and why it matters to cities. Part two focused on how affordable housing assistance has changed with the interpretation of federalism, and what that means for cities today, while part three examined federalism in the context of the American educational system. Today we’ll look at how local-federal partnerships support innovation and entrepreneurship.

Cities are laboratories for innovation. It’s no secret that it is in cities where local leaders are continuously seeking out innovative solutions for tough problems. We have seen this exhibited particularly well in the small business and startup space. Local leaders are accelerating the unique ideas that make all cities thrive through the development of innovation districts, business incubators and shared working spaces.

The entrepreneurial ecosystems that have sprung up across the country enable cities to leverage existing business and draw in new companies that help foster creativity and technological breakthroughs in our nation’s urban places.

This type of innovation is exhibited in not only the largest metropolitan regions of the country, but also in places like Chattanooga, Tennnessee; Coralville, Iowa; and Kansas City, Missouri. Whether one examines the industry-leading app development in Coralville or the way Chattanooga and Kansas City are leveraging the power of gigabit speed internet as a backbone, these cities show that specialization and nurturing creative home-grown ecosystems works quite well.

In our own recent work on Chattanooga’s innovation district, we found that one of the critical factors for success was clear goals and close coordination between the city, the business community, the university, and the nonprofit sector in order to catalyze success and develop a critical path forward. Utilizing and reimagining the downtown of the city was just one key factor here, with another being the mayoral leadership of Andy Berke tied together with long-standing civic engagement in the community.

The fact that top-selling education apps are coming out of Coralville, Iowa, is not an accident – it took deliberate planning and partnerships. This community is just outside the area referred to as the creative corridor and is thus able to leverage the talent and resources needed to grow. In Kansas City, the Kansas City Startup Village is a great example of an entrepreneurial community that supports the city’s startup ecosystem. With the city’s rollout of Google Fiber tied together with its smart city initiative, there are a number of critical components in place. Thanks to the leadership of Mayor Sly James on these issues and many more, the city is doing the right things to promote entrepreneurialism and grow startup businesses.

This innovation that we observe in cities has a great deal to do with local partnerships. We also need strong partnerships at the state and federal level because they play such an important role in helping innovation and economic development thrive. One key example of this is found in the innovative companies in every corner of the country that are part of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Growth Accelerator Fund Competition, which helps grow amazing companies nationwide.

History of Federal Funding for Small Businesses

The Small Business Administration (SBA) was established in 1953 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower as an independent agency with the signing of the Small Business Act. Since then, the agency has been responsible for delivering millions of loans, contracts, counseling sessions and other forms of direct assistance to small businesses. Throughout its history, the SBA has at times been somewhat of a pawn in political chess, with levels of support waxing and waning depending on the administration in power.

Most recently, Linda McMahon, co-founder of World Wrestling Entertainment, was confirmed as the SBA administrator. During her Senate confirmation hearing, Administrator McMahon walked back statements regarding folding the SBA into the Commerce Department, saying her priority in the first few months would be disaster relief programs. With the strong role the SBA plays in supporting entrepreneurialism in cities, the hope is that ongoing partnerships can be maintained and grown in the coming years.

Why the SBA Matters to Cities

The SBA matters to cities for a multitude of reasons. Connecting small businesses with the SBA and SBA-approved lenders is a critical role of many local economic development officials. The SBA has recently been supportive of entrepreneurs in cities by encouraging cities to sign on to Startup in a Day, an effort built in partnership between the SBA and the National League of Cities (NLC) to streamline city permitting and licensing procedures.

The SBA also serves a rebuilding role in cities. It has frequently been called on to revitalize cities struck by riots and unrest, from the Long, Hot Summer of 1967 to Los Angeles in 1992 and Baltimore in 2015. While the amount of support the SBA provides to cities is critical for a number of reasons, at the end of the day the economy of the country is reliant on cities. This is why the federal relationship is so important. The SBA has a loan portfolio of $124 billion, and these dollars are directly related to the nation’s growth. The SBA provides important counseling, educational and technical assistance to cities as well.

A Path Forward for Startups & Innovation in Cities

In thinking about a path forward for startups and growing innovation in cities, it is necessary to reiterate the importance of maintaining and strengthening the federal relationship. If instead of growing this support decisions are made to diminish it, the decreased federal funding available to small businesses will ultimately hurt cities and, therefore, national economic growth.

It is necessary to create a strong plan focused on increasing entrepreneurialism in our country. Statistics show entrepreneurialism is nearing a 40-year low and the pace of IPOs has slowed. However, the nation is in a good position to turn that around – according to a new survey from JPMorgan, the leaders of small- and medium-sized businesses are saying they are more enthusiastic about the U.S. economy in 2017. That survey found that 68 percent of respondents were encouraged about the outlook for local economic conditions, representing an 18-point increase from 2016.

Let’s leverage that potential for growth with startups and others in the entrepreneurial community. Innovation will continue to percolate from the ground up – but in order to truly grow this opportunity, cities need a partner in the White House and in statehouses nationwide to unleash economic dynamism and continue innovating.

To learn more about what NLC is doing in this policy arena – and make your voice heard at the federal level – join us at the Congressional City Conference in Washington, D.C., March 11-15.

About the author: Brooks Rainwater is Senior Executive and Director of the Center for City Solutions and Applied Research at the National League of Cities. Follow Brooks on Twitter @BrooksRainwater.