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Regional Equity
and the Quest for Full Inclusion
by Angela Glover Blackwell and Sarah Treuhaft


Throughout history, there have been discrete The beginnings of this movement can be seen in
moments when our nation is poised for change. activities already underway across the country. In
We are at such a moment. Demands for change urban, suburban, and rural areas, residents and
are everywhere. Record numbers of voters are activists are creating communities of opportunity
participating in the 2008 presidential election. that provide everyone with the jobs, transportation,
Conversations about poverty and inequality are schools, social networks, services, parks, grocery
heard among politicians, the media, and the public. stores, and other essentials for social and economic
Not since the 1960s have young people been so success. People working in all sectors of society
involved in the political process. In this election are forging the elements of a national agenda for
year, national and global economic, political, equity and inclusion, reaching across class, race, and
and demographic trends are converging in an ethnicity to find the uncommon common ground
unprecedented way, challenging the status quo to sustain and nurture a growing movement.
and calling for a different course of action, guided To advance, advocates, funders, organizers,
by a new agenda for change, paving the way for a policymakers—and everyone who recognizes that
movement for economic and social equity. economic and social equity is critical for the nation’s
future—must join together to work for a common
This movement must be based on a hopeful vision vision and agenda.
for the future. A vision that is big enough to
match the magnitude of the challenges we face This paper contends that the regional equity
and innovative enough to turn these challenges framework anchors our collective efforts and
into opportunities. A vision that incorporates provides a platform for societal transformation.
fundamental American values of freedom, equality, It begins by providing a snapshot of regional
and mobility. A vision compelling enough to equity in 2008, then describes how major national
inspire people everywhere to work toward its and global forces are creating unique challenges
implementation. and opportunities for achieving equity. The final
section articulates a vision for full inclusion and
sustainability and outlines key elements of an
agenda for realizing that vision.

Angela Glover Blackwell is founder and CEO of PolicyLink, the national research and action institute advancing economic and social equity by
Lifting Up What Works®, and Sarah Treuhaft is a senior associate. Research and editorial assistance for this paper was provided by PolicyLink
staff members Victor Rubin, Ph.D., vice president for Research; Josh Kirschenbaum, director of Planning and Development; and Milly Hawk
Daniel, vice president for Communications. Freelance writer Fred Setterberg edited an early version of the document. Carl Anthony, Ford
Foundation senior fellow, University of California, Berkeley, was the inspiration for the section on four major forces of change.
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Where We Are Now: Regional Equity in 2008

In the broadest sense, regional equity is a The hypersegregated postwar metropolis did not
framework for social change that is nestled within, result simply from market forces and preferences
and inseparable from, the quest for economic and for suburban living. Federal and state policies
social justice in America. Regional equity brings a provided powerful incentives for suburban growth.
unique perspective to the broader equity movement: The Federal Housing Administration, for example,
a deep understanding of how metropolitan subsidized white suburban homeownership by
development patterns structure the life chances insuring private bank loans, but the agency’s
and social and economic opportunities of residents, explicitly racist underwriting standards
and the ways in which uneven spatial development systematically denied these subsidies to African
reinforces old racial and class divides, while creating American households and neighborhoods. Between
new ones. The goal is to ensure that everyone— 1930 and 1950, fewer than 2 percent of FHA loans
regardless of the neighborhood in which they live— went to homebuyers who were not white.1 A host
has access to essential ingredients for economic of factors—exclusionary land use practices in the
and social success: living-wage jobs, viable housing suburbs that prohibit the building of affordable
choices, public transportation, good schools, strong homes, continued racial discrimination in housing
social networks, safe and walkable streets, services, and employment, and political fragmentation within
parks, access to healthy food, and so on. regions—conspired to lock in the geographic, racial,
and class inequities created by sprawl.
As a framework for action, regional equity offers
an analysis of the root causes and dynamics that Change agents working in different arenas—
create and perpetuate inequity and a toolkit of community developers, elected officials, labor,
strategies, principles, and methods for advancing faith-based organizing groups, researchers, and
equity and opportunity in regions. Proponents of policy advocacy groups like PolicyLink—envisioned a
regional equity use several key levers for making new course of inclusive regional development. Our
change happen: effecting institutional and policy efforts, though diverse, seek the same outcome:
change, mobilizing political and public will, and ensure that regional growth and development
building community power and voice—not only benefits everyone living in a metropolitan area,
to participate in the political debate, but also to especially those people passed over by previous
set the terms and frame the issues in that debate. waves of prosperity.
They direct their efforts at multiple levels, from
neighborhoods to counties to states to the nation. At PolicyLink, we have promoted equitable
Regional equity is also a field of practice comprising development as the pathway for achieving shared
people and organizations that have to some degree prosperity in regions. Equitable development
incorporated the analytical and practical tools of requires thinking intentionally about equity
regional equity into their work. impacts at the front end of political processes
and implementing strategies to make certain that
The regional equity concept emerged in the late disadvantaged communities participate in and
1990s as social justice advocates recognized benefit from decisions that determine the course of
the role of metropolitan development patterns development in their neighborhoods, communities,
in maintaining and exacerbating racial and and regions. Four principles undergird equitable
economic disparities in income, wealth, health, development: 1) the integration of strategies that
and opportunity. Fifty years of post World War II focus on people with those focused on improving
sprawl—the movement of jobs, people, investment, places; 2) the reduction of local and regional
infrastructure, and tax base away from central disparities; 3) the promotion of investments that
cities toward the farthest edges of metropolitan are equitable, catalytic, and coordinated; and 4)
regions—left cities without needed investment ensuring meaningful community participation,
while consuming exorbitant amounts of land and leadership, and ownership in change efforts.2
resources. As opportunity shifted to the suburbs,
communities of color were almost completely Over the past decade, there has been enormous
left behind in isolated, distressed inner-city momentum and change within the regional equity
neighborhoods or rural communities. movement. For example:
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• Equitable development models are empowered communities to rehabilitate

rebuilding distressed neighborhoods, while blighted, often dangerous properties.
connecting residents to jobs, transportation, Michigan’s Genesee County Land Bank,
good schools, and grocery stores. The founded in 2002, has become a national
revitalization of West Garfield Park in Chicago model, as have neighborhood-based efforts
through the activities of Bethel New Life; such as greening and community gardens,
the Murphy Park school-centered, mixed- community land trusts, and “healthy
income neighborhood development in St. neighborhoods” reinvestment strategies.
Louis; and Market Creek Plaza in San Diego’s o Inclusionary zoning has been widely
Diamond neighborhoods (where residents embraced, and more than 200
now own shares of stock in the $45 million communities now have local or county
commercial and cultural center built on the policies that require or encourage private
site of an abandoned factory)3 are some of developers to include affordable units
the most mature models of true community in their market-rate developments.4 The
transformation in the country. strategy has recently made inroads in cities
• Innovative strategies have diffused and such as Baltimore and Philadelphia, where
grown in sophistication, taking hold in private development has surged over the
new locales, producing lessons learned from past few years and some neighborhoods
implementation, and generating deeper are beginning to see rising housing costs.
questions for the field. o The co-location of housing, transportation,
o The community benefits movement is and jobs is gaining traction as states
spreading and evolving. Since the strategy provide financial incentives for employer-
assisted housing and attach regional equity
emerged in Los Angeles a decade ago,
criteria to affordable housing funding
dozens of communities have negotiated
streams. Illinois, for example, offers
community benefits agreements to ensure
state tax credits and matching funds for
that large-scale development projects
employer-assisted housing; includes “live-
meet community goals for jobs, housing,
near-work” criteria when reviewing Low
services, facilities, and more.
Income Housing Tax Credit applications;
o Transit oriented development (TOD), which gives additional economic development
promotes dense, mixed-use development subsidies to businesses locating near
around a transit stop to create vibrant, existing infrastructure; and provides a
walkable neighborhoods—was little school funding bonus in municipalities that
known beyond small circles of planners advance the state’s affordable housing and
and transportation advocates just a decade smart growth goals.
ago, but has now become a standard
o Intersections between land use, development
development “product.” Advocates in
policy, and public health have become a
Portland, Seattle, and Denver are rising to
burgeoning area of research, community
the challenge of ensuring that TOD is truly
action, and policy innovation. In
equitable: creating sustainable mixed-
Pennsylvania, the obesity crisis inspired efforts
income neighborhoods and benefiting
to locate food retail projects in underserved
current residents.
communities, assisting 32 supermarket
o Reclaiming vacant and abandoned developments across the state through
properties is increasingly seen as critical for federal New Markets Tax Credits along with
neighborhood revitalization and long-term state, city, philanthropic, and private funding.
regional economic development. Strong Similar strategies are underway in California,
government leadership, policy change Illinois, and Louisiana.
at the state and local level, community
advocacy, and grassroots innovation have
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• The organizational backbone of regional to channel investment and development in

equity has expanded and deepened. Early ways that benefited low-income working
proponents have increased their capacity families. At the same time, many other
and sophistication, and new partnerships, places—such as older industrial cities, inner-
coalitions, and organizations have formed. ring suburbs, and rural communities—were
National organizing networks such as the still struggling with economic decline, housing
Association of Community Organizations for abandonment, and neighborhood distress
Reform Now (ACORN), Pacific Institute for rather than rapid growth. Over the past few
Community Organization (PICO), and the years, the field has developed a great deal
Gameliel Foundation are setting regional of knowledge and a host of strategies for
goals for cross-county issues, building urban/ advancing regional equity in regions with
suburban coalitions, and partnering with weaker market conditions.6
labor unions. Community developers are
implementing regionally informed strategies. • Lessons learned from ongoing rebuilding
And regional equity coalitions and partnerships in the Gulf Coast after hurricanes Rita
are working for community and policy change and Katrina have pushed advocates to
in Boston, Detroit, and Washington, D.C. develop strategies that can work in the
wake of disaster. Building community and
• New knowledge is informing regional government capacity, ensuring that federal and
organizing and action. A host of data state funding allocations benefit low-income
analyses has examined the relationships residents and renters, and connecting displaced
between poverty and inequality within regions residents to resources via the Internet and
and regional economic prosperity, generally telephone are just a few of the many strategies
concluding that reducing inequality has positive that have developed in the Gulf Coast. The
benefits for all.5 Within the health field, many lessons learned from this disaster are being
studies are examining the ways in which the used across the country to ensure that future
physical, social, and economic conditions in disasters do not disproportionately affect poor
communities contribute to disparities in obesity, communities and communities of color.
asthma, and other health problems.
• Practitioners are developing strategies The learning curve has been steep as the regional
and approaches to match the specific equity framework has been stretched and adapted
political, economic, and cultural contexts for different regional contexts. There have been
of regions. Many regional equity strategies growing pains, but the end result is a more robust
were formulated around the year 1999, when regional equity toolkit and field of practice. The
the nation’s economy was booming. But the confidence these insights inspire will be needed as
rising tide did not lift all boats: in many places, we face a very different stage in the business cycle—
low-income residents’ wages did not keep pace as indicated by the current spate of mortgage
with rising housing costs, and people faced foreclosures, the housing market downturn, and
gentrification and displacement pressures as the threat of economic recession. The ability to
their neighborhoods improved. Hot real estate adapt strategies to work within different market
market conditions created multiple points of conditions is more important than ever.
leverage for community advocates who sought
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The window of opportunity

Every so often, events and trends converge to shift Globalization. Contemporary globalization is
collective consciousness and pave the way for a radically reshaping our world. The rapid development
social movement to arise. The rejection of second- of modern transportation and communication
class citizenship by black soldiers returning from systems has sped up the diffusion of ideas,
World War II; the entrance of the United States information, goods, capital, and people across the
into international cold war politics; and Ghana’s globe—creating new entrepreneurial opportunities
success in winning independence—followed by that and making us all more interconnected. But the
of other former European colonies in Africa—all benefits of globalization have accrued mostly to a
set the stage for the civil rights movement of the new transnational elite, leaving behind the middle
fifties and sixties. The publication of Rachel Carson’s class, working families, and the poor.
Silent Spring and the “earthrise” photograph
from the 1968 Apollo mission awakened a new In the global economy, metropolitan regions—
environmental awareness, and propelled the cities and their suburbs—are the critical
environmental movement. geographic unit and where inequities are
manifest.7 Regions around the world now vie for
In both instances, events and circumstances moved jobs and investment on a fiercely competitive
people to join together and demand change. They global playing field. This process of global
formed the organizations, networks, and collectives economic restructuring has devastated some
that would become the organizational infrastructure industry sectors and weakened the economies
to effect major civil rights and environmental of entire cities and regions—for example, older
legislation that transformed American society. industrial communities in the Northeast and
Midwest. Economic insecurity has increased as
Many signs suggest we are now living within a workers from across the globe can compete for
similar watershed moment. American white-collar, service, and manufacturing
jobs. Unionized blue-collar manufacturing jobs
The mandate for a new direction in national have been replaced by low-wage service and retail
policy is clear. As billions of taxpayer dollars have jobs, hollowing out the labor market, leaving
been squandered on an unpopular war and tax fewer middle-class jobs, and limiting opportunities
cuts for the wealthy, confidence in the American for upward mobility. Globalization has altered
economy has waned, our nation’s educational the factors that make regions economically
system and public infrastructure are crumbling, competitive, with regional success increasingly
the middle class is disintegrating, and the social dependent on innovation, entrepreneurship,
safety net has unraveled. The American public is learning, and economic specialization.8 In
demanding change. addition, the growing dominance of multinational
corporations and the dispersion of production
In addition, four major forces of change— processes across the globe have made it harder
globalization, rising inequality, shifting for workers and community members to hold
demographics, and ecological crisis—are now businesses accountable—for their labor practices,
converging. These complex forces play out at their environmental and community impacts, and
all levels, from the local to the global. They are the quality and safety of their products.
challenging the status quo within nearly every
field—from urban development to public health The imperative for economic and social justice
to neighborhood revitalization—and calling into advocates is to craft strategies that make
question the efficacy of our current strategies and globalization work for—rather than against—
approaches. Those of us working for social change working families and their neighborhoods.
must be aware of these trends and issues and how Awareness of the regional economy as the crucial
they affect our work; we must think creatively setting for creating economic opportunity is
about how to retool our efforts to be effective in a critical. Regional coalition-building is important,
changing environment. but seemingly local efforts—job training programs,
support for the survival of local businesses in a
failing (or gentrifying) commercial corridor—are also
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integral to building strong, sustainable, equitable requires us to advocate strongly for the proven
regions. Advocates can also build upon the strategies that can alleviate poverty and create
alignment that exists between the strategies that economic opportunity. It also requires crafting new
increase regional economic competitiveness in the policies and strategies, expanding support systems
knowledge-based economy and their agenda for and services into communities that need them, and
social and economic inclusion. Integrating the inner- building broader alliances and coalitions.
city poor into the regional economy not only serves
to increase equity but also is necessary for the Shifting demographics. Profound demographic
long-term growth prospects of the nation. Other changes are underway in our country. While the
essential elements of a twenty-first century urban citizenry is rapidly aging and married couples with
economic development agenda—modern and children now constitute a shrinking portion of
efficient infrastructure, educational and workforce total households, the population will continue to
development systems that produce a skilled grow largely due to immigration and the higher
workforce, livable neighborhoods, small business birth rates among fast-growing racial and ethnic
development programs, high-quality educational groups. Diversity is increasing, and within the next
and research institutions—are critical strategies for half-century we will become a nation of minorities
fostering inclusion as well as competitiveness.9 with no single racial or ethnic group predominating.
Immigration is changing the face of communities:
Rising inequality. Inequality and poverty are while immigrants remain heavily concentrated in the
growing in America. The gap between rich and nation’s largest cities, they are dispersing to smaller
poor—whether measured by wages, household cities, towns, and rural areas, often in response to
income, or spending—has widened since 1980, economic opportunities they hear about through
and is larger than in any other advanced industrial family and social networks. With these new levels
country.10 In 2005, nearly 38 million Americans of diversity, race relations in communities are
lived in poverty, up from 34 million in 1999, and becoming ever more complex and nuanced. Local
90 million Americans lived below 200 percent governments, school districts, and businesses
of the poverty level.11 The geography of poverty grapple with culturally diverse and sometimes
and opportunity within regions is also changing. linguistically isolated constituents, students, and
The wealthy increasingly isolate themselves in clients. In many places, the influx of people from
gated communities, administer their own tax and varied ethnic backgrounds sparks competition and
service districts, and send their children to exclusive conflict—a trend that is magnified by the greater
schools. Working families now cope with higher economic insecurity and competition for low-wage
housing and transportation costs than ever due jobs being ushered in by globalization.
to a lack of affordable residential construction
near job centers.12 Poverty is spreading outwards: These demographic changes have major
2005 marked the first year that the suburban poor implications for the housing market, for urban
outnumbered the urban poor.13 And while the and regional development strategies, and for
concentration of poverty remains a huge problem organizing efforts. The aging of the population
in American cities, older suburbs, and rural areas, and reduced proportion of families with children
even more extreme forms of marginality also exist. suggests a renewed demand for dense, mixed-use
Hundreds of unincorporated communities, from neighborhoods in urban centers, and for greater
California’s Central Valley to the colonias along the housing choices in the suburbs. The deepening of
Mexico border to North Carolina, lack basic physical diversity in more and more communities calls for
and service infrastructure: water and sewer systems, efforts to include newcomers and minority groups
police, fire, emergency response, and health care. in the economy and in social and political life.
Organizing efforts and planning processes need to
Inequality and uneven development have long been acknowledge demographic change in communities,
the targets of regional equity advocacy efforts, expand opportunities for the participation of all
but the new extremes call for a broad nationwide groups represented in the area, and put strategies
agenda to reduce poverty, create pathways for in place to work through the complexities of race
upward mobility, retain and create middle class dynamics and the cultural and language barriers in
jobs, and plan for more access to communities of diverse communities.
opportunity. The changing geography of poverty
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Ecological crisis. While the issue of sustainability— 750 U.S. mayors have signed a pledge to reduce
ensuring that we leave enough resources to sustain greenhouse gases by 2012.16 Green sectors of the
future generations—is not new, the climate change economy—energy retrofitting, green building, solar
warning call and the environmental crises in rapidly panel manufacturing—have begun to boom. Equity
industrializing nations have increased its salience advocates must link the growing green economy
and urgency. Overwhelming evidence exists that to the renewal of low-income communities. These
global warming is occurring. Researchers on seven sectors can produce many “green collar” jobs that
continents predict that, without intervention, pay living wages and offer skills development and
temperature increases will lead to drought, heat career ladders and have few barriers to entry. Major
waves, food shortages, disease—and ultimately, advocacy campaigns and investment strategies,
war, social upheavals, and economic instability.14 such as the Green for All Campaign and the Green
Society’s most vulnerable people will shoulder the Jobs Act of 2007, illustrate how forward-thinking
greatest burden, even though they contribute advocates can connect disadvantaged workers to
the least to the greenhouse gas emissions new opportunities in the emerging green economy.
responsible for the warming. African Americans
and Latinos even now are more likely to live in Together, the national political moment and the
polluted communities where they are more likely four forces of change add up to something bigger:
to suffer from environmentally-triggered health a clarion call for a new course of development
complications like asthma and will be among the in America. Equity and inclusion are no longer
most vulnerable to the consequences of climate issues confined to the advocates for the poor, and
change. Low-income families are also the least sustainability is no longer an issue that belongs only
equipped to move to safety when disaster strikes, to advocates for the environment. These trends
with inadequate transportation, and fewer savings are increasing the interdependence of different
and assets to help them recuperate after disaster. communities—cities and suburbs, employers and
The need to grapple with the ecological crisis workers, the middle class and the poor. This will
presents an opportunity to build on the agenda become even more apparent as our population and
of environmental justice advocates who, for workforce grow increasingly diverse. We must find
decades, have been fighting for a healthier, more a way to grow together, or we risk falling apart. The
sustainable, equitable society. Media attention prosperity of all hinges on our ability to seize the
has increased, and public and political will to political opportunity in front of us, put forth a new
find solutions has grown dramatically. To date, vision and agenda for the future, and inspire others
28 states and the District of Columbia have to join in a movement for change.
passed legislation or adopted standards requiring
electricity derived from renewable sources.15 Over
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Twin Pillars of the Equity Vision: Full Inclusion and Sustainability

In the twenty-first century, the well-being of our make regions strong magnets for good jobs
nation will depend on ensuring that everyone— in growing industry sectors while promoting
including low-income people and people of color— compact, energy-efficient development
participates in economic, social, and political life, patterns. In addition to attracting outside
and focuses on guaranteeing the sustainability of investment, strategies should foster indigenous
our economy and natural resource base. entrepreneurship and business development,
particularly among communities of color,
Full inclusion begins with principles of fairness and to build strong local economies. Raising
justice and is sustained by attention not only to the the minimum wage, supporting local living
process used to engage communities and residents wage laws, implementing sectoral workforce
but especially to outcomes achieved. Achieving full development strategies and regional industry
inclusion requires conducting an equity analysis at partnerships, engaging employers, and
the front-end of decision-making processes—asking nurturing labor unions and labor-community
the questions: Who benefits? Who decides? Who partnerships can all help improve wages and
pays? And it means making choices and building benefits for workers.
systems and structures that do the most for those
traditionally left behind. • Fix our crumbling roads, bridges, and
other public infrastructure. Efficient and
Sustainability is based on principles of land and high-quality infrastructure is more important
resource stewardship, energy efficiency, and waste than ever for building strong, inclusive regional
and pollution reduction. It means preserving economies, but we currently face an enormous
our environment for future generations through public investment deficit. Federal agencies
innovative solutions and conscious action. estimate that it will take over $600 billion
annually over the next 20 years to renew and
Realizing this vision will require reconfiguring our repair our national systems of bridges, roads,
economy and renewing our democracy. Shared water, and sewers.17 Infrastructure investments
economic prosperity and participatory democracy are needed to foster innovation and job growth,
should be our overarching goals. improve connectivity, and link low-income
people and their neighborhoods to regional
economic opportunities. These infrastructure
Shared economic prosperity. High levels of projects would also, if done equitably, create
inequality and poverty conflict with American hundreds of thousands of jobs that pay good
values, strain our social fabric, and are wages and cannot be outsourced.
fundamentally bad for the economy as they
undermine regional (and thus national) growth and • Invest in human development. Educational
competitiveness. We must increase inclusion to be policy must reduce inequities in access and
competitive and prosperous in the global economy. opportunity by investing in a twenty-first
Everyone living in the United States should have century K-12 education system and significantly
the opportunity to participate in and benefit from broadening access to higher education for
the economy and contribute to regional and everyone. We must also improve health—by
national economic prosperity. An agenda for shared making health care available to all and building
prosperity would integrate all groups into the healthy communities for everyone—to ensure
economy, reduce income disparities across racial/ a strong, productive workforce. Creating
ethnic groups, and expand the middle class. pathways out of poverty and implementing
workforce development programs are
Our public policies, investments, and also critical to integrating unemployed,
entrepreneurial efforts must be aligned toward this underemployed, and dislocated workers into
goal. Key elements of this agenda include: the economy.
• Increase the economic security of working
• Grow a sustainable, high-road economy families. Asset-building strategies are needed
that produces jobs with family-supporting to counter increased economic instability
wages and career ladders. Urban and associated with globalization and events like
regional economic development efforts should the mortgage foreclosure crisis. Policies and
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programs such as the Earned Income Tax their authentic voices to planning and decision-
Credit and matched savings accounts should making processes that affect their cities and
be implemented to help low-income workers their communities. We need to create more
weather economic fluctuations and begin to democratic forums and arenas for discussion
build assets. Employers should be involved in and deliberation.
this area of work; they increasingly recognize
that training, asset-building, and career ladder • Community building. Civic institutions—
opportunities are win-win strategies for their community-based organizations, block groups,
employees and the bottom line. organizing networks, mission-driven nonprofit
organizations—are also critical to realizing
• Manage the downside risks of participatory democracy. These institutions help
globalization. Providing a strong safety net advance collective goals and assert community
and retraining opportunities for dislocated values. They hold government accountable and
workers are essential. Our upstream trade guide market activity toward more equitable
policies need to analyze the risks to vulnerable outcomes. Unions, regional labor councils, and
people and the environment (not just in the community-labor partnerships, for example, are
United States but elsewhere as well) and put needed to renew the social contract between
standards and protections in place. workers, businesses, and communities.
• Global citizenship. Globalization also
Participatory democracy. We must renew and compels us to think and act as global citizens,
strengthen democracy in the context of difference considering the well-being of natural and human
and the political complexities that have come with communities located outside of our borders but
globalization. The democratic ideals of popular linked to us through trade, culture, and social
sovereignty, individual freedom, and equality were networks. More and more of our challenges
formulated in much more homogenous and less are connected to activities, companies, and
complex societies. These concepts need to be institutions that are transnational in nature and
rethought to work in a country that is increasingly defy traditional political boundaries. Global
diverse and affected by forces operating outside warming, labor conditions, immigration, and
the realm of national politics. For everyone to have corporate accountability are examples of issues
the opportunity to participate in the political and that cannot be addressed through national
institutional decision-making processes that affect politics alone.
their lives, the nation must commit to eliminating
structural racism—the embedded inequality
flowing from centuries of racism, neglect, and The regional equity movement has invaluable
institutional favoritism. contributions to make to realizing this vision
and planning the agenda for full inclusion and
An agenda to expand American democracy would sustainability. Its framework offers a critical new
include: perspective on the root causes of inequality and
the methods for creating more equitable and
• Increased participation and representation. inclusive communities. The understanding of the
Civic engagement and participation—not role of metropolitan development patterns and the
just voting but community organizing and role of community in shaping social and economic
engagement in policy advocacy to influence opportunities are absent from most current social
decisions such as regional transportation change efforts and policy agendas. Regional equity
and land-use planning, national economic embraces the understanding that where people
policy, and international trade agreements—is live determines their opportunities for health and
essential for crafting creative solutions and well-being, economic success, and civic/political
ensuring that public policy is responsive and participation. The framework is established upon the
accountable to communities. People of all principle that to increase equity we must strengthen
racial, ethnic, and social groups—including communities physically, economically, and politically.
immigrants—need to be able to contribute
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Organizing for Change

Regional equity is part of a broad and hopeful vision While the focus of the agenda should be on policy
for full inclusion and sustainability. But vision alone change, it must be backed by an explanation of
will not suffice. Our vision must be backed by a what is needed to make these changes occur.
concrete plan of action. Experience, time, and reflection have taught us
that community engagement and empowerment
To realize the vision of full inclusion and lead to stronger, more meaningful policy reform
sustainability, we need to craft a compelling and social change. It is only from that place of
national agenda infused by our collective wisdom, authentic wrestling with issues of diversity and
knowledge, and creativity. This agenda must difference that we can incubate new solutions to
articulate principles and policy proposals that have disseminate far and wide. All residents must feel
the power to transform the political debate in the that the endeavor for change enhances rather
media, in legislatures, in boardrooms, in the streets, than compromises their political power, social
and in living rooms. cohesion, and sense of place—particularly those
communities that historically have been excluded
The movement’s agenda must span multiple levels from participation in decision-making.
of policy action—federal, state, regional, and
local—and include institutional change as a primary This agenda does not need to be drafted from
target. It also must cover key arenas of action scratch. Many of its elements are in motion, being
including economic development, infrastructure, carried out by leaders in hundreds of communities,
transportation, workforce development and institutions, and agencies across the country.
education, housing and neighborhoods, health, The examples, practices, models, and insights
land use, fiscal and tax policy, and energy and the highlighted in this paper reflect the strategy, depth,
environment. It must cut across the bureaucratic and momentum required to spur the movement
silos and encourage holistic thinking and practices. forward. Our activities already add up to much
And it must describe win-win solutions: the ways more that the sum of our individual efforts.
that stakeholders working in different sectors—
government, community organizations, funders, the
business community—can carry out their specific
missions while working toward shared goals.
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1 7
Beth J. Leif and Susan Goering, “The Allen Scott and Michael Storper, “Regions,
Implementation of the Federal Mandate for Fair Globalization, Development,” Regional Studies,
Housing,” in Divided Neighborhoods: Changing Volume 37 (2003): 579-593, available at www.
Patterns of Racial Segregation 227, 229 (Gary
A. Tobin ed., 1987) cited in Marc Seitles, “The Dennis Rondinelli, James Johnson Jr., and
Perpetuation of Residential Racial Segregation in John Kasarda, “The Changing Forces of Urban
America: Historical Discrimination, Modern Forms Economic Development: Globalization and City
of Exclusion, and Inclusionary Remedies,” Journal of Competitiveness in the 21st Century” Cityscape,
Land Use & Environmental Law, Vol 14, No 1, 1998, Vol. 3, No. 3 (1998).
available at Ibid.
Vol141/seit.htm. Alan Gilbert, “Inequality and Why It Matters,”
For background on equitable development, see: Geography Compass Vol. 1 Issue 3 (2007): 422.
PolicyLink, Promoting Regional Equity: A Framing Alan Berube and Elizabeth Kneebone. Two Steps
Paper. Oakland, CA: PolicyLink, 2002; Radhika Fox Back: City and Suburban Poverty Trends, 1999-2005
and Angela Glover Blackwell, Regional Equity and (Washington, D.C.: The Brookings Institution, 2006)
Smart Growth: Opportunities for Advancing Social and Mark Greenberg, Indivar Dutta-Gupta, and
and Economic Justice in America. Funders’ Network Elisa Minoff, From Poverty to Prosperity: A National
for Smart Growth and Livable Communities, Strategy to Cut Poverty in Half, (Washington, D.C.:
2004; and PolicyLink, Advocating for Equitable Center for American Progress, 2007).
Development. Oakland, CA: PolicyLink, 2005. Barbara J. Lipman, A Heavy Load: The Combined
Anne Stuhldreher, “The People’s IPO: Lower- Housing and Transportation Burdens of Working
income patrons of Market Creek Plaza can now Families (Washington, D.C.: Center for Housing
invest in the shopping center,” Stanford Social Policy, 2006), available at
Innovation Review, available at http://www. heavy_load_10_06.pdf.
13 Berube and Kneebone, op. cit.
4 14
To the Streets, Inclusionary Housing for the City of “Summary for Policymakers” in Fourth
Chicago: Myths and Facts, available at http://www. Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (Cambridge, MA: Cambridge
For a recent review and analysis, see Manuel University Press, 2007), available at http://ipcc-wg1.
Pastor and Chris Benner, “Been Down So Long:
Weak Market Cities and Regional Equity,” in Pew Center on Global Climate Change, “States
Retooling for Growth: Building a 21st Century with Renewable Portfolio Standards,” available at
Economy in America’s Older Industrial Areas
(Washington D.C.: The Brookings Institution, 2007). states/rps.cfm.
6 16
Radhika Fox and Sarah Treuhaft, Shared Prosperity, Mayors Climate Protection Center, “List of
Stronger Regions: An Agenda for Rebuilding Participating Mayors,” available at http://www.
America’s Older Core Cities, (Oakland, CA:
PolicyLink, 2005). “National Infrastructure Bank Act of
Jennifer Vey, Restoring Prosperity: The State Role 2007,” available at
in Revitalizing America’s Older Industrial Cities, multimedia/2007/080107_InfrastructurePacket.pdf.
(Washington, DC: The Brookings Institution, 2007).
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