The Integration Initiative

Frequently Asked Questions

1. WHAT IS THE INTEGRATION INITIATIVE?
The Integration Initiative (TII) supports cities that are harnessing existing momentum and leadership for change, overhauling long obsolete systems, and fundamentally reshaping their communities, policies and practices to meet the needs of low-income residents. The Integration Initiative is an effort of Living Cities, a collaborative of 22 of the world’s largest philanthropic and financial institutions seeking to improve the lives of low-income people and the cities where they live. In October 2010, Living Cities announced the five sites chosen for The Integration Initiative. The site teams participating from 2011 to 2013 are Baltimore, MD; Cleveland, OH; Detroit, MI; Newark, NJ; Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN.

In aggregate, the sites selected for The Integration Initiative received an investment of $85 million in grants, flexible debt, and commercial debt from Living Cities and its members. They also participate in an array of formal and informal partnership and knowledge exchange and technical assistance opportunities including one-on-one meetings, site visits, online collaboration tools, and cross-site convenings known as “Learning Communities.”

Each site participating in The Integration Initiative is required to incorporate four high-impact strategies into their work to drive systems transformation and achieve impact at scale:

  1. Systems Change – Moving beyond delivering programs to focusing on transforming systems such as transportation, health, housing and jobs.
  2. One Table Approach – Building a resilient civic infrastructure, one table where decision-makers from across sectors and jurisdictions can formally convene and work together to define and address complex social problems and change systems.
  3. Bringing disruptive innovations into the mainstream – Bringing disruptive innovations into the mainstream and redirecting funds away from obsolete approaches toward what works.
  4. Driving the private market to work on behalf of low-income people - Supplementing traditional government and philanthropic funding streams by driving the private market to work on behalf of low-income people. What has emerged through this work is the understanding that part of the reason that capital does not flow to low-income communities has to do with the availability of intermediaries capable of receiving this capital, and a pipeline of projects that it can be deployed to. Living Cities has termed this work capital absorption.

In addition to the ongoing work with the sites, Living Cities is developing a robust Knowledge and Evaluation strategy to share lessons from this work to the wider field. As part of this strategy, Living Cities is working to capture lessons learned from on-the-ground efforts in sites and share them with key stakeholders in philanthropy, finance and government. By working with these influential stakeholders, Living Cities aims to make the funding and policy environments supportive of systems transformation and drive expansion and adaptation of innovative practices to cities across the country.

2. HOW IS THE INTEGRATION INITIATIVE DIFFERENT THAN OTHER INITIATIVES WORKING TO ADDRESS URBAN POVERTY?
Since the 1940s, in the U.S., the challenges that urban poor people face have been framed as a side effect of geographic isolation in blighted neighborhoods. The belief was that if cities improved these neighborhoods — by upgrading the buildings, attracting employers, and delivering programs to strengthen the social fabric — residents’ opportunities and incomes would improve as well. In the decades since then, philanthropy, the Federal government, states and cities have embraced this view and utilized it to target limited redevelopment dollars to sub-sections of troubled cities where they believe it was possible to make a material impact. The conventional wisdom remains that this approach will, eventually, have spillover effects beyond the targeted neighborhoods.

However, years of experience have shown that place-based efforts – while important and beneficial to some people - are not sufficient to connect communities and their low-income residents to economic opportunity at scale. Many of the population-level impacts have not been achieved by working solely or even primarily at the programmatic or neighborhood level, which is further evidenced at the U.S. population level, where the disparity between rich and poor has only gotten more pronounced between generations.

Through The Integration Initiative, Living Cities is positing that having a population-level impact will require systems-level interventions in order to dismantle structural racism, and reconfigure systems so that low-income people and people of color can be better connected to economic opportunity.

3. WHAT DO YOU MEAN WHEN YOU TALK ABOUT SCALE?

For us, scale is reaching enough of the population to make a material difference. We believe that programs that serve individuals are important and necessary. However, we also know that if you added up all the programs in a city, they won’t be able to help enough low-income people access opportunity that it will have a population-level impact. Because of our focus on scale, The Integration Initiative is working on systems change, and not program delivery.

4. WHAT DO YOU MEAN WHEN YOU TALK ABOUT SYSTEMS?

In The Integration Initiative, a system is defined as a network of interdependent functions that are connected through a web of relationships that make up the whole. We believe systems are not the domain of one sector or institution—such as government--but rather made up of a range of actors, which may include individuals, businesses, labor, nonprofits, philanthropic organizations, governments, and communities. We also believe that these actors often do not recognize themselves as part of a system until organized to do so.

5. HOW DOES THE INTEGRATION INITIATIVE FINANCING WORK?

One of the key principles of The Integration Initiative is to drive the private market to work on behalf of low-income people. We believe this is important because traditional government and philanthropic funding streams are limited, and private markets are—literally—rich with potential. In aggregate, the sites selected for The Integration Initiative received an investment of $85 million in grants, flexible debt, and commercial debt from Living Cities and its members. However this investment was structured in order to catalyze the use of debt. Each site received $2.75 million in grant money, $3-4 million in flexible (below market rate) debt from the Living Cities Catalyst Fund, and $9-14 million in commercial debt from Living Cities members.

6. WHAT IS THE ONE TABLE APPROACH?
The one table approach is a central principle of The Integration Initiative. The one table approach describes the process where decision-makers from across sectors and jurisdictions can formally convene and work together to define and address complex social problems and change systems.

The one table approach is embedded the frame of adaptive leadership as articulated in the work of Ronald Heifitz. Adaptive leadership recognizes that complex social problems like health and poverty are, “adaptive problems [which] require innovation and learning among the interested parties and, even when a solution is discovered, no single entity has the authority to impose it on the others. The stakeholders themselves must create and implement the solution because the problem itself lies in their attitudes, priorities or behavior, and only a change within and between them will produce a solution.”

7. HOW WERE SITES CHOSEN?

The Integration Initiative sites were selected through a competitive process. In 2010, Living Cities released an RFP, and 23 cities responded with proposals for their participation. From there, a selection committee made up of Living Cities members and staff selected 10 finalists to continue the application process. From the 10 finalists, the 5 Integration Initiative sites were selected and announced in October 2010. The Integration Initiative site-level work formally launched in January 2011.

8. WHAT IS EACH INTEGRATION INITIATIVE SITE DOING?

The Baltimore Integration Partnership in Baltimore, MD aims to reconnect low-income Baltimore City residents who are predominantly African-American to the regional economy; maximize the linkage between physical and human capital development; and reinvest in targeted inner-core neighborhoods so that they become regionally competitive, economically diverse, sustainable communities of choice.

The Greater University Circle Wealth Building Initiative in Cleveland, OH leverages the economic power of anchor institutions, along with the resources of philanthropy and government, to create economic opportunity, individual wealth, and strong communities for residents of the neighborhoods around University Circle and the Health-Tech Corridor in Cleveland.

The Woodward Corridor Initiative in Detroit, MI, seeks to connect and integrate place-based strategies along Detroit’s main thoroughfare to stabilize neighborhoods, increase investment, and attract new residents. Through public-private partnerships, the Initiative is demonstrating programs, financing, and policies needed to stimulate comprehensive urban change.

The Newark Integration Initiative in Newark, NJ will address the unhealthy conditions facing Newark’s low-income residents by coordinating information and investments to create healthy housing, schools, and food options in Newark’s communities with the goal of improving the economic and social well-being of the city.

Corridors of Opportunity in Minneapolis - St. Paul, MN, seeks to build and develop a world-class regional transit system that advances economic development and ensures people of all incomes and backgrounds share in the resulting opportunities.

9. HOW DO I KEEP UP ON WHAT THE INTEGRATION INITIATIVE IS DOING?

There are three easy ways to keep up on The Integration Initiative:

  1. Visit http://www.livingcities.org/blog/subscribe/ and subscribe to our E-Newsletter (make sure to check that you’re interested in The Integration Initiative where it asks what you’re most interested in receiving updates about).
  2. Visit http://www.livingcities.org/integration/ for information on The Integration Initiative and to access the latest blog posts, articles, research products and news on The Integration Initiative
  3. Follow The Integration Initiative twitter feed @TII_LC.

10. WILL LIVING CITIES BE DOING THE INTEGRATION INITIATIVE AGAIN?

We don’t yet know. Living Cities operates in three-year cycles. The current cycle will end in December 2013. As of June 2012, Living Cities in the midst of planning for the next round of investments, and once a strategy is approved by our Board of Directors, we’ll know the answer to this question. If you’d like to be notified when this information is available, sign up for our newsletter (details above in question 9).

11. I HAVE ANOTHER QUESTION ABOUT THE INTEGRATION INITIATIVE, WHO SHOULD I CONTACT?

Please email Alison Gold