Living Cities en-us Tue, 15 Apr 2014 17:23:56 -0400 15 The Real Promise of Pay for Success: It’s About People Pay for Success (PFS) is all over the news these days. PFS is a new and experimental partnership model between government, social service providers, and private investors to tackle chronic social problems. In a nutshell, private capital, both philanthropic and commercial, is deployed to support high-performing social preventative interventions. These private investors assume the risk by financing the services up front, getting repaid only if agreed-upon measurable social impacts are achieved. In exchange for taking the risk, the investors receive a financial return. This means that precious government resources are spent only in the event of proven success and government savings.

While much of the discussion around PFS has focused on the contracting and the financial model itself as the innovation, Living Cities is especially excited about the possibilities that PFS opens up in terms of investing in people and in promising solutions to our nation’s most wicked problems. To prime the pump and test if PFS is a viable channel for investing in human capital, Living Cities, through the Catalyst Fund, invested $1.5 million in the Massachusetts Juvenile Justice PFS transaction. This seven-year, $27 million deal is focused on reducing recidivism and increasing employment for at-risk, formerly incarcerated young men in the Boston, Chelsea and Springfield areas. This is the largest PFS transaction in the world to date.

Recently, the New York Times ‘Fixes’ column highlighted Roca, the service provider in the Massachusetts PFS initiative. While the column touched upon the details of the transaction, it focused on telling the stories of the youth who are benefitting from Roca’s comprehensive portfolio of programs. We meet Kelord, a young man who went from feeling trapped in a cycle of selling drugs, jail, and chronic unemployment to, at 24, completing his G.E.D., holding a permanent job, and believing in a better future for himself and his family.

PFS enables Living Cities and other investors to make a bet and invest in organizations like Roca. And, Roca makes bets on youth like Kelord—investing in them through a combination of skills training, transitional employment, job placement, motivational sessions that encourage reflection, and a rigorous data system for monitoring all participants’ progress. This, in turn, gives participants the opportunity to bet on themselves. This is where we see the real promise of PFS, whether the issue area is recidivism, early childhood education, foster care or preventative health—it is about how it all comes together to make a material positive impact in people’s lives.

]]> Tue, 15 Apr 2014 17:23:56 -0400 Eileen Neely
Investing in Infrastructure When most of us start our days by turning on the water in our homes, we take for granted the clean, safe water that comes out of the faucet. But the essential and invisible infrastructure that delivers it to our homes is at risk. And it’s hardly the only infrastructure that is aging and degrading. In many ways we are coasting on the investments our grandparents made, and it’s time to get serious.

The well-documented infrastructure investment gap around the country is significant on the West Coast. One estimate pegs needed infrastructure investments at $1 trillion in the next three decades. A 2008 study commissioned by Metro showed that the Portland area alone faces a $20 billion gap in needed infrastructure by 2035 if traditional financing and procurement models are used.

With that need and with declining federal support, it’s clear that infrastructure finance is a challenge that’s not going away. What we’ve done for the past half century won’t work to build the future we want.

In Oregon we’re proud to be playing a leadership role in creating the regional approach supported by Living Cities.

Just last month, the Oregon legislature took action on this approach, passing House Bill 4111. Significantly, HB 411 will require state projects over $50 million to be screened for their potential innovative financing and design -- the first such requirement of its kind in the United States. This screening step will be managed by the State Treasurer’s office.

HB 4111 also codifies Oregon’s participation in the West Coast Infrastructure Exchange and creates the Public Infrastructure Commission (PIC). The West Coast Infrastructure Exchange, led by Oregonian Chris Taylor, and Oregon’s newly created Public Infrastructure Commission are central to building the capacity and the expertise we need.

Instead of deciding ahead of time what kind of infrastructure we need, we should ask designers, architects, engineers, contractors and other experts to bring the best innovation to bear. They’ll help us decide how we should build, renovate, generate true public equity and think creatively.

And when we decide collaboratively, we shouldn’t just ask how cheaply the infrastructure can be built. We should create an ongoing relationship with a team of experts whose incentives are aligned around keeping the infrastructure open and operating as designed. This alternative model opens up the project (design, build, finance, operate, and maintain) for private investment and expertise. Projects remain publicly owned, and are subject to the same labor standards, but risk can be better shared between the public and private sectors, and the approach allows for much more creativity, and attention to the asset throughout its useful life. Performance-based contracting means contractors get paid when the infrastructure does what it should.

That’s the concept behind the local centers of expertise, already created in British Columbia, begun in Oregon and under consideration in Washington and California. The pioneering Partnerships BC has managed more than forty projects since 2002, totaling $17 billion in procurement, including $7.6 billion in private capital. They’ve helped bridge the financing gap with private capital, bringing significant gains in cost savings and on-time or early project completion, all while creating what is now a self-sustaining operation.

The West Coast states are lucky to have the leadership of Partnerships BC and their model to follow. But the best local expertise won’t work without a regional facilitator.

The West Coast Infrastructure Exchange ushers shovel-ready projects to fruition. By aggregating projects and coordinating expertise and resources across the region we get the chance to share experiences, expertise, and connect with the best ways to deliver better value to taxpayers and investors. And we get big enough that the world financial markets might take notice and provide the capital needed to address the financing gap.

With Governor Kitzhaber’s signature and Treasurer Wheeler’s leadership, Oregon, through the PIC, will continue to be a full participant in the exchange and, working with Partnerships BC, will pursue several important pilot projects that we are confident can stretch taxpayer dollars and deliver better results.

These projects – totaling $940 million in public investment -- range from the Multnomah County Courthouse, at the center of Oregon’s most populous city and county, to the Wise Water Project that will deliver vastly improved performance to a vital irrigation system in water-starved southern Oregon. These and other pilot projects allow us to determine the changes we need to Oregon laws and how best to create a permanent center of expertise in Oregon. That’s a conversation we will take up again during the legislature’s next session in 2015. It’s one I look forward to eagerly.

If we do this right, and I have every confidence we can, the West Coast can become the world leaders on infrastructure that works. Our economy, our kids, and our future depend on it.

Our success in this effort depends on you too. Cooperation between the public, private, and non-profit sectors is essential. While we are grateful for all your support to date, we also want you to be involved going forward. We look forward to hearing from you.

Tobias Read is the State Representative for House District 27, serving parts of Beaverton, Portland, and unincorporated Washington and Multnomah Counties. He has served in the legislature since 2007, and is the Majority Whip and the Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Economic Development. He can be reached at and

]]> Mon, 14 Apr 2014 16:46:44 -0400 Tobias Read
Regulating Rideshares This piece is cross posted from the Data-Smart City Solutions blog hosted by the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard Kennedy School. The emergence of rideshare as a form of transportation - and how cities are responding to the innovation - is of particular interest to Living Cities as we explore ways to increase the number of low-income people who are able to connect to job opportunities and essential services such as childcare, health services, etc.

As cities respond to the growing presence of ridesharing services like Uber, Lyft, Sidecar, and others, even the name “ridesharing” is up for debate.

Traditionally, for-hire car services have fallen into two broad categories, distinguished by how customers connect with their rides. Taxis, which customers hail on the street and black cars (or limos), which customers arrange for by calling ahead of time. Is something like UberX really a rideshare, closer to carpooling, or is it effectively a cheaper version of black car service? Are these app-based companies more like dispatch services or networks of amateur drivers?

As cities consider how (or whether) they should regulate rideshare services, they must determine whether existing classifications adequately describe them or whether new sets of rules are needed to address concerns for public safety and consumer protection.

The following review of what cities and states are doing now - or considering doing - to respond to rideshare services is not comprehensive, but will hopefully give a sense of the current landscape.

Reclassify & regulate

California: Created category of “Transportation Network Companies” which must be licensed with the California Public Utilities Commission, conduct criminal background checks, train drivers, and hold commercial insurance policies with at least $1M per-incident coverage.

Seattle: City Council unanimously voted to limit each rideshare company to 150 total vehicles. Measure includes increasing number of licensed taxis in city by 200 over the next two years. Mayor Murray has said that this legislation is a “‘necessary first step’ in legalizing TNCs in Seattle, will pursue a more long-term comprehensive solution.”

Arizona: A bill passed by the house and approved by a state senate committee proposes a new classification of “transportation network services” that requires drivers and vehicles to register with the Arizona Corporation Commission (the state Department of Weights and Measures oversees licensing of taxis and other existing for-hire vehicle services). It would also require TNS to do background checks on drivers and obtain commercial liability insurance.

Chicago: Mayor Emanuel proposed ordinance to license rideshare companies and require insurance. Services in the new category of “Transportation Network Providers” would be required to register with city for annual $25,000 fee, submit to annual inspections of vehicles by cities, and hold commercial liability insurance.

Colorado: State senate passed a bill designating ridesharing companies “transportation network” companies. They would be required to hold insurance, do background checks, and driver training as well as submit to utility commission oversight. House still to vote.

Minneapolis: Proposal to add “transportation network companies” to lists of transportation companies that may operate in the city. Currently, rideshare companies must have a taxi license to operate. In neighboring St. Paul, the city’s code narrowly defines taxis as metered vehicles, so rideshare companies currently operate without licensing.

Georgia: House Bill 907 proposed to require rideshare companies to follow the same set of regulation - namely insurance and licensing requirements - as existing taxicab and limousine companies, but the bill failed to reach the floor for a vote.

Fit into existing frameworks

Florida: The state legislature is considering two bills that would prevent local governments from regulating “chauffeured limousine” services. In practice, that would leave the state government as the only body capable of regulating any non-metered for-hire vehicles, including rideshare services.

Jacksonville: City council approved legislation to remove the 30-minute advanced-notice requirement for black car services, allowing rideshare companies to operate as long as they conform to the existing rules and regulations for black car services.

Madison: Mayor Paul Soglin, a former cab driver, has described taxi service as “a legitimate area of government regulation,” citing the need to provide transportation for people with disabilities. He suggests that the city will not create new policies to regulate ridesharing companies as a distinct service, but they will be subjected to the same regulations as existing taxi companies.

Refused entry
Austin: The city has threatened to impound cars in rideshare service over lack of insurance, which led to Sidecar leaving the city.

Detroit: City Attorney says UberX does not comply with Detroit’s licensing requirements. State and local police authorized to ticket cars driving for UberX.

Miami-Dade County: County commissioners stalled bill suggesting changes similar to those rejected in Portland.

New Orleans: Uber has been barred from offering services in the city, and Lyft said it has no plans to enter the market.

Portland: In December the Private for-Hire Transportation Board of Review rejected changes to the city code regulating limousine and black car services, including a minimum lead time of one hour before pickup and fixed 35% premium over taxi rates. The Board is discussing changes to the City Code to better reflect developments in the industry, including smart phone app-centric rideshare services.

Considering action?

San Francisco: Including taxis, limos, rideshares, and any other similar services, there may be about 4,000 vehicles for hire in the city at any given time. As this increased competition leads taxi companies to return some medallions (for drivers likely leaving to drive for competing rideshares), service to the disabled may be disproportionately reduced: the number of wheelchair-accessible vehicles in operation per month has dropped from 1,400 to 600.

Dallas: A transportation-for-hire work group is reviewing city regulations for possible changes. The City Council committee reviewing tech-based transportation services distinguishes Taxi Magic, an app partnering with traditional cab companies representing 750 taxis, from rideshare companies on the basis that it does not connect riders directly to drivers.

The recent leak of Uber’s “secret, ‘proprietary’ insurance policy” lends some clarity to the legal liability debate around ridesharing. Between that and the apparent rise of Uber as a “cause célèbre” in national partisan politics, activity in this sphere is only going to increase. Follow our Local Reg Reform project (@SmartLocalReg) on Twitter to keep up with this national conversation.

Matthew McClellan works as a research assistant and writer for the Project on Municipal Innovation Advisory Group.

]]> Mon, 14 Apr 2014 11:02:54 -0400 Matthew McClellan
A Few Thoughts Towards More Inclusive Philanthropy

“I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids-and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.”- Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man

Last summer, I read with interest a slew of articles critiquing the philanthropic sector and calling for large-scale change.

Wrote Peter Buffett, son of Warren, in an op-ed in the New York Times: “People (including me) who had very little knowledge of a particular place would think that they could solve a local problem…over and over I would hear people discuss transplanting what worked in one setting directly into another with little regard for culture, geography or societal norms.” Buffet went on to describe how; despite the fact that until 2006 when his father handed him the reins of a foundation, he had little experience or knowledge of “the world of philanthropy as practiced by the very wealthy”; his lineage gave him entrée into the most upper-crust of philanthropic circles. He calls some of what he discovered there ‘damaging’, noting that in rooms where heads of state, finance power-players, and corporate leaders get together to wrestle with the important social issues of our time, including inequality, the focus is too often on what Albert Einstein famously warned against: trying to solve a problem with the same mind-set that created it.

Author Courtney Martin expanded upon these ideas in Al Jazeera America. The problem with philanthropy, she argued, is that solutions to wicked problems like poverty are sought in conference rooms in ‘the abstract’ with thought partners who “have little experience of the problems poverty creates-while real, poor people continue to innovate, organize and fight for their own dignity, each and every day.” So, philanthropy and the people that the field endeavors to serve operate on two deeply disconnected planes of reality.

Around the same time that these stories, and many others in response to Buffett’s op-ed, were released, events of national significance such as the Trayvon Martin case and the 50th Anniversary of MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech sparked a robust national conversation about issues of race, equity, and inclusion. Living Cities brought this conversation ‘home’ as staff committed ourselves to think about and engage (with each other and others in our networks) around how these issues intersect with the lives of low-income people in US cities, and therefore necessarily, with our work that aims to expand economic opportunity for these communities.

Now, we are embarking on a long-term organizational learning and change process aimed at intentionally embedding a racial equity and inclusion lens across our entire portfolio—acknowledging that our ability to effect lasting and meaningful change requires us to better understand current realities and barriers.

In my mind, the critique of philanthropy presented by Buffett, Martin and others, and the questions that Living Cities is grappling with through this change process are intensely related.

I worked, for a time, in ‘direct service’, meaning that every day I said good morning to the people that my organization served. I answered their questions; I asked them about their families; I was connected to them, and to their lives, in a way that was immediate and tangible. I found satisfaction and meaning in that, and I learned a great deal from the people I met, but I also began to feel frustration and disillusionment with the growing belief that the need for such service was seemingly without end. Every evening I said goodnight, and every day I said good morning again. Poverty did not, even for a single individual who walked through the door, go away. The burdens that it brought could be eased slightly, some of its weight lifted momentarily, but the ‘wins’ were small and fleeting.

Conversely, the mission of Living Cities, where I currently work, is one of large-scale systems change. What will it take; we ask ourselves; to reverse growing income inequality and disparate outcomes in education, employment, mobility, health and housing? What will it take; I ask myself often; to make it so that everyone can dream of a better life at night and truly believe that dream attainable when the sun comes up? I relish this big-picture thinking, just as I relished connecting to people on a personal level. Yet, I believe that when you work ‘further from the ground,’ it is important to be diligent about holding those that we serve close, even if our connection to them is less tangible, less personal. While we push ourselves to do that at Living Cities, and I know that many others in the field do as well, there is always room to push ourselves further, particularly considering what is at stake.

I am not necessarily making an argument for a philanthropic sector that is ‘closer to the ground’. In terms of what works, there is very, very little that I know for certain. What I have is a messy collection of hunches, of insights, of data, and of experiences--my own and those of others with far more experience than me. Together, these elements are like the many small pieces of a giant puzzle for which the box has been lost so that, although I have begun to fit some of the pieces together, I have no idea what picture they will eventually reveal. I do believe that there is ultimately a need for the type of work that I used to do, the type of work that I do now, and many other types of work between and beyond.

However, I can’t help but wonder, particularly in this hyperconnected world where engagement and conversation with nearly anyone on earth is, through technology, possible: What would happen if we better connected the two planes described by Martin (that occupied by philanthropy and that occupied by the communities we serve) with a system of ‘bridges and tunnels’?

I am not alone in raising this question. Many leaders, particularly in the public sector innovation space, are harnessing technology and other tools to better connect to constituents. Could philanthropy benefit from these types of efforts? At Living Cities, a group of staff are in regular conversation (largely informal at this stage) with each other and other emerging practitioners in philanthropy to begin to think collectively about what this system could look like, and how the field might build it. I’m certain that these types of conversations are happening elsewhere too. I would love to hear about them and to work together to build a vibrant dialogue.

Ultimately, critique can be a great force for good, particularly if it drives people and institutions to strive to do better. Too often, and for too many, poor people are, in many ways, invisible. This cannot be the case for philanthropy, or for the broader social sector. No matter how far we work from the ground, we must continuously ask, as Martin similarly urges, who isn’t in the ‘room’ and how does their absence (or invisibility) stand in the way of our ability to move the needle on the issues that we care about? And, further, how can we create more inclusive philanthropy?

]]> Thu, 10 Apr 2014 13:08:58 -0400 Nadia Owusu
Letting the Dollars Land To realize the promise of community investment, the capacity of specific places to absorb available capital needs to grow. New article in Shelterforce from our Robin Hacke.

http://www.livingcities.org http://www.livingcities.org Wed, 09 Apr 2014 17:45:12 -0400 (Living Cities)
Applying Collective Impact Principles to the Workforce Ecosystem This post is a reponse to a March 21, 2014 article in the San Francisco Business Times: San Francisco Seeks to Coordinate Workforce Development Programs.

As public focus has turned toward domestic issues more heavily in the last few years, there has been a renewed emphasis on addressing unemployment. As a result, the number of workforce development programs has expanded significantly, but there is a notable lack of collaboration and coordination across the many initiatives that often operate in the same places doing the same things. To address this disconnect, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee has proposed a new entity that will facilitate a more cohesive approach to the work. I hope that this pivot will enable cross-sector collaboration, mutually agreed upon target outcomes, and a learning environment as these are some of the principles of Collective Impact that we have seen point to early evidence of needle moving results inThe Integration Initiative at Living Cities.

]]> Wed, 09 Apr 2014 10:17:27 -0400 Brittany Ramos
Case Studies: Steps to Avoid Stalled Equitable TOD Projects The following case studies highlight a) the predevelopmentpitfalls faced in station areas by groups of real estatedevelopment projects and b) the predevelopment pitfalls faced in station areas by groups of real estatedevelopment projects. For each case, we identified a list ofcritical predevelopment factors.

]]> Tue, 08 Apr 2014 09:56:35 -0400 (Living Cities)
Social Change Communications: Where the ‘Story’ Meets the ‘Telling’ This recent article in Forbes got me thinking about storytelling. Well, actually, I’m always thinking about storytelling--It’s both my job (I lead communications at Living Cities) and one of my great passions. Stories have been, ever since our earliest ancestors began scratching art on the walls of caves (visual storytelling!), how we have taught and preserved knowledge. They are the thread between our past, present, and future; enabling us to process what we have learned so that we can make choices about what’s next. They are the building blocks of culture, community, and shared values; they are how we organize and make sense of the world and of our lives; they are how we make connections; and they are how we inspire. From marketing campaigns to social movements, stories capture the human imagination and drive it to action like nothing else can.

Brands understand that the stories they tell about their products are just as, if not more important than the products themselves. It’s about tapping into people’s aspirations and desires and motivating them to advance them (ostensibly by buying the product).

Savvy social change leaders get this concept too: They blend compelling data with narrative to communicate what is, what could or should be, and how we can get there. As David Bornstein of the New York Times said at a conference I attended about a month ago, good social change stories "lead with what's possible. The goal is to get people to lean into problems and to see how they can get involved."

Technology, as the Forbes article outlines through some great specific examples, can help us to do this better: “Storytelling will always be about connecting people on a human level….using technology in a way that excites people to the core is what will propel the medium forward.” We know that no one person, institution, or even sector can solve our most intractable problems on its own. So, unlike with stories about brands, good stories about social change are inclusive rather than focused just on parochial interests—finding the connections amongst stories in order to create new, vibrant meta-narratives. Towards these ‘beyond PR’ ends, there is probably less potential in a press release about one program to accelerate change than there is in an interactive platform where ideas, insights, and experience collide.

At Living Cities, we know that our work and investments in areas like cradle to career education, community and workforce development, and civic engagement must be thought of as a small contribution to a much bigger whole made up of the work of many other individuals and organizations tackling these problems. So, we have made real-time sharing and engaging around what we and others are learning core to everything we do as we seek to help grow and build a network effect of innovators, practitioners and leaders working together in new ways to move successes from the periphery of practice to the mainstream as fast as possible. We call this ‘open sourcing social change’.

Many others are taking this on as well—experimenting with applying new tools to the age old art of storytelling. Communications can be thought of as where the ‘story’ meets the ‘telling’. At its core is the interaction between the ‘storyteller’ and the ‘audience’. To harness that dynamic towards social change, we must think of audiences not as passive ‘listeners’, but rather as active partners whose needs, perspectives, and imaginations are vital to the ability of the story to spread, grow, and thrive. I am very excited about the possibilities of this type of thinking, and the marrying of it with creative uses of technology!

]]> Mon, 07 Apr 2014 18:56:41 -0400 Nadia Owusu
Executive Summary: Steps to Avoid Stalled Equitable TOD Projects Living Cities asked us to help determine how equitable TOD stakeholders can avoid orovercome the complications that emerge during the predevelopment phase. With experienceas developers, planners, researchers, and TOD advisers, we brought a real estate and policyperspective to the following questions:

  • Why are equitable TOD projects so frequently stalling?
  • When is the optimal time to incorporate market/development criteria into the transitalignment/station and site acquisition decisions?
  • Is there an optimal predevelopment process that would help projects move towarddevelopment smoothly?

The paper which accompanies this executive summary describes the many factors thatcurrently make equitable TOD so difficult to complete, and then proposes concrete techniquesto address these challenges.

]]> Mon, 07 Apr 2014 18:02:11 -0400 (Living Cities)
Steps to Avoid Stalled Equitable TOD Projects At Living Cities, we are exploring how we can work with lenders, nonprofit advocates, metropolitan organizations and many other groups to help accelerate the transition from planning to implementation. This shift toward implementing ETOD requires a deeper understanding of how financing decisions affect and are affected by policy decisions. Toward this end, through our Connect Initiative, we commissioned William Fleissig of Communitas Development and Ian Carlton of ICRC to write a paper for stakeholders involved in making the critical decisions that drive equitable transit-oriented development to learn from what has worked - and not worked - in the past.

]]> Mon, 07 Apr 2014 17:59:50 -0400 (Living Cities)
Bringing the “Development” to Equitable Transit-Oriented Development Equitable Transit Oriented Development (ETOD) has become a key priority on the planning agenda for many regional and local communities over the last several years. As housing and transportation costs continue to rise, regions across the country are looking for ways to ensure that all their citizens can affordably access housing, jobs, health, childcare and other essential services near transit. To meet this need, planners, policy-makers, non-profits and others, are looking to support the investment and production of equitable transit-oriented development to ensure that development and transit benefits all people along a transit corridor, including those who are low-income.

At Living Cities, we are exploring how we can work with lenders, nonprofit advocates, metropolitan organizations and many other groups to help accelerate the transition from planning to implementation. This shift toward implementing ETOD requires a deeper understanding of how financing decisions affect and are affected by policy decisions. Toward this end, through our Connect Initiative, we commissioned William Fleissig of Communitas Development and Ian Carlton of ICRC to write a paper for stakeholders involved in making the critical decisions that drive equitable transit-oriented development to learn from what has worked - and not worked - in the past.

Their research highlights why ETOD projects often get stuck in what is typically called the predevelopment phase. Predevelopment is the first phase of a real estate project, when the developer identifies land, designs a project, engages partners, secures financing and obtains regulatory approval. This predevelopment process allows developers to revise their project plans and proposals to improve the feasibility of the overall development and mitigate for further costs. It is during this process that a developer makes a “go” or “no-go” decision on moving forward with a development.

However, the authors found that the ETOD delivery process - unlike a typical development process - begins long before the predevelopment phase as decisions integral to ETOD success are made several years, even decades, before the beginning of predevelopment. ETOD projects often get stuck during predevelopment because decisions made by transit and land use planners that determine public transit routes, station locations and infrastructure plans often do not take into consideration the site conditions and market characteristics required to support private development. Consequently, developers seeking to develop sites near transit must spend additional time and money finding funding, filing for zoning exemptions, and pursuing other actions to make these sites financially feasible.

This misalignment between what the author’s call “upstream” and “downstream” decisions is caused by many factors, including the different criteria and objectives that transit planners use vs. those that developers use. For example, transit planners are often required to limit costs. In some cases, this results in transit routes being built along unused former freight rail facilities which can be purchased at low prices, resulting in the surrounding sites being poor prospects for real estate development without significant time and subsidy. As noted in the case studies that accompany the paper, one of the key attributes of the Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor in Arlington, one of the most successful TOD efforts in the US, was the decision to locate the Metro system along a key existing urban corridor, rather than in freeway medians.

A key recommendation from the paper is for market feasibility assessments to be incorporated early in transit planning so that transit build-out can support development. In order to help regions avoid predevelopment pitfalls, the paper also proposes two new tools:

  • TOD Site Evaluation Checklist that stakeholders making transit and land use decisions could use to evaluate the feasibility of a site or proposed equitable TOD project. This checklist would include standard feasibility and market analyses as well as onsite expectations for housing and other amenities and other complicating factors such as land ownership, safety and security and physical site features. Having such a checklist would help regional stakeholders identify which stations could be developable.
  • TOD Investment Scorecard that allows investors to look across sites to compare the feasibility of different sites and then develop appropriate short- and long-term strategies to improve the potential for site development.

We are in process of learning more about the barriers to building equitable transit-oriented development and are excited to share these lessons from our research with William Fleissig and Ian Carlton with all of you. We invite you to read this paper and join the discussion. Please contact me at to join the dialogue.

*This blog and paper are being released as part of the Living Cities Connect Initiative which is exploring ways to increase the number of low-income people connected to job opportunities and essential services such as childcare, health services, etc.

]]> Mon, 07 Apr 2014 17:08:07 -0400 Amy Chung
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: THE ROLE OF THE PUBLIC SECTOR IN THE INTEGRATION INITIATIVE Living Cities commissioned this deep dive to shed light on the relationship between The Integration Initiative (TII) work and the public sector. This report explores the different forms that public sector involvementhas taken at the five TII sites, documents the most important public‐sector‐related outcomes ofthe Initiative, and helps to develop a better understanding of what factors may be affectingsuccess across sites. Finally, it presents key findings on the role of the public sector in complexcross‐sector system change initiatives.

]]> Mon, 07 Apr 2014 12:33:01 -0400 (Living Cities)
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: THE ROLE OF THE PUBLIC SECTOR IN THE INTEGRATION INITIATIVE Living Cities commissioned this deep dive to shed light on the relationship between The Integration Initiative (TII) work and the public sector. This report explores the different forms that public sector involvementhas taken at the five TII sites, documents the most important public‐sector‐related outcomes ofthe Initiative, and helps to develop a better understanding of what factors may be affectingsuccess across sites. Finally, it presents key findings on the role of the public sector in complexcross‐sector system change initiatives.

]]> Mon, 07 Apr 2014 12:33:00 -0400 (Living Cities)
Using Data in New Ways: City of Newark Although the city of Newark implemented Brick CitiSTAT (a performance-based management tool to improve city services) prior to the Strong Healthy Communities Initiative, it was able to accelerate data collection, analysis, and utilization by hiring a data analyst who was supported by the Initiative. This resulted in a range of operational efficiencies and cost reductions that are leading to improved city services in neighborhoods. For example, changes to code enforcement procedures have resulted in more inspections being conducted per inspector—an important achievement in a city that has only four inspectors on staff. Improved code enforcement and inspections are central elements of the Strong Healthy Communities Initiative’s healthy homes strategy . Additionally, the data analyst and external data specialists provide technical assistance and capacity building to department heads. This is helping to decrease longstanding resistance by managers and frontline workers to collecting and using data. The city is also developing interactive, neighborhood-level dashboards that will provide neighborhood-based organizations and other external partners with increased access to data on city services and performance. From the city's perspective, building community capacity in this area is viewed as critical to accomplishing Strong Healthy Communities Initiative’s objectives as well as stimulating demand for change that will help buffer new policies and practices from political changes.

]]> Mon, 07 Apr 2014 11:42:45 -0400 (Living Cities)
Redirecting Public Sector Resources: The Michigan Economic Development Commission (MEDC) The Integration Initiative (TII) was implemented at the same time that MEDC was undergoing a major change in its programs and funding strategy. Consequently, MEDC’s experience with TII contributed to the development of a more strategic and collaborative approach to investing. In 2011, the legislature replaced MEDC’s brownfield and historic tax credits with a $100 million annual grant and loan program (Community Revitalization Program) in which MEDC had to determine what projects to fund and how to structure its financing. At this same time, MEDC was invited to work with Midtown Detroit, Inc. and its partners to define its role in financing priority projects in Midtown.

Through its work to understand and structure financing for TII projects, MEDC strengthened its relationships with Midtown Detroit, Invest Detroit, and Detroit Economic Growth Corporation and built a new relationship with NCB Capital Impact. The agency transitioned from a more reactive funder to one that is more actively engaged with community development finance institutions, quasi-public, and other financing entities to structure its financing for projects.

Through its relationship with NCB Capital Impact, MEDC has created a new statewide loan participation program whereby NCB will underwrite and originate loans for the state’s Commercial Revitalization Program.

MEDC’s work in Detroit also helped it to create a strategic approach to deploying funds in which MEDC seeks to concentrate in projects and areas in which it can have significant impact, and where there is existing infrastructure in place to complete projects around a targeted strategy. The Integration Initiative experience has also increased MEDC’s capacity to collaborate with other local government and community development finance institutions in financing projects.

MEDC has also proposed legislation to remove barriers it has faced in deploying Community Revitalization Program funds and being a more active investment partner. For example, it cannot invest its funds early in the project development, but must invest on a reimbursement basis. The legislation is still pending.

]]> Mon, 07 Apr 2014 11:28:14 -0400 (Living Cities)
Public Sector Administrative and Regulatory Changes in the Twin Cities In the Twin Cities, the most notable new public sector administrative change is the Metropolitan Council Corridors of Opportunity department. This is “de-siloing” the work of community development, putting a focus on placemaking rather than projects, and integrating the connections between affordable housing, small business opportunities and other economic development, job creation, and community amenities. In addition, Metro Transit is organizing its project office for the Southwest Corridor light-rail line to address the integration between planning and engineering. Unlike the past, planning and engineering staff are being co-located in the project office.

The new model of community engagement developed through Corridors of Opportunity is beginning to influence public agencies. For example, this model has directly influenced the Metropolitan Council, which is hiring a new community engagement staff person and incorporating the new model in its work. Minnesota Housing has also modified an existing staff position to emphasize outreach in ways that are more consistent with the Corridors of Opportunity community engagement approach.

Finally, the Minnesota Housing Department has modified its scoring criteria under an existing coordinated grants program for affordable housing to incorporate more emphasis on proximity to transit. An online tool on its website allows developers to type in an address to see if it is eligible for transit access points. Now more points are awarded for being on high frequency bus routes or rail.

]]> Mon, 07 Apr 2014 11:17:35 -0400 (Living Cities)
Lessons from the Field: A Deeper Dive into the Role of the Public Sector in the Integration Initiative The Integration Initiative, Living Cities’ signature collective impact effort, has taught us a great deal about the role of the public sector in complex, cross-sector initiatives. In order to improve the lives of low-income people, the public sector is an essential partner in these initiatives. As part of The Integration Initiative (TII) design, we reviewed challenges in the community development field and concluded that many similar efforts to improve the lives of low-income residents in cities have been constrained by outdated public sector models, including:

  • Poor collaboration with other sectors;
  • Siloed architecture inadequately suited to current economic conditions;
  • Failure to use data to drive strategy; and
  • Poorly deployed resources that were neither aligned with philanthropy nor designed to leverage private resources.

In spite of these challenges, only government, with its vast resources and formal and informal authority, can do what every city needs—combine local, state, and federal funds and redirect these resources from approaches that don’t work to those that do. Given this reality, one of the fundamental elements of The Integration Initiative from its inception was the belief that involving the public sector directly in the Initiative was essential to achieving systems change in cities.

While we were clear about the necessity of engaging the public sector and promoting changes in how government interacts with other sectors and deploys its resources, we did not require an explicit strategy or approach to working with the public sector in the initial Integration Initiative sites. All five sites ended up including city officials in their governance groups, but there was a great deal of diversity in the form and degree of public sector participation and in the type of work in each site that involved the public sector.

A recent evaluation from Mt. Auburn Associated captured the learnings from our public sector efforts in round one. This research has helped us better understand the impact of the initial sites’ work on public sector related outcomes and the factors that led to those outcomes. The four types of public sector related outcomes we measured across the TII sites are:

  1. Increasing Capacity to Collaborate Across Sectors and Agencies: At several sites, TII has influenced the civic infrastructure, with some public sector stakeholders developing new relationships with philanthropy and seeing an increased value in working collaboratively to address problems.
  2. Redirecting Resources: There is evidence at most of the sites that the Living Cities funds and the new collaborative activities have contributed to shifting the flow of funding from the public sector towards priorities that were developed through TII’s process.
  3. Addressing Systemic Barriers Through Administrative, Regulatory, and Policy Changes: There is evidence that some public policy changes or improvements in the way agencies operated were meaningful steps towards addressing the systemic barriers to advancing the goals of the sites.
  4. Using Data in New Ways: The increased use of data by the public sector was prominent in one site where a TII-supported data analyst was able to accelerate progress around the collection, analysis, and use of data to advance a clearer understanding of the site’s challenges, progress, and shortfalls.

The evaluation revealed five factors critical to achieving public sector-related outcomes:

  1. Have a Public Sector Champion for the Work: Having a state, county, or city staff person who really understood TII and saw the site’s work as aligned with their agency’s agenda was an important factor in achieving public sector-related outcomes. The “champion” did not have to be a top elected official. Through site visits and learning communities, Living Cities’ engagement with the sites helped public sector stakeholders better understand TII and the importance of the public sector to this work, which enhanced their likelihood of “championing” TII.
  2. Get Buy-In from On-The-Ground Staff: Even when public sector leaders are firmly committed to the goals and work of TII in their community, getting the buy-in of the staff responsible for implementation remains a significant challenge. The structure and process of communication between cross-sector collaborations and city agencies can make a big difference in the level of buy-in. However, some of these structures (e.g. human resources systems, agency or occupational culture, federal grant requirements) are deeply entrenched and may be resistant to change.
  3. Ensure There is Municipal Authority Over Systems Being Targeted: The focus of the public sector-related activities at each site was largely determined by the areas of work that were clearly within the control of participating public sector actors. When strategies involved systems stretching beyond city government, such as workforce, education, or federal grant administration, the work tended to encounter more challenges.
  4. Foster Shared Philanthropic and Government Ownership: Engagement of the public sector was more challenging when TII was seen primarily as a philanthropic initiative. Two factors that seemed to foster shared ownership: 1) having a public sector representative as a co-chair of the governance group, and 2) pre-existing positive relationships between the philanthropic community and the public sector.
  5. Connect the “Big Result” to Mayoral Priorities: A lot of competing high priorities can complicate both alignment and level of city engagement. Although TII work was usually not in conflict with the city’s priorities and was often aligned with priorities of agency staff, most sites’ primary focus was not the primary focus of city political leadership. This lack of alignment affected the level of city engagement in TII as well as progress in some of the system change work.

As we move into the next round of work in the Integration Initiative, in both current and new city sites, we are using these insights to support improved partnership with the public sector. For a detailed look at TII public sector-related outcomes in three of the cities check out these mini-case studies on: the administrative and regulatory policy changes made in Minneapolis/St. Paul, redirecting of public resources that took place in Detroit, and use of data in new ways in Newark. And for more findings from Mt. Auburn’s research on the public sector in The Integration Initiative, you can download the Executive Summary of their report here .

]]> Fri, 04 Apr 2014 18:28:39 -0400 Ronda Jackson
The Power Behind Collective Impact Many of you know that I recently started as the Director of Collective Impact at Living Cities. When I share I’m doing this in addition to running my business, people often ask why. I do not see myself as an evangelist or advocate for Collective Impact. It is a tool that I and many others have wielded for quite some time, even before it had a popular name. But as I have applied the principles of Collective Impact for my clients and others, I’ve been struck by how bogged down everyone seems to get during the process. People start arguing over who should be at the table, what is the right level of data, and even on what each step is called! And in the course of sorting through this messiness, many get confused or, in the worst case scenarios, discouraged. And every time someone is so overwhelmed they disengage, it becomes more and more likely our country’s most pressing problems will persist. And as a values driven entrepreneur who cares about changing the way the world does business, I have to do everything I can whenever an opportunity presents itself. This is not because I see myself as a hero. It’s because this work is incredibly personal to me.

Growing up, I was often trotted out on stages as an exemplar student. I was a girl who liked math, a person of color who did well in school, and a ham who never found a spotlight she didn’t love. What often happened as I stood on stage was that I looked at my parents and saw them swelling with equal parts pride and pain. Often as I received my accolades, there was a clear implication. I got there in spite of my parents and their upbringing. While this couldn’t be farther from the case I was often embarrassed by what I know were well intentioned ceremonies. They were designed to let “people like me” know what was possible if they just “worked hard enough”. But over the years, my sisters didn’t feel like that. Their boredom grew to annoyance at what started to seem like the Tynesia show. It was clear that instead of feeling like they could be “just like me”, they internalized instead that I was somehow different. I know from experience and from intention that it was often my personality and not my smarts that provided me with different opportunities than my intelligent sisters. And as a result of being offered different paths, we ended up in different places with different choices.

When I was in high school, I was taken off the waiting list to intern for a summer at NASA. My project was to work on the international space station. It was there that I learned about a culture that believed they had the brains to make the impossible possible. After college when I worked at GE, I learned what happens when a culture demands excellence. They equip you with the tools to achieve consistent results and they build systems that hold everyone accountable at all levels of the organization. This in itself was an amazing feat since we had over 100,000 employees in over a dozen different industries across the world. And at Year Up I learned that no matter how smart you think you are or how many tools you have to help, there is a way to bring that experience while still sharing your passion. People, especially those committed to social missions, don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

So I bring to Living Cities an unyielding belief that the intractable problems our country faces are not only solvable, but the tools exist to achieve them. And whether it’s Collective Impact or something else doesn’t really matter to me. I’m not driven by the tool. Instead, I’m committed to building a country where no parent feels inadequate because of where they started when they began raising their children. Where no child feels they don’t have the same opportunity because of the way of the way they relate to the world. And no little girl stands alone on stage ripped from the very support systems that would sustain her success.

My main goal while at Living Cities is to make tools like Collective Impact actionable and accessible because I know that I’m not the only one who cares deeply about creating the change we seek in this world. And the more we’re confused and arguing over the tools the less we’re focused on fulfilling our mission and building the vision enabled by those resources. Because the true power behind Collective Impact is not just the people using the tools, but the reasons why they wield them.

This post originally appeared on Tynesia Boyea-Robinson's blog, Shared Roots:

]]> Thu, 03 Apr 2014 13:07:19 -0400 Tynesia Boyea-Robinson
Building and Sustaining Thriving Mixed-Income Communities Creating thriving, sustainable mixed-income communities is a goal for many of the cities that are part of Living Cities’ The Integration Initiative (TII). Income mixing within neighborhoods, districts, cities, and regions holds promise for addressing several different kinds of problems – improving safety and amenities in distressed neighborhoods, increasing equity of resource distribution and benefits from public investments, and ensuring that cities offer homes and opportunities for individuals of all income levels.

Different cities involved in TII have different goals and face different challenges in fostering mixed-income communities:

  • Detroit faces a weak housing market and inner city neighborhoods with high vacancies. There, the goal is to attract and integrate higher-income residents into distressed high-poverty neighborhoods in the central city, improving overall neighborhood quality, and also benefit existing and long term low-income residents, while contributing to the citywide tax base.
  • In New Orleans, concern about gentrification in pockets of the city has inspired efforts to protect affordable housing in affected areas, so that low-income residents can benefit from new neighborhood investments.
  • San Francisco faces an intensely tight housing market that threatens to price low-income households out of the city. There, the redevelopment of a large section of the city is being designed to offer homes for diverse income levels, including significant public housing.

Translating these varied goals for mixed-income communities into effective interventions can be difficult. At a recent TII Learning Community, we explored the goals, challenges, and strategies for developing and sustaining mixed-income communities, in both weak and strong housing markets. We considered questions such as: What strategies and incentives can be used to create mixed-income neighborhoods and districts? What is needed to make sure a community can sustain a mix of incomes over time? How do policies and systems at the larger scale of city, region, or even state enable or hinder income-mixing efforts?

The framing paper developed as part of this learning process draws on existing research about mixed-income communities and interviews with leaders in the field. Designed to inform the practical efforts of TII site teams, it provides a framework for considering the goals, scale, and locations for income-mixing interventions, understanding key challenges, and identifying policies and incentives that can be used to achieve site-specific income-mixing goals.

View or download the framing paper: Building and Sustaining Thriving Mixed-Income Communities.

]]> Wed, 02 Apr 2014 09:21:46 -0400 Brian Reilly
Building and Sustaining Thriving Mixed‐Income Communities Thriving mixed‐income communities are part of the vision of equitable cities ofopportunity for many of Living Cities’ The Integration Initiative sites. But translating that vision into specific goals and workable strategies to achieve income mixing can be challenging.

Drawing on existing research and interviews with leaders in the field, this paper describes characteristics of stable mixed‐income communities and how low‐incomeresidents may benefit from such communities. It provides a framework for consideringthe scale and locations for income‐mixing interventions, understanding key challenges, and identifying policies and incentives that can be used to achieve site‐specific income mixing goals.

]]> Wed, 02 Apr 2014 09:13:13 -0400 (Living Cities)
Collective Action for Community Development The most recent issue of Community Investments, a San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank publication, explores emerging Collective Impact practices and lifts up early learnings from pioneers in the field. The issues is a great resource for tools and cases about collective impact work on the ground. Discover the central role of a strong cross-sector partnership in organizing and leading collective impact initiatives in our featured article: How Do you Build the Right Cross-Sector Partnership to Implement Collective Impact Approaches?

http://www.livingcities.org http://www.livingcities.org Tue, 01 Apr 2014 14:37:35 -0400 (Living Cities)
Why You Should Stop Brainstorming We loved this little video (3:49 seconds) on the Harvard Business Review blog about a concept called "brainswarming." It offers a tool for enabling groups that are trying to achieve a specific result, to identify all their existing resources to leverage, as well as propose ideas for how the resources can be turned into strategies that can produce their results. It seems promising because it starts from the results, allows the group to generate a vast amount of ideas, and also enables different styles of learners (as well as both introverts and extroverts) to contribute. Check it out!

http://www.livingcities.org http://www.livingcities.org Mon, 31 Mar 2014 12:47:58 -0400 (Living Cities)
My First Lean Startup Adventure: Using Build-Measure-Learn to Support Strong Cross-Sector Partnerships When the team at Living Cities first read Eric Reis’ book The Lean Startup, we were intrigued, but also curious, what would it really take to apply this methodology in our own work of connecting low-income people to economic opportunity? So Alison Gold, Associate Director of Knowledge and Impact, took the plunge, applying the methodology in work she was developing about helping leaders in cities build the “right” cross-sector partnerships to achieve their goals.

My First Lean Startup Adventure: Using Build-Measure-Learn to Support Strong Cross-Sector Partnerships is a 12 page case-let to share with others what Alison learned about applying the Lean Startup methodology.

]]> Tue, 25 Mar 2014 11:18:23 -0400 (Living Cities)
INTERVIEW: How to Make Detroit’s Data Accessible Interview with Erica Raleigh of Data Driven Detroit on making data accessible. Erica is the data partner in Living Cities Integration Initative work in Detroit: Read more on Next City:

http://www.livingcities.org http://www.livingcities.org Fri, 21 Mar 2014 15:52:45 -0400 (Living Cities)
Catalyzing Impact Investments Through Coordinated Grantmaking Philanthropy and the practice of grantmaking traditionally have been very separate from traditional investing in both culture and approach, but the emerging field of impact investing invites a productive collaboration between these two disciplines... From our Amy Chung, Associate Director of Capital Innovation.

http://www.livingcities.org http://www.livingcities.org Wed, 19 Mar 2014 18:16:45 -0400 (Living Cities)
Accelerating Innovation and Progress in Cities|Citi Blog Announcing our new partnership with the Citi Foundation on an initiative to accelerate public sector innovation!

http://www.livingcities.org http://www.livingcities.org Fri, 14 Mar 2014 13:26:25 -0400 (Living Cities)
Citi Foundation and Living Cities Launch City Accelerator Program to Drive Innovation and Collaboration in U.S. Cities http://www.livingcities.org http://www.livingcities.org Fri, 14 Mar 2014 10:40:07 -0400 (Living Cities) Can Detroit Rebuild Its Middle Class? Tim Alberta: "Even with its limitations, Detroit possesses the building blocks for a potential economic explosion."

http://www.livingcities.org http://www.livingcities.org Mon, 03 Mar 2014 14:02:22 -0500 (Living Cities)
Assessing the American Dream: The New Yorker James Surowieki aruges in The New Yorker that social mobility is actually an exception to the rule and that public policy should focus on raising the standard of living for middle and working class Americans. Living Cities invites you to share your thought and reactions via Twitter @Living_Cities.

http://www.livingcities.org http://www.livingcities.org Mon, 24 Feb 2014 09:41:30 -0500 (Living Cities)
The Robots That Saved Pittsburgh: How the Steel City avoided Detroit’s fate|Politico This story is part of a year-long reported series from Politico Magazine, sponsored by Chase, featuring innovative ideas—and how they spread—from cities across the US.

http://www.livingcities.org http://www.livingcities.org Tue, 04 Feb 2014 15:58:56 -0500 (Living Cities)
State of the Union: The Poverty and Inequality Report 2014 From the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality: A snapshot of poverty and inequality today.

http://www.livingcities.org http://www.livingcities.org Tue, 28 Jan 2014 11:16:26 -0500 (Living Cities)
The Public-Private Partnership Whisperer http://www.livingcities.org http://www.livingcities.org Fri, 14 Jun 2013 10:02:24 -0400 The Atlantic Cities 5 Transformational Forces That Should Be Driving The Social Sector (But Aren’t) http://www.livingcities.org http://www.livingcities.org Fri, 19 Apr 2013 11:51:52 -0400 Fast.CoExist From Community to Prosperity http://www.livingcities.org http://www.livingcities.org Fri, 19 Apr 2013 11:49:02 -0400 What Works for America What Cincinnati Could Teach New York about Hurricane Readiness http://www.livingcities.org http://www.livingcities.org Fri, 19 Apr 2013 11:47:49 -0400 Harvard Business Review Community Development: Reflecting on What Works http://www.livingcities.org http://www.livingcities.org Fri, 19 Apr 2013 11:45:36 -0400 Stanford Social Innovation Review Louisville working with national group to engage poor citizens http://www.livingcities.org http://www.livingcities.org Fri, 19 Apr 2013 11:43:31 -0400 Business First Aligning Grants with Impact Investments http://www.livingcities.org http://www.livingcities.org Fri, 19 Apr 2013 11:42:33 -0400 Rooflines Catalytic Philanthropy and Private Capital: To Use or Not to Use http://www.livingcities.org http://www.livingcities.org Fri, 19 Apr 2013 11:42:06 -0400 Harvard Institute for Responsible Investment Stuck on the Bus, or, Civic Engagement in a Networked World http://www.livingcities.org http://www.livingcities.org Fri, 19 Apr 2013 11:41:04 -0400 The Slow Hunch VIDEO: Highlights from Living Cities Trends in Focus: Technology & Civic Change Mon, 30 Apr 2012 12:14:48 -0400 (Living Cities) VIDEO: Living Cities- Improving the infrastructure of low-income communities Tue, 17 Apr 2012 15:21:33 -0400 (Living Cities) VIDEO: Robin Hacke, Director of Capital Formation, Keynote at Healthy Communities: 2012 Las Vegas, Nevada Tue, 13 Mar 2012 15:01:03 -0400 (Living Cities) Trends in Focus: Technology and Civic Change Thu, 26 Jan 2012 12:14:50 -0500 (Living Cities) Keynote from HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan at Living Cities 20th Anniversary Mon, 07 Nov 2011 15:43:07 -0500 (Living Cities) Integrating People, Place & Opportunity: An Inside Look at the Integration Initiative (Part 2) Mon, 07 Nov 2011 15:08:19 -0500 (Living Cities) Integrating People, Place & Opportunity: An Inside Look at the Integration Initiative (Part 1) Mon, 07 Nov 2011 15:07:50 -0500 (Living Cities) Dynamic Collaboration: Cities & The Future Mon, 07 Nov 2011 15:06:22 -0500 (Living Cities) Interview with Author, Steven Johnson Mon, 07 Nov 2011 15:04:54 -0500 (Living Cities) Living Cities Today and Tomorrow: A Conversation with the Living Cities Board Mon, 07 Nov 2011 15:02:39 -0500 (Living Cities)