In 2014, we took a different approach to our annual report–asking other leaders at the cutting edge of social change efforts to share what they think are the most promising solutions that have the potential to be key elements of a #NewUrbanPractice aimed at getting dramatically better results for low income people, faster. We include an exciting diversity of those responses in this report. Traditionally, an annual report speaks to the mission, promise and impact of an organization. But, our success is inextricably tied to the efforts of our partners: our members, our grantees, our collaborators, those who engage with us on social media, and so many other like-minded leaders and institutions working to create a better tomorrow. So, open sourcing our annual report felt true to who we are and where we want to go. It also gave us a window into what to pay attention to in 2015 and beyond.
Changing demographies, unchanging disparities and promising, transformative practices defined 2014 for us at Living Cities and inspired this report. For the third year in a row, non-white births in the United States have almost eclipsed white births. While a great swath of our country already has non-white majorities, this statistic only served to reinforce the fact that we will be a majority non-white nation as soon as 2040. And the events in Ferguson, Missouri served as a powerful reminder not only of how destructive the existing disparities of income, education and opportunity between whites and non-whites are to the fabric of our society, but also to the fact that we are not on a pace to close those gaps by 2040. Not even close.
Unless we ferociously change course, the majority of our citizens in 2040 will be less educated, less prosperous and less free than our current majority, due to decades of dysfunctional systems, disinvestment, mass incarceration and disenfranchisement of people and communities of color. This is not a legacy any of us should tolerate, or one our founders could have ever imagined. But, 2014 also showed us that we really can accelerate the pace of change. Promising practices, as seen in our own four year old The Integration Initiative, StriveTogether’s ongoing Cradle to Career 61-city network, and the virally growing ‘collective impact’ movement, for example, are showing us that committed civic leaders across disciplines and industries are rejecting incrementalism. They are individually and collectively changing their behaviors to set their communities on a course that can achieve dramatically better results for low income people, especially people of color.
At the end of 2014, these promising, results-focused practices together with the ways that citizens from all walks of life have responded to events like Ferguson –marching, organizing their communities and raising their voices in the press, on social media and in the halls and chambers of civic life –have put us at a strategic inflection point on the arc of justice and American history. We must seize upon it. We must harness these forces of change to address our most wicked problems at their roots and to do so with the urgency and at a scale that 2040 requires.
To do so will certainly require many of us, individuals, business, philanthropy, government, nonprofits and academia, to work differently, to make hard choices so we can scale what works and to build permanent capacity that can insure we get increasingly better results over time. We believe that this is possible. Our vision for the #NewUrbanPractice a does not purport to have all of the answers, but rather focuses on the need for cross-sector leaders to come together to articulate, test, adopt, apply and define it. It is about building on the successes of the past to inform the ideas of the future. It is about considering how the contributions of individuals and institutions can be amplified by understanding them as part of a much greater whole.
What is so encouraging about what you will read in this report is that we collectively know a lot about what should go into the #NewUrbanPractice a toolkit. As many of the pieces that we highlight reflect, many of the tools have been tried and proven over the last decade or more.
We look forward to hearing from even more of you about what you think should go into the toolkit. Share what you believe key elements of the #NewUrbanPractice are by using the hashtag on social media. Tell us what you are seeing and learning. Help us to reject the status quo of incremental change and identify ways to move our country into a brighter future for all where we don’t just survive, but rather thrive, together.