This weekly round-up of reading recommendations focuses on articles that illustrate what we believe are the core elements of a new urban practice.

This week, The Huffington Post launched an international dialog about the UN Sustainable Development Goals, millions Tweeted #IStandWithAhmed in solidarity with a Muslim teen arrested for bringing a homemade clock to school, and one of our members, The Kresge Foundation, announced a $350 million commitment to Impact Investing.

At Living Cities, we’re encouraged by much of what we saw in the news this week. These events underscore the importance of our work, and the work of our members, in building a new type of urban practice that gets dramatically better results for low-income people, faster, especially communities of color. Our commitments to Capital Innovation, Collective Impact, Public Sector Innovation and Racial Equity and Inclusion as as strong as ever. That’s why this week’s round-up of #GoodReads focuses on articles that illustrate what we believe are the core elements of a new urban practice:


Cities are Where Change Really Happens - The Huffington Post

By Nadia Owusu, Assistant Director, Strategic Communications and Storytelling

This month, The Huffington Post, launched the series, “What’s Working: Sustainable Development Goals,” in conjunction with the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) leading up to the UN General Assembly meeting on Sept. 25-27, 2015 in New York. The SDGs cover 17 key areas of development, including poverty, hunger, health, education and gender equality.

UN Sustainable Development Goals 2015

Nadia’s post reflects on Goal #11: Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. She notes, “The belief that cities should be engines for national prosperity and individual opportunity and well-being is deeply ingrained and broadly acknowledged. As such, cities are often where the fight for these values will be waged.” Through the lens of a post-Katrina New Orleans, she explores the lived experience of urban residents and the ways that people in cities are coming together to move the needle on some of the most wicked problems of our time.

The Huffington Post “What’s Working” SDG blog series will focus on one goal every weekday in September. We encourage you to follow along!

Advancing Racial Equity and Inclusion

#IStandWithAhmed: Scientists and the Public Surge to Support a Boy Arrested for Homemade Clock - By Rachel Feltman, The Washington Post

My Recommendation, Elizabeth Vargas, Associate, Strategic Communications and Engagement

On Wednesday, #IStandWithAhmed became a viral movement after Texas High School student, Ahmed Mohamed, brought a homemade clock to school. Instead of praise, the young Muslim student was taken away in handcuffs. By the end of the day, millions has Tweeted #IStandWithAhmed, expressing international outrage over what many believed was a case of racial and ethnic discrimination.

The incident itself reminded me that personal bias and prejudice are intertwined with the larger issue of structural racism that we work to address at Living Cities. But the international response also gave me hope. By the end of the day, politicians and celebrities, like President Obama, comedian Aziz Ansari and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, had joined the ranks to stand with Ahmed. The hashtag sparked a movement of millions who would not tolerate racial injustice or discrimination. Ahmed had his charges dropped and was invited to the White House. In addition, he publicly stated that the support boosted his confidence. “I wouldn’t have got this far if it wasn’t for you guys,” Ahmed stated. We must tap into this power of community, whether it be on social media or in our own neighborhoods, to continue advancing racial equity in a way that results in better outcomes for people of color.

Expanding Impact Investing

Kresge Steps Up Social Investment Strategy, Commits to Invest $350 Million by 2020 - By Sherri Welch, Crain’s

Recommended by Eileen Neely, Director, Capital Innovation and Brian Nagendra, Senior Investment Associate, Capital Innovation

Today’s social problems are simply too big to solve with grant dollars alone. To make progress at the scale of the challenges, we need to tap all types of capital including grants, impact investing dollars, and commercial funds. Today the Kresge Foundation, a leader in the impact investing space for foundations, has made a major commitment to increase its use of financial tools including debt, equity, guarantees and deposits to make investments that further the foundation’s mission and programmatic priorities. Combined with its grant-making, these social investments will accelerate the positive impact on cities and low-income people. It’s no small move and demonstrates the leadership Kresge is bringing to the changing impact investing landscape.

Cultivating and Connecting Leaders

The Detroit Graduates - The New York Times

Recommended by Sindhu Lakshmanan, Intern, Capital Innovation

As a former Detroit high school teacher, I highly recommend taking 15 minutes out of your day to watch this series of vignettes. The New York TImes follows five high schoolers through their senior year to a year past graduation, starting the summer after the bankruptcy in the fall of 2013. The videos do a great job of capturing the experience of life in Detroit; they highlight the good things happening with the city’s revival, yet are also very real about the situations kids face. Sometimes in big cities, like D.C. and New York, people will complain if a bus is five minutes late. In Detroit, my students sometimes walked two miles to school in below zero weather because the bus didn’t show up that morning at all. Perspective is powerful. But as one teacher points out in the video, it’s not about turning the kids into victims. Like him, I was inspired by my students when I saw how hard they had to work, and learned just as much I taught in my time in the classroom. The stories and perspectives of the students highlighted in this series reminded me of my students, and I think it’ll inspire anyone who watches them.

Public-Private Partnerships (P3s) Piping Up (say that 3x) - By Michael Likosky, Governing

Recommended by Tonya Banks, Senior Administrative Associate, Capital Innovation

“Public-private partnerships (P3s) are contractual agreements formed between a public agency and a private sector entity that allow for greater private sector participation in the delivery and financing of transportation projects.” House Representative Sean M. Maloney (D-NY) is sponsoring legislation that would create a new federal P3 procurement center enabling states and local governments to receive assistance in developing contracts and concession agreements with private investors in transportation infrastructure projects and Mayors Emanuel (Chicago) and Garcetti (Los Angeles) are putting private capital to work to build infrastructure in their cities.

Engaging Community

Why We Need to Grade Our Governments (Again) - By Paul L. Posner, Governing

Recommended by Elizabeth Reynoso, Assistant Director, Public Sector Innovation

Recently, we’ve been exploring the usefulness of an objective grading system for the public sector. The now defunct Government Performance Project “helped bring new attention to management issues in such areas as human capital, financial management and information technology” but ended five years when funding priorities shifted. However, this Governing article asserts that the timing may be ripe for restarting some kind of public-management scorekeeping project.

A project is already underway in Los Angeles, according to “Grading City Hall.” Its goal is threefold: to engage city residents; to lay out the key issues facing L.A. and California; and above all, to hold politicians accountable. Other cities are using social media, like Albany and Oregon’s ‘Anti-Yelp’ app. If done well, grading government could help restore public trust. Steven Bosacker, Living Cities Director of Public Sector Innovation notes, “Grading city management begins to drive meaningful change in the management performance of both States and cities. It’s a new day with cities paying different attention to management than they did even ten years ago, and it would certainly help us in our endeavor to bring the best and most innovative practices to the toughest urban challenges.”

Doubling Down on Data and Results

Taking Care of Business: Employer Engagement in Workforce Data - By Michelle Massie, The Workforce Quality Data Campaign

*Recommended by Daniela Pineda, Associate Director, Knowledge and Evaluation

This week, WDQC published “Taking Care of Business: Employer Engagement in Workforce Data” to share case studies from Mississippi and Alabama where employers play a significant role in the process of developing and informing state data systems. The report shows that a number of states have made progress in the creation of state longitudinal data systems, use data to create consumer information tools, work with economic development agencies to attract industry and jobs to their states, and provide information to policymakers that assure public confidence in education and workforce investments. The brief report concludes with recommendations for actions that other states can take to successfully involve business leaders with these systems to improve workforce development.

(Adapted from The Data Roundup, Institute for Higher Education Policy Newsletter)

Happy Reading!