Despite the progress that the social sector has made–in affordable housing, education, health, asset building, strengthening families and even building a movement for change–in many areas, racial disparities have actually grown over the last 25 years. This reality, combined with America’s imminent transformation into a majority non-white nation, creates not only a moral imperative but an economic one as well. Despite this long-term trend, society and the social sector has too often taken a neutral stance regarding the role of race in inequality of outcomes, instead of openly acknowledging structural and systemic racism and the disproportionate impacts of policies and practices on people of color.
For all of these reasons, we have focused the agenda of our 25th Anniversary around two themes:
- Race, Opportunity and US Cities; and
- Harnessing Capital to Close the Racial Opportunity Gaps.
Our focus on the role of capital as part of the solution has always been at the heart of Living Cities. Much of this work, however, has been focused on the built environment in specific neighborhoods where markets were failing. But, over the past 15 years, it’s become apparent that the market failures have expanded to the larger economy, reflected in stagnant wages, losses of higher paying jobs, falling business start-up rates and a growing wealth gap. The largely place-based interventions and tools that we’ve built over the past 25 years are now grossly inadequate for closing gaps in the income and wealth of low-income Americans, especially those of color.
Because collaboration is in our DNA, we are not setting out to design solutions on our own. Indeed, the essays in the Closing the Gaps Compendium highlight ongoing efforts across the country– from transforming education, cradle to career, to ensuring that health outcomes are not dictated by the color of peoples’ skin– that show promise of contributing to closing the racial opportunity gaps. These blogs, contributed by our members, grantees, partners, and many other leaders, give us great hope that, together, we can do this.