Living Cities’ Integration Initiative is designed to demonstrate how the public, private, philanthropic and non-profit sectors can improve the lives of low income people in urban communities by tackling problems long considered intractable. It provides $80 million in grants, loans and Program-Related Investments (PRIs) to five urban regions that are challenging traditional ways of doing business in order to improve access to education, housing, health care, transit and jobs for their residents.
1. It creates a new framework for solving complex problems. Leaders often do not work together across sectors, and issues are addressed in silos created as a result of both policy and tradition. For example, governments often design and fund workforce training programs without first identifying the skills most needed by local employers. Similarly, few communities intentionally marry training, child care and housing policies together to ensure success despite the obvious need to do so. The Integration Initiative brings together multiple issues affecting low-income residents and all the partners required to tackle the challenges that impede progress toward solutions. This includes decision-makers from government, philanthropy, the non-profit sector, and the business community.
2. It challenges obsolete conventional wisdom. Essential systems such as education and transportation were built decades ago and are based on outdated assumptions, such as the imperative of a nine-month school year to accommodate summer harvests, and an endless supply of oil. The Integration Initiative makes space for innovation, supporting bold new approaches for breaking through critical impasses and disrupting antiquated systems and processes.
3. It drives the private market to work on behalf of low-income people. The Integration Initiative attracts private sector capital (debt and venture capital), structures investments to balance risk and reward, and brings mainstream market goods and services, such as grocery stores and financial services, to underserved people and communities.
4. It creates a “new normal.” In the past, innovative work to improve the lives of low-income people has often consisted of a series of pilots; as the pilot ended, so did the work – such as new ways of addressing homelessness or increasing income and savings. The Integration Initiative creates new ways of doing business. It permanently drives public and private sector funding streams away from obsolete approaches and applies them to these new solutions. It also sets new policy priorities; uses data to track, ensure and communicate accountability for results; and institutionalizes these changes.