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7 Resources to Guide Your Work Toward Inclusive Growth

by Kahler Sweeney

This blog was produced as a part of Field Focus: Inclusive Strategies for Prosperity, a digital series to explore philanthropy’s role in inclusive economic development and community prosperity.

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In his most recent article, the Johnson Center’s Distinguished Scholar in Residence for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Dr. Juan Olivarez outlined his research agenda. At its core is inclusive growth: the question of how we can forge relationships and develop innovative solutions to ensure that more people share in the rewards of a growing economy.

Below you will find a collection of seven resources identified by Dr. Olivarez and myself as resources that have fundamentally challenged our presumptions about some facet of this work. Whether it be about the nature of inclusive growth itself, the role of philanthropy in achieving inclusive growth, or the finer points of achieving equity through collaboration, each resource has been invaluable.

Below you will find a collection of seven resources identified by Dr. Olivarez and myself as resources that have fundamentally challenged our presumptions about some facet of this work.

→ Building Inclusive Cities: A Framework and Lessons for Local Leaders

The Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution created this multi-part report to answer two key questions surrounding inclusive growth: why inclusive growth at the local scale has national implications (and vice versa) and how communities can work towards achieving inclusive growth. Utilizing world-class data analysis as well as best practices gleaned from working with cities implementing inclusive growth, this collection also includes a podcast series that explores the strategies different communities have taken to ignite change in their communities.

→ Equity, Growth, and Community: What the Nation Can Learn from America’s Metro Areas

The second of two books by scholars Chris Benner and Manuel Pastor on the topic of inclusive regions, Equity, Growth, and Community combines census data and a unique methodology with case studies of communities around the U.S. to discover what typifies an inclusive growth community. Benner and Pastor find that inclusive regions fair better economically, enjoy prolonged periods of economic growth and recover more quickly from recessions. To explain their success, the authors note that inclusive communities benefit from networks of community stakeholders who strive together to collaborate and embrace equity in their operations.

→ A New Anchor Mission: Community foundations deploying all resources to build community wealth

The importance of community anchor institutions (such as universities, hospitals, or local governments) has long been of interest to those that study inclusive growth. The decisions these organizations make can have drastic effects on their community.

The authors of A New Anchor Mission, Marjorie Kelly and Violeta Duncan, argue that community foundations have long been a forgotten partner in this endeavor despite the growing complexity and financial resources of foundations. Not only are these institutions relevant, they are in some ways uniquely prepared to pursue equity in their communities. This report uncovers the unique attributes of community foundations that should embolden foundation leaders to embrace new strategies and new partners for implementing change in their communities, as well as highlighting communities where such partnerships have been effective.

→ A New Domain for Place-Rooted Foundations: Economic Development Philanthropy

Achieving inclusive growth requires an integration of economic development with the traditional domains of community foundations, such as human services and workforce development. In this article, authors from the Aspen Institute and Center for Rural Entrepreneurship craft an argument that empowers community foundations to take a leading role in ensuring that economic development in their community is equitable. Dubbing this new role “economic development philanthropy,” they outline the resources necessary for philanthropy to undertake this new role and strategies for doing so.

→ Collaboration: A Handbook from the Fund for Our Economic Future

The Fund for Our Economic Future is the major economic development organization in the greater Cleveland, Ohio region, and has been studied as a prime example of a foundation-led effort to fund and develop wealth-building programs with local anchor institutions. This collaboration handbook was published by former Fund staff member Chris Thompson who has years of experience in encouraging inter-sector collaboration for inclusive growth.

Written to be impactful for community collaborations of any sort, the recognition that inclusive growth must be a systems-wide effort, and therefore always exist in the (often messy) realm of inter-sector collaboration makes this resource especially useful for those pursuing inclusive growth in their communities.

→ Drawing on Detroit

Communities across the U.S. have been forced to find innovative solutions to creating wealth and achieving more equitable economic outcomes for residents. Fueled by immense structural problems across the private, nonprofit, and public sectors, Detroit’s philanthropic community has been forced to develop new relationships and take on roles previously left to others. This supplement from the Stanford Social Innovation Review includes five articles that investigate the success that Detroit’s leaders have had in working towards inclusive growth.

→ An Equity Profile of Grand Rapids

This publication from PolicyLink and PERE highlights the ability of data to translate national trends into local context. When published in 2017, the trends highlighted in this report came as a shock to many community leaders. Despite the economic success enjoyed by Grand Rapids, Mich. and the surrounding region in the past few years, inequities have deepened for many.

While this equity profile provides indicators and trends for our community, it is representative of both the need for data if we are to fully understand inequity, as well as the need to understand both the national and local trends fueling the push towards inclusive growth.

What has emerged is a consensus that the philanthropic sector’s growing wealth, professionalization, and political capital, as well as their unique role in their communities as both catalyst and advocate have a key part to play in delivering prosperity to more people.

Notably, philanthropy was not outlined as the sole force for achieving inclusive growth in any of the resources listed above. Rather, what has emerged is a consensus that the philanthropic sector’s growing wealth, professionalization, and political capital, as well as their unique role in their communities as both catalyst and advocate have a key part to play in delivering prosperity to more people. Sector leaders must continue to develop new relationships, and commit to innovative problem solving at a systems level. They must also work to both understand the role of and ignite action from the myriad other sectors that exist in their community. The nature of inclusive growth mandates inter-sector collaboration to work towards equity.

Though we will continue to learn from other communities and scholars on the topic, we look forward to sharing what we have learned so far during this Field Focus. We invite you to engage with our findings and lend your voice and experiences to our own. Learning from each other and developing these relationships will continue to be the key to achieving inclusive growth in our communities. #FieldFocus


Photo: Kahler Sweeney
Kahler Sweeney is a graduate research assistant at the Johnson Center for Philanthropy, researching issues related to diversity, equity, and inclusion in the philanthropic sector. He is a graduate of the Political Science and Public & Nonprofit Administration undergraduate programs at Grand Valley State University and is currently pursuing his Master’s of Public Administration. Kahler’s past experiences include a nonprofit management internship with the Center for Inquiry Michigan Chapter, city management internship with the City of Grand Rapids Executive Office, lead research consultant with University Libraries, and service with the Michigan Army National Guard.

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