What does a unified, sustainable framework for promoting racial and economic equity in a city look like?
In a bid to find out, the Allegheny Conference on Community Development just published a set of Inclusive Growth Principles to promote and guide equity in three categories: employment, business growth and community wealth.
The principles are intended to provide a formal set of guidelines for organizations and companies in the region looking to ensure their work policies, recruitment efforts, community service initiatives and more align with values grounded in increasing racial and economic equity across Pittsburgh. The Allegheny Conference noted that the principles are part of the organization’s 2020-2030 agenda goals to build a “vital, globally competitive region for all.” See the principles in detail below.
Why does Pittsburgh need inclusive growth principles?
The principles come just two years after the murder of George Floyd, which led to Black Lives Matter protests across the nation. It also prompted several businesses to make statements committing to missions of racial equity in the long-term. Allegheny Conference CEO Stefani Pashman said these new principles aren’t meant to commemorate an anniversary, but instead are the result of a natural evolution of needs demonstrated by local business leaders to have formalized guidelines across all industries and company sizes.
“What we know, I think, from a long history [as an organization] is that when we give people a bit of scope and boundary and framing … and we give them a vision and a goal-setting, they can really get on board,” Pashman said.
She added that Majestic Lane joining the Allegheny Conference as chief equity officer in fall 2021 also enabled the organization to “get our work to the next level with some true expertise and focus on it.” Previously, Lane was the deputy chief of staff and chief equity officer for the City of Pittsburgh under former mayor Bill Peduto‘s administration. (Both Pashman and Lane were named to Technical.ly’s inaugural RealLIST Connectors in Pittsburgh.)
"We thought that these were examples of things that were not periodic, or not just for a moment, but are really processes that the corporate community, the civic community will use to foster this inclusive progress."
Lane, for his part, elaborated on the motivations and goals of the new principles in a piece for the Pittsburgh Business Times last week. He told Technical.ly that the goal of the principles was not to provide performative guidelines, but rather to follow the Conference’s pattern of relying on hard data and research to drive the recommended frameworks.
“What could we do that really could stick? What could we do that we can scale? What do we do that everyone can see themselves in? And what’s the real platform of ways that can have long-term positive change?” Lane said of the driving questions behind that process. And on the decision to center the principles on employment, business growth and community wealth, “we thought that these were examples of things that were not periodic, or not just for a moment, but are really processes that the corporate community, the civic community will use to foster this inclusive progress.”
Specifically, Lane mentioned that the principles are meant to encapsulate not only the need for more equitable opportunity in the city’s fast-growing tech industry, but also to provide a way of ensuring the benefits of that industry and others reach the suburban and rural communities neighboring Allegheny County.
Pashman underscored that latter point, saying that “people very naturally can appreciate what goes on in Black and brown neighborhoods in the city and challenges with inclusion and equity” — say, disparities in education, job opportunities and basic resources. “But it isn’t natural, necessarily, to think about the inequities that reach our rural neighbors.”
A framework for collaboration
It’s not secret that Pittsburgh and the surrounding region has work to do when it comes to equitable economic opportunity and even safety. A now-infamous 2019 report from the City of Pittsburgh’s Gender Equity Commission showed that the city is the least livable for Black women. And while that’s by no means a pride-worthy statistic, it has forced an opportunity for local civic, business and academic leaders to take the charge on resolving it.
These new principles are one of those steps, Pashman and Lane said. While the Allegheny Conference is often seen as a model framework for how cities can bring together their public, private, nonprofit and academic spheres for common progress, Pashman said the organization looked to others for examples of how to create these new principles.
“We really looked around and tried to take ideas from all kinds of organizations around the country like they do from us,” she said. But at the end of the day, “we’re all kind of building on each other and learning, and then customizing and listening to our local people.”
Across the three categories, the economic development org outlines basic tenets of action:
- Under employment, the organization calls for the promotion and support of public policies that expand access to employment, encouragement of investments that decrease barriers to employment, and encouragement of businesses to adopt tools and practices that increase high-wage occupation opportunities for underrepresented groups.
- The business growth principles call for participation in building a supportive ecosystem for underserved groups so that they can more easily grow their businesses through advocacy, investments and partnerships.
- And the community wealth category calls for encouragement of increased investments and policies benefitting underserved communities, and a commitment that economic development strategies will specifically be aimed at closing economic opportunity gaps.
Sophie Burkholder is a 2021-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Heinz Endowments.-30-