Finding, Measuring, and Addressing Urban Equity

By Tiffany Manuel

Tiffany Manuel is vice president of knowledge, impact and strategy at Enterprise Community Partners, Inc.

May 14, 2018 | Economy, Society | 0 comments

How urban innovators and social entrepreneurs define and measure progress has profound implications for how those committed to improving their communities – businesses, governments, nonprofits, and residents – allocate resources.  Urban innovators and social entrepreneurs are the changemakers of tomorrow – they hold the key to how cities will overcome the most pressing social and economic challenges we face today.

As one of the largest social enterprises in the nation, Enterprise Community Partners is working to advance an opportunity framework – including the introduction of a new platform for identifying and addressing community strengths and challenges, Opportunity360.  Advancing this framework is intended to strengthen the “ground game” of the growing field of social innovators and entrepreneurs interested in cross-sector collaboration as they work to advance better outcomes for people.

 

What is Opportunity?

Opportunity is the set of circumstances and neighborhood characteristics – what Enterprise calls pathways – that make it possible for people to achieve their goals, no matter their starting point. Any serious attempt to define, measure, and expand opportunity must include both the outcomes people achieve, such as their educational attainment, health, and income, and the pathways that affect the attainment of those outcomes, like quality schools, convenient transit, and access to healthy foods.

A robust and growing body of research tells us that the availability of these opportunity pathways is as crucial to an individual’s success as motivation and work ethic. In other words, where you live affects the life you have. Stanford researcher Raj Chetty and his colleagues have shown clearly that simply moving to better neighborhoods leads to substantial “increases in children’s earnings as adults, increases in college attendance and reductions in out-of-wedlock births.”

 

Interconnected Challenges Require Interconnected Solutions

Cities in the U.S. and around the world committed to improving opportunity face a variety of interconnected challenges. A person with poor access to transit often also finds it hard to reach areas with good jobs; someone with a poorly maintained home is more likely to suffer from health issues like asthma, made worse from triggers like mold and pests.

Making progress on interconnected challenges requires interconnected solutions, which in turn requires multisector collaboration. For example, organizations providing affordable housing can locate homes in areas that offer quality education, can work with before- and after-school programs to provide lower-income students with the enrichment and support they often need, partner with health systems to help provide access to quality healthcare, and design resident services to provide job training. However, effective collaboration requires a shared understanding of the problems and the assets in each community.

 

Harnessing Technology to Enhance Multisector Collaboration

In the U.S., the data revolution has made possible a variety of tools designed to measure opportunity measurement tools using a myriad of indicators. Each tool has its own evaluation lens, points of emphasis, and methodology – all intended to contribute to better informed policies and programs.

Yet each has limitations that have prevented any one tool from establishing itself as a shared reference point for urban innovators and social entrepreneurs – be they investors, philanthropists, planners, researchers, developers, advocates, activists or, most importantly, residents. While they all come with different skills and goals for their work, they all need a tool that enables them to:

  • Use a framework that integrates a people, places, and systems perspectives to encourage a multisector, collaborative approach to identifying solutions;
  • Differentiate opportunity pathways, like school quality and transit options, from opportunity outcomes,like educational success and income;
  • Engage residents and other stakeholders as co-creators in community development plans so that policies and projects aid those who need it most and do not lead to further challenges;
  • Provide data at the neighborhood level, because opportunity can shift block to block;
  • Offer data that covers a greater depth and breadth of indicators and displays them an easy-to-use form; and
  • Enable them to see impact and change over time to understand how investments are affecting outcomes.

 

A New Way for Urban Innovators to Understand and Address Community Challenges

Opportunity360 is a new platform that responds to those needs. It is a free, fulsome approach to analyzing and addressing community challenges using cross-sector data, sophisticated measurement tools, and creative community engagement techniques.

Drawing on more than 200 indicators, Opportunity360 helps provide answers to key questions facing those committed to improving communities and does so at the census tract level. To what extent do people in a given place have access to the resources, institutions, and services that create opportunity? How do residents fare in five categories fundamental to well-being: housing stability, education, economic security, health and well-being, and mobility?

The suite of tools and resources in the platform provides a comprehensive view into a neighborhood, enabling partners in urban development to work from common knowledge.  With this insight, they will be better positioned to transform cities by creating collaborative solutions, by making smart investments, and by facilitating a strategic, asset-building approach to community development. The ability of Opportunity360 to collect and compare data over time can help us better understand how our systems and policies affect the outcomes of low-income people.

As investors, philanthropists, planners, researchers, developers, and advocates, we must do more to create collaborative, cross-sector solutions that incorporate people, places and systems. By informing our work with multisector data and the knowledge of peers in other fields, Opportunity360 can help urban innovators offer more thoughtful solutions to our shared challenges and build stronger, more resilient communities.

Discussion

Leave your comment below, or reply to others.

Please note that this comment section is for thoughtful, on-topic discussions. Admin approval is required for all comments. Your comment may be edited if it contains grammatical errors. Low effort, self-promotional, or impolite comments will be deleted.

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Read more from the Meeting of the Minds Blog

Spotlighting innovations in urban sustainability and connected technology

Rethinking Coastal Property in an Era of Climate Change

Rethinking Coastal Property in an Era of Climate Change

The country has provided hundreds of billions of dollars to recover from recent coastal storms but done little to rethink the existing policies and programs that contribute to coastal property losses, or to define new measures that account for the new realities of more damaging storms and rising sea levels.

A key first step toward smarter policies is to improve disclosure of risk associated with coastal properties. This will require better mapping of areas at risk of both storms and rising seas. National standards are needed for disclosure of coastal flood risk prior to sale. Lenders and supporting agencies need to evaluate and disclose coastal flood risk.

How Cities Can Engage with Mobility as a Service

How Cities Can Engage with Mobility as a Service

By incorporating multiple transport modes into a single application, users can benefit from personalised services which recognise individual mobility needs, easier transactions and payments, and dynamic journey management and planning.

A fully comprehensive MaaS offering could mean the ownership of private vehicles is no longer necessary for people. As mobility needs begin to be provided by a range of services through a single platform, usership could replace ownership.

The potential of MaaS has been recognised around the world. In the UK, the government has included MaaS within its transport strategy. An expert committee of Members of Parliament concluded that MaaS has the “potential to transform how people travel” by boosting public transport, reducing congestion, and improving air quality.

Four Cornerstones for Integrating Water and Energy Systems

Four Cornerstones for Integrating Water and Energy Systems

The water-energy nexus is not new. The concept that our water and energy systems are reliant on each other is sometimes paired with a third issue, like food security or public health. This can make it more relevant to our daily lives. Despite a basic understanding of resource interdependencies, city and utility leaders still allow planning and implementation processes to remain predominately separate. A common local scenario finds the water utility facing system upkeep alone, the energy utility not considering other utility issues or city goals as they operate, and city leaders generally focused on more visibly troublesome urban systems, like housing or transportation.

Join OurEmail List

Join OurEmail List

The Meeting of the Minds email list includes tens of thousands of urban practitioners, city leaders, heads of agencies, CEOs, executive directors, start-ups, decision makers, and budget holders. Keep up-to-date with the future of sustainable, equitable, connected cities by joining this list.

 

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Share This