Breaking Free From Plastic Bill Is A Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing.

The Break Free from Plastic Bill seeks to address the problems of air, water and soil pollution from plastic waste.  But to do this, it includes Extended Producer Responsibility provisions that would force communities to cede control over their local recycling industries to the same large corporations that are responsible for designing and promoting the waste-generating products and packages.

Read More

Powered by WPeMatico

Ending White Supremacy Culture: Honoring the Labor that Got Us Here

Living Cities has learned that to do racial equity work with authenticity, we have to embrace a new way of working. It has to start with us, at the level of individual staff and project teams. As we set about creating a new network to advance anti-racist practices in local government, we are seeking to intentionally defy the norms set by white supremacy culture through our process. Through a series of resources, we are sharing the ways we are practicing antidotes to white supremacy culture so that we can continue to learn as we support your capacity to also design work in defiance of white supremacy culture.

Explore the rest of the series, including an introduction around ending white supremacy culture, and resources for reckoning with history, cultivating an abundance mindset, and naming what we mean when we say community.


As a collective of philanthropic and financial institutions, Living Cities’ decision-making processes for distributing resources have historically mirrored traditional philanthropy. A rigorous, time-consuming application process opens; the initiative’s target audience spends time pulling together application materials, proving their worthiness; we convene a selection committee; the committee makes choices based in part on the quality of application materials and in part on their personal relationships. Even as we began planning a network designed to undo racism and test different ways of shifting our practices, it took a global pandemic to make us pause, assess our process, and release. 

When we paused, we felt the weight of the process overwhelming us. If we are overwhelmed by our own process, we wondered, what must it feel like to be on the side of applicants? 

When we assessed, we saw patterns in the choices we had made as an organization. Our board members’ relationships had often been prioritized due to power dynamics, and we’d found ourselves in debates about which cities are “good” or “bad” or “better” at solving challenges that are highly complex and don’t have clear right and wrong answers. 

When we released traditional norms, we felt a sense of relief. It doesn’t have to be this way. And if it’s not this way, how might it be? That is when we turned to our values. We are steadfast in our belief that this work has to be grounded in values and anti-racist principles. 

One of our network values is We Honor the Labor that Got Us Here. To our team, this means understanding what it takes to push institutional change, to recognize people in the cities that we’ve worked with who are doing that in their institutions, and to honor the ways that those people have helped us push change internally at Living Cities as we learned from their work. This value became a guidepost as we reshaped our processes. 

We took stock of and spent time in our relationships. We felt the grief of the loss that people in our network were experiencing; we sat with the discomfort of being compelled to work despite this grief. We realized that, given the reality of Covid-19’s scope and impact, the uprisings for racial justice in cities around the country, the upcoming national election, and so many other unknowns, we had to do things differently. After a three-month outreach process, where we spoke to people in about 20 cities with whom we’ve worked in deep partnership in the past, we realized that launching a time-consuming application process did not make sense. Now is the time to lean into the relationships we have and to work together to deepen our collective competencies and capacities to be able to contribute to the movement in meaningful ways. 

This shift is deeply connected to our belief that racial equity is a process as much as an outcome. We seek to move beyond the binary thinking that suggests there is an “end” or that some cities are “on top” or “more successful” when it comes to racial equity. We are interested in investing in people within city agencies and departments who are willing to take on transformational racial equity work, including reckoning with history and the present. Ultimately, we invited six cities–Albuquerque, NM; Austin, TX; Memphis, TN; Minneapolis, MN; Rochester, NY; and Saint Paul, MN–into our inaugural Year of Reckoning cohort based on our intention to honor the labor of people who have been organizing and pushing for racial equity in their cities, and who have also pushed Living Cities through our decades of work together. These cities have been part of many Living Cities past initiatives such as The Integration Initiative, Racial Equity Here, City Accelerator, and Equipt to Innovate

Each of the cities in the Year of Reckoning have organized cross-departmental teams of 6-10 people. Over the next year, we will be sharing stories of their work and uplifting the labor of all team members. To learn more about each of the Year of Reckoning city leads, see their profiles, which we’ve been highlighting on social media: here, here, and here

When it came to identifying partners to work with, we wanted to apply the same intentionality around honoring the labor of people who have gotten us here. 

  • Third Space Action Lab (TSAL) was co-founded by one of the earliest anti-racism organizers at Living Cities, Evelyn Burnett. Without her and other Black women who have organized internally, Living Cities would not be where we are. We seek to honor her past labor at Living Cities and at the City of Cleveland by engaging TSAL as cohort lead for the Year of Reckoning, a role that enables them to shape the culture and approach of the Year of Reckoning experience. Learn more from Evelyn in this IG Live she hosted on our platform.
  • The People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond (PISAB) has deeply shaped Living Cities’ anti-racism work by delivering the Undoing Racism training to all of our staff at least once, and to most of our board members and partners. We knew without a doubt that their approach and commitment to anti-racist organizing principles would be central to the analysis-building efforts of our Year of Reckoning cohort. Learn more about PISAB’s impact in this reflection on our blog.
  • The Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE) has been a partner on Living Cities’ racial equity journey since we launched Racial Equity Here in 2016. GARE and PolicyLink are central to the Year of Reckoning experience as technical assistance providers supporting cities to operationalize their racial equity analysis. Learn more about our partnership with GARE on our blog.
  • Black Womxn Flourish has influenced our internal culture work to center a pro-Black vision, and is now playing a central role in advising us on how to design the Year of Reckoning experience in a way that centers the wellbeing of Black womxn. Learn more from Black Womxn Flourish in this IG Live they hosted on our platform.
  • Gumbo Media has supported Living Cities in centering humanity in our work through the creation of their magazine and other artistic products. They are building on this work to curate storytelling in Year of Reckoning cities and design our curriculum with a pro-Black lens. Learn more from Gumbo Media in this IG Live they joined on our platform.

Collectively, these and more partners shape the distinct culture and value of the Year of Reckoning.

How might you practice this value in your work?

First we recommend you take stock of your relationships. Who is doing the work in a way that aligns with your values? How might you deepen your most values-aligned relationships, and either commit to moving your other relationships toward deeper values alignment, or shedding where necessary?

Once you’ve assessed whose labor you want to honor and who you want to continue building with, bring those people together. We started designing the Year of Reckoning by bringing our partners from PISAB and GARE together, and then we furthered our co-design work with TSAL in sessions facilitated by Black Womxn Flourish. There is truly no substitute for stepping back and taking time to reckon with your personal and organizational histories, and reimagine the work ahead together.

Once energy starts to build around new strategies, step back and ask: who has been doing this work? How might you engage them, or at least honor them for that work and ensure you are not duplicating efforts?

With a solid team of partners at your side, it may be more possible to cultivate courage to break from traditional practices. Whether that’s relieving folks of lengthy application processes like it was for us, or another way of practicing the antidotes to white supremacy culture, work together to ground your processes in trust and care for each other’s time and experiences. From a place of deep trust and reciprocity, your work and its impacts can ripple far beyond any one organization. 

 

Image credit: Kim Dinh, sourced from JustSeeds




Powered by WPeMatico

Building an Ecosystem of Support for Local Governments to Advance Racial Equity

As residents are demanding racial justice and city leaders increasingly recognize that racial equity is integral to all of their priorities, it has never been more important that local leaders have an intentional ecosystem of support to meet their full range of needs, from data and research to training and policy support. 

In late 2018, Living Cities and four other national groups — Race Forward/The Government Alliance on Racial Equity (GARE); PolicyLink; NLC/Race, Equity and Leadership (REAL); and ICMA — recognized our shared focus on advancing racial equity in and through local government and committed to better understanding each other’s areas of expertise to strengthen the overall ecosystem.  While most of us already had bilateral relationships with the others, they were inefficient for information exchange and did not allow us to think together about what it would take to reach our shared goal using the resources, expertise, people power and extended networks of all of our organizations. 

After meeting in early 2019, we quickly recognized that the scale of our aspirations required field-level collaboration; together, we could go broader and deeper by leveraging each other’s strengths and could avoid confusion and duplication among local leaders seeking to support from national groups.  We also wanted to challenge the idea that organizations working towards similar goals are in competition with one another, whether for grant dollars or the attention of city leaders.  The result: a commitment to working together – regularly and intentionally — to build the field of practice of national organizations supporting racial equity in cities.

Recognizing that progress on building an ecosystem is only possible at the speed of trust, we invested time in getting to know one another – as people and as institutions – so that we could share honestly and vulnerably. We know that until we can name what we don’t know or what is not working as hoped, we cannot actually transform how we work with cities as a group.

The first phase of this effort has been to understand and work to our strengths, sharing information and filling in each other’s gaps by working with different audiences or addressing different needs. For example, we recognized that we each have different audiences we’re reaching. NLC’s membership is primarily elected officials, while ICMA works with city managers and Living Cities has deeper relationships with mayoral chiefs of staff and city staff who work on procurement, business support and wealth building. GARE is a membership network of local government jurisdictions making a commitment to advancing racial equity across the breadth and depth of their organization and often works with internal racial equity “sparkplugs” who are racial equity leaders within city government, while PolicyLink has worked to bridge internal and external organizers for policy change.  This has led to different role-alike groups for these different types of leaders, and at times, collaborative efforts, such as a jointly led cohort of local chief equity officers. In spring of 2020, all five groups were working to have a presence at the GARE annual conference, co-scheduling other convenings at this conference to make it easier for city teams to attend and work together.  While COVID-19 caused the conference to be cancelled, we have continued to support each other as speakers and participants for our virtual conferences.

Moving forward, the partners are starting to think and act as a field. The group is seeking to align around some common frameworks, values, tools and metrics.  For example, GARE’s normalize, operationalize, organize, visualize framework resonated with the group. Similarly, the Policy Link/USC Equity Atlas and Racial Equity Index can be used across organizations. The group also is exploring how to shift the expectations of city governments so that racial equity is seen as a core piece of both how they operate and the results the city prioritizes, through everything from societal narratives to strong community accountability relationships.

Finally, just as it is important for our five organizations to deepen our work together, we need to continue to seek to understand, collaborate with and leverage the unique strengths of other players in the broader ecosystem, building a national movement to make it an expectation that cities make racial equity central to both how they operate and to what end – and together support them to live up to these expectations. The ecosystem map below offers a sampling of the other players advancing racial equity in and through local governments across this country.




Powered by WPeMatico

Ending White Supremacy Culture: Honoring the Labor that Got Us Here

Living Cities has learned that to do racial equity work with authenticity, we have to embrace a new way of working. It has to start with us, at the level of individual staff and project teams. As we set about creating a new network to advance anti-racist practices in local government, we are seeking to intentionally defy the norms set by white supremacy culture through our process. Through a series of resources, we are sharing the ways we are practicing antidotes to white supremacy culture so that we can continue to learn as we support your capacity to also design work in defiance of white supremacy culture.

Explore the rest of the series, including an introduction around ending white supremacy culture, and resources for reckoning with history, cultivating an abundance mindset, and naming what we mean when we say community.


As a collective of philanthropic and financial institutions, Living Cities’ decision-making processes for distributing resources have historically mirrored traditional philanthropy. A rigorous, time-consuming application process opens; the initiative’s target audience spends time pulling together application materials, proving their worthiness; we convene a selection committee; the committee makes choices based in part on the quality of application materials and in part on their personal relationships. Even as we began planning a network designed to undo racism and test different ways of shifting our practices, it took a global pandemic to make us pause, assess our process, and release. 

When we paused, we felt the weight of the process overwhelming us. If we are overwhelmed by our own process, we wondered, what must it feel like to be on the side of applicants? 

When we assessed, we saw patterns in the choices we had made as an organization. Our board members’ relationships had often been prioritized due to power dynamics, and we’d found ourselves in debates about which cities are “good” or “bad” or “better” at solving challenges that are highly complex and don’t have clear right and wrong answers. 

When we released traditional norms, we felt a sense of relief. It doesn’t have to be this way. And if it’s not this way, how might it be? That is when we turned to our values. We are steadfast in our belief that this work has to be grounded in values and anti-racist principles. 

One of our network values is We Honor the Labor that Got Us Here. To our team, this means understanding what it takes to push institutional change, to recognize people in the cities that we’ve worked with who are doing that in their institutions, and to honor the ways that those people have helped us push change internally at Living Cities as we learned from their work. This value became a guidepost as we reshaped our processes. 

We took stock of and spent time in our relationships. We felt the grief of the loss that people in our network were experiencing; we sat with the discomfort of being compelled to work despite this grief. We realized that, given the reality of Covid-19’s scope and impact, the uprisings for racial justice in cities around the country, the upcoming national election, and so many other unknowns, we had to do things differently. After a three-month outreach process, where we spoke to people in about 20 cities with whom we’ve worked in deep partnership in the past, we realized that launching a time-consuming application process did not make sense. Now is the time to lean into the relationships we have and to work together to deepen our collective competencies and capacities to be able to contribute to the movement in meaningful ways. 

This shift is deeply connected to our belief that racial equity is a process as much as an outcome. We seek to move beyond the binary thinking that suggests there is an “end” or that some cities are “on top” or “more successful” when it comes to racial equity. We are interested in investing in people within city agencies and departments who are willing to take on transformational racial equity work, including reckoning with history and the present. Ultimately, we invited six cities–Albuquerque, NM; Austin, TX; Memphis, TN; Minneapolis, MN; Rochester, NY; and Saint Paul, MN–into our inaugural Year of Reckoning cohort based on our intention to honor the labor of people who have been organizing and pushing for racial equity in their cities, and who have also pushed Living Cities through our decades of work together. These cities have been part of many Living Cities past initiatives such as The Integration Initiative, Racial Equity Here, City Accelerator, and Equipt to Innovate

Each of the cities in the Year of Reckoning have organized cross-departmental teams of 6-10 people. Over the next year, we will be sharing stories of their work and uplifting the labor of all team members. To learn more about each of the Year of Reckoning city leads, see their profiles, which we’ve been highlighting on social media: here, here, and here

When it came to identifying partners to work with, we wanted to apply the same intentionality around honoring the labor of people who have gotten us here. 

  • Third Space Action Lab (TSAL) was co-founded by one of the earliest anti-racism organizers at Living Cities, Evelyn Burnett. Without her and other Black women who have organized internally, Living Cities would not be where we are. We seek to honor her past labor at Living Cities and at the City of Cleveland by engaging TSAL as cohort lead for the Year of Reckoning, a role that enables them to shape the culture and approach of the Year of Reckoning experience. Learn more from Evelyn in this IG Live she hosted on our platform.
  • The People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond (PISAB) has deeply shaped Living Cities’ anti-racism work by delivering the Undoing Racism training to all of our staff at least once, and to most of our board members and partners. We knew without a doubt that their approach and commitment to anti-racist organizing principles would be central to the analysis-building efforts of our Year of Reckoning cohort. Learn more about PISAB’s impact in this reflection on our blog.
  • The Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE) has been a partner on Living Cities’ racial equity journey since we launched Racial Equity Here in 2016. GARE and PolicyLink are central to the Year of Reckoning experience as technical assistance providers supporting cities to operationalize their racial equity analysis. Learn more about our partnership with GARE on our blog.
  • Black Womxn Flourish has influenced our internal culture work to center a pro-Black vision, and is now playing a central role in advising us on how to design the Year of Reckoning experience in a way that centers the wellbeing of Black womxn. Learn more from Black Womxn Flourish in this IG Live they hosted on our platform.
  • Gumbo Media has supported Living Cities in centering humanity in our work through the creation of their magazine and other artistic products. They are building on this work to curate storytelling in Year of Reckoning cities and design our curriculum with a pro-Black lens. Learn more from Gumbo Media in this IG Live they joined on our platform.

Collectively, these and more partners shape the distinct culture and value of the Year of Reckoning.

How might you practice this value in your work?

First we recommend you take stock of your relationships. Who is doing the work in a way that aligns with your values? How might you deepen your most values-aligned relationships, and either commit to moving your other relationships toward deeper values alignment, or shedding where necessary?

Once you’ve assessed whose labor you want to honor and who you want to continue building with, bring those people together. We started designing the Year of Reckoning by bringing our partners from PISAB and GARE together, and then we furthered our co-design work with TSAL in sessions facilitated by Black Womxn Flourish. There is truly no substitute for stepping back and taking time to reckon with your personal and organizational histories, and reimagine the work ahead together.

Once energy starts to build around new strategies, step back and ask: who has been doing this work? How might you engage them, or at least honor them for that work and ensure you are not duplicating efforts?

With a solid team of partners at your side, it may be more possible to cultivate courage to break from traditional practices. Whether that’s relieving folks of lengthy application processes like it was for us, or another way of practicing the antidotes to white supremacy culture, work together to ground your processes in trust and care for each other’s time and experiences. From a place of deep trust and reciprocity, your work and its impacts can ripple far beyond any one organization. 

 

Image credit: Kim Dinh, sourced from JustSeeds




Powered by WPeMatico

Leveraging Relationships and Centering Racial Equity

From local government officials to philanthropic stakeholders to Living Cities staff, this story is one in a series that demonstrates the impact Living Cities has across the U.S. — connecting individuals and highlighting successful initiatives.

Ashleigh Gardere

Executive Vice President of PolicyLink

I’ve been working with Living Cities for seven years now, since phase two of The Integration initiative in 2014, where a cross section of leaders in select cities intentionally apply collective impact, public-sector innovation, capital innovation and real-time sharing of learning.

My participation in this initiative truly transformed my work…

My participation in this initiative truly transformed my work — first as the Senior Advisor to former New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu, then as the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at the New Orleans Business Alliance. This new approach introduced a leadership style and discipline focused on the concept of shared results and changed our thinking of who needed to be at the table in order to achieve meaningful outcomes.

After Hurricane Katrina, the city of New Orleans was decimated and we needed to rebuild the systems necessary for civilization. We were able to do that with Living Cities and by leveraging relationship building and partnerships to uplift our city from a natural disaster, and to do so in a way that was even better than the systems we had in place before. It’s reminiscent of what we are experiencing now with Covid-19 and the potential we have to take a look at what’s working and what’s not so that we can radically shift operations and our ways of existing and organizing to reflect a more equitable future.

Today, I continue to take those learnings to promote and support the development of a shared, equity agenda on a national level at PolicyLink. By working across systems, building and leveraging relationships and centering racial equity across our work, we’re driven to make waves of changes for U.S. cities and communities.




Powered by WPeMatico