Exploring Equity in Community Development

The pursuit of racial equity must be at the core of efforts to revitalize neighborhoods.

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Equity is understanding what an individual or group needs, and then determining how to invest resources to support those needs. Leading and working towards equity takes a more nuanced and sophisticated approach. It requires both understanding a given community and strategically matching the revitalization work to the needs of that community. This critical work is happening in real-time across the Purpose Built Communities network, and a group of thoughtful leaders from diverse backgrounds in different cities have moved from talking to leading with equity.

In 2018, Purpose Built Communities convened the first cohort of Equity Ambassadors, a group of executive directors from around our national network who are doing the hard work of addressing racial equity within their communities. This group was charged with devising strategies to advance conversations and action around race, equity, and inclusion across the Purpose Built network. They provide guidance to other leaders and draw attention to tools that can help neighborhood advocates learn and lead from conversations about equity.

The first cohort included: 

  • Kia Baker, Executive Director, Southeast Raleigh Promise, Raleigh, NC
  • Tammie Hoy Hawkins, outgoing Program Manager, Northside Development Group, Spartanburg, SC
  • Sally Mackin, former Executive Director, Woodlawn Foundation, Birmingham, AL
  • Othello Meadows, President and CEO, Seventy Five North Revitalization Corp., Omaha, NE
  • Danny Shoy, Jr., President and CEO, East Lake Foundation, Atlanta, GA
  • Kirk Wester, Executive Director, Growing Together, Tulsa, OK
  • Anne Whitlock, founding Executive Director, Connect Community, Houston, TX

This group benefited from the expertise of Race Forward, an organization working in partnership with communities to build strategies to advance racial justice in policies, institutions, and culture.

This important work has been expanded via a second cohort of Equity Ambassadors including: 

  • Katie Delp, Executive Director, Focused Community Strategies, Atlanta, GA
  • Autumn Glover, Interim President, Partners Achieving Community Transformation (PACT), Columbus, OH
  • Craig Glover, Executive Director, Northend RISE, West Palm Beach, FL
  • Regina Hall, Executive Director, of Boston-Thurmond Community Network, Winston-Salem, NC
  • Logan Herring, President and CEO, REACH Riverside, Wilmington, DE
  • Derrick Nutall, Executive Director, Renaissance Heights United, Fort Worth, TX
  • Jacob Peters, Executive Director, Bayou District Foundation, New Orleans, LA

The cohort model enhances the network’s ability to support one another in their work. With the continued efforts of the second cohort, nearly 50 percent of Purpose Built Communities network leaders now serve as Equity Ambassadors. Additionally, three communities will be conducting an assessment to help them establish a baseline of their efforts and develop specific work plans with their partners to advance racial equity.

“To be a change agent, you need to be there, to share the experiences, and listen to what those in the community want and dream of. It’s exciting to see the level of commitment and intentionality demonstrated by all the Equity Ambassadors,” said Michelle Matthews, senior vice president at Purpose Built Communities. “This second cohort will continue to go deeper into helping the network and Purpose Built Communities develop and implement strategies and tools that ensure community quarterback staff, boards, and partners are all more aware of and take specific actions based on a better understanding of how race influences positive outcomes,” 


Additional Resources

Listen to Leading with Equity, an episode of our podcast, This Is Community, to hear more from the first cohort of Racial Equity Ambassadors. 

Watch panel discussions on racial equity from our 2018 conference in Orlando and also our 2019 conference in Atlanta to hear the Racial Equity Ambassadors discuss what equity means within the context of their work.