In late November, roundtable attendees gathered to hear updates on the Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity’s (CEO’s) strategic planning process and to provide input on key strategic priorities as the process continues. The session also included presentations highlighting the themes of racial equity and economic justice. In 2013, CEO took the lead in launching the City’s Shared Prosperity Philadelphia anti-poverty initiative, designed to alleviate poverty’s most immediate effects and provide pathways out of poverty, especially for those facing the greatest barriers. As CEO approaches year five of this plan, it has begun the process of considering what comes next, including reaching out to Philadelphians from all backgrounds to ask for their input.
CEO’s Executive Director, Mitchell Little and Dr. Argie Allen-Wilson, Director of Clinical Training, Couple & Family Therapy Department, Drexel University, and Founder/CEO of F.A.I.T.H. Inc., opened the discussion with a call for a commitment to courageous conversations as the first step to leveling the playing field. Dr. Allen-Wilson led attendees in an “Inclusion Revolution” exercise, saying that now is the time to turn to our connection with one another, while honoring our differences, to work towards Shared Prosperity.
Next, Mitch Little gave a strategic plan update, thanking attendees for their investment in our work up to this point. He highlighted the plan to shift CEO’s approach from fighting and alleviating poverty to promoting mobility out of poverty, economic justice, and equity. CEO proposes to focus on four key roles under the new strategic plan: advocacy, evidence based programming, convenings, and data and research. The new direction builds on strengths that CEO has developed over the past five years, and responds to the challenges and changes that have taken place since the launch of Shared Prosperity Philadelphia, including uneven economic growth.
Attendees had the opportunity to share their thoughts on CEO’s strategic priorities in small discussion groups guided by two groups of questions:
- What should we keep our eye on? What are the key metrics, trends and potential opportunities/challenges that will define our collective work in the coming year?
- Given our constraints, what changes in policy or procedures would you prioritize? What realistic city policy changes could have the most positive impact for individuals, families and communities challenged by poverty?
Roundtable attendees discussed a wide variety of issues and policies. Several tables suggested that CEO should keep its eye on employment and a living wage, a variety of housing issues, and the opioid crisis. For the second question several tables suggested prioritizing inclusionary zoning, just cause legislation, right to counsel and controlling tax breaks for developers. Other priorities for policy included local hiring, supporting returning citizens, and expanding access to child care, transportation, and healthy food.
James Crowder Jr., Senior Associate with PolicyLink, closed out the round table with a presentation on Advancing an Equity Agenda. The presentation helped everyone come to a shared understanding of the concepts of equality, equity and structural disparities, and offered examples of promising equitable development initiatives happening around the country. His presentation also highlighted the National Equity Atlas, an on-line tool developed by PolicyLink that allows users to easily access key demographic and economic indicators by race and ethnicity at the national, state and county level, and across major U.S. cities.
CEO’s strategic planning process is expected to be completed in early 2019, with the publication of a final report that will be distributed at a summit to be held in early spring on the theme of economic mobility. We will begin sharing more details about the event in the coming weeks!