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    An Innovator
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    Urban designs and builds data-rich, easy-to-navigate tools that governments, foundations, and community organizations use to inform decisions, identify gaps and opportunities, and shape evidence-informed investments to improve the well-being of people and communities.


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    Allocating Resources Equitably to Improve People’s Access to Neighborhood Amenities

    Screenshot of Urban Institute's Spatial Equity Data Tool.
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    Urban’s Spatial Equity Data Tool helped Los Angeles leaders make critical decisions about how to allocate the city’s budget to advance equity, including in residents’ access to renewable energy resources.

    We designed our data tool to help government agencies, policymakers, and community advocates assess geographic and demographic inequities in their communities. By simply uploading a dataset, users can explore a range of equity-related questions to determine, for instance, which Chicago communities are over- and underrepresented in new building permits or who is most affected by car crashes involving pedestrians and cyclists in Cincinnati.

    As part of a broader effort to help cities effectively use our tool, Urban collaborated with the Equity, Performance Management, and Innovation (EPMI) team within the Office of the Los Angeles City Administrative Officer to help them center equity in the city’s budget process.

    Urban’s data scientists worked with city staff to develop a prototype digital tool that integrates selected LA datasets with our Spatial Equity Data Tool. The result was the new Measure of Access, Disparity, and Equity (MADE) tool, which analyzes how LA allocates its resources, helping city leaders better understand disparities in communities’ access to amenities.

    MADE now lives in a custom dashboard that city departments can use to develop annual budget proposals that more equitably target resources across neighborhoods and demographic groups.

    The city’s Bureau of Street Lighting tested the tool to develop its 2023 budget proposal for new electric charging stations. Its approach is helping ensure that historically underserved neighborhoods are included as markets transition to renewable energy.

    In addition, EPMI promoted the new device powered by Urban’s Spatial Equity Data Tool as a key resource for the city’s 2024–25 annual budget process and included it in official budget guidance received by all departments. More than 300 city officials charged with developing budgets for 40-plus city departments also attended trainings on the MADE tool.

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    Ensuring Communities of Color Benefit Economically from New Property Developments

    Urban’s Capital for Communities Scorecard allows investors, community organizations, policymakers, and project sponsors to assess the potential social, economic, and environmental effects mixed-use, commercial, and other developments will have in communities. In 2023, the city of San Francisco used our scorecard to make sure it considered the social and racial equity implications of proposed projects.

    Young family strolling with baby daughter on city street
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    Urban designed the scorecard for just that reason: to help leaders make decisions that not only spur social impact, but ensure that Black, Latinx, and other communities that have faced discrimination have equitable  access to—and can prosper from—capital investments.

    In San Francisco, the city’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development incorporated Urban’s tool into its application process for almost $30 million in economic recovery funds. To be considered, nonprofit organizations were required to include their completed scorecard results in their proposals.

    City officials said that Urban’s scorecard helped them clarify the purpose and intended beneficiaries of proposed projects, which included a culinary job training center, a theater space, a music center, and space for a nonprofit that serves people with disabilities.

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