As our country begins to look to the other side of the COVID-19 crisis, a tremendous opportunity exists to do away with harmful policies and practices and reimagine systems that enable everyone to contribute to and benefit from economic recovery. Growing evidence suggests that economic and racial inclusion is critical for boosting economic competitiveness, generating faster growth, and supporting economic resiliency. As leaders across the country seek to achieve more inclusive economic growth, they are coming to recognize that it’s not just about what you do but also about how you do it. Through conversations with local economic development leaders from the Shared Prosperity Partnership, we observed three overarching practices for making the economic development planning and decisionmaking phases more inclusive:
- Broaden decisionmaking tables to ensure decisions better reflect resident priorities.
- Rethink how capital is raised and invested in historically excluded communities.
- Collaboratively develop economic development equity and inclusion measures.
These practices represent a shift from traditional planning practices, in which economic development organizations request feedback from residents on a project that is already under way or prioritize economic growth at the cost of growing inequities, to more frequent, wide-ranging, and deeper forms of engagement that lead to more equitable outcomes. Although the research connecting a shift of this type to more equitable outcomes for residents is relatively nascent, many in the field believe that being more inclusive during the planning and decisionmaking phases of economic development is a necessary component to attaining more equitable outcomes and better aligning solutions with resident priorities.