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Disrupting Inequality


Image courtesy of LivingCities.org

Image courtesy of LivingCities.org

United Way of Northern California has been sponsoring The Prosperity Initiative since November 2014. It is “A cross-sector collaboration of individuals and organizations interested in creating lasting solutions to multi-generational poverty issues and the effects of those issues in our local community.  The vision of Prosperity is to create a connected and vibrant community with a thriving economy that benefits all residents.”

The 2013 Annual Report of Living Cities featured Disrupting Inequality has a similar approach (particularly the notion of collective impact) to some of the same issues, which I believe is worthy of consideration. Check out their flashy website design too. “Living Cities harnesses the collective power of 22 of the world’s largest foundations and financial institutions to develop and scale new approaches for creating opportunities for low-income people and improving the cities where they live. Its investments, research, networks, and convenings catalyze fresh thinking and combine support for innovative, local approaches with real-time sharing of learning to accelerate adoption in more places.”

“America’s cities have long been engines of opportunity. For centuries, people from all over the country and the world came to our cities for economic opportunity. Sometime in the 1970s, however, despite the dismantling of many obstacles to opportunity enabled by the Civil Rights movement, this engine began to sputter. Our K-12 and higher education systems failed to keep up with a changing global economy. While productivity continued to rise, wages stagnated. Our shared prosperity, long the signature of the American form of democracy and capitalism, deteriorated. Today, inequality in income, wealth, and access to opportunity is at historic levels especially for people of color.”

The Living Cities report highlights new ways of working to helping cities, civic leaders and change-makers to disrupt inequality. They argue that in order to truly disrupt inequality, we must:

  • Disrupt the ‘teams’ and ‘scorekeeping
  • Disrupt the flow of resources
  • Disrupt the status quo in government
  • Disrupt the speed of adoption of promising approaches

Living Cities “works with cross-sector leaders in cities to build a new type of urban practice aimed at dramatically improving the economic well-being of low-income people.”

They believe that these four core elements of their work are key to these ends:

  1. Open-sourcing social change – working at the intersections of information, people, story, and technology to accelerate the uptake of promising solutions to social problems.
  2. Collective Impact – supporting ambitious data-driven, results-oriented cross-sector tables who work together differently to achieve large-scale results and enduring change.
  3. Capital Innovation – blending public, private and philanthropic financial resources in new ways to better meet the needs of cities and their residents.
  4. Public Sector Innovation – working with public sector leaders to foster more nimble, collaborative, and data-driven local governments.


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