Helping Universities Promote Economic Inclusion: A Step-by-Step Guide

Posted August 26, 2019
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Young family in West Philly.

Draw­ing on its work in West Philadel­phia, Drex­el Uni­ver­si­ty has pro­duced a guide to help uni­ver­si­ties and oth­er large insti­tu­tions expand job oppor­tu­ni­ties, increase wealth and boost wages for low-income peo­ple of color.

Drex­el is a mem­ber of sev­er­al net­works — includ­ing the Anchor Dash­board Learn­ing Cohort — that fun­ders like the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion are sup­port­ing to show how aca­d­e­m­ic insti­tu­tions can cre­ate bet­ter oppor­tu­ni­ties for under­served communities.

More than 900 col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties are locat­ed in neigh­bor­hoods that have been sub­ject to struc­tur­al racism and dis­in­vest­ment,” says Charles Rutheis­er, a senior asso­ciate at the Casey Foun­da­tion. Insti­tu­tions that are pur­su­ing an anchor mis­sion are mak­ing a com­mit­ment to more inten­tion­al­ly focus the full range of their assets — includ­ing their eco­nom­ic pow­er — to increase oppor­tu­ni­ties for res­i­dents in adja­cent communities.”

A Foundation’s report, Race for Results: Build­ing a Path of Oppor­tu­ni­ty for All Chil­dren, cites imple­ment­ing eco­nom­ic inclu­sion strate­gies in local devel­op­ment plans as one of the ways to cre­ate a more equi­table future for chil­dren of color.

At Drex­el, two lead­ers — Pres­i­dent John A. Fry and Senior Vice Provost for Uni­ver­si­ty and Com­mu­ni­ty Part­ner­ships Lucy Ker­man — have part­nered in this work for near­ly a decade.

Ear­ly on, Ker­man began attend­ing plan­ning ses­sions led by local com­mu­ni­ty devel­op­ment cor­po­ra­tions, large­ly in pre­dom­i­nant­ly African-Amer­i­can neighborhoods.

She also turned her atten­tion inward — to Drexel’s own expe­ri­ences and process­es — and set out to pin down where, exact­ly, the university’s inter­ests inter­sect­ed with those of the local community.

Her ques­tions for Drex­el were sim­ple: How do we hire now? How do we pur­chase goods and ser­vices? What is the expe­ri­ence of local can­di­dates? What are the bar­ri­ers to success?”

Eight years along, Drex­el has added more West Philadel­phi­ans into its work­force and imple­ment­ed a series of equi­ty strate­gies, including:

  • part­ner­ing with local orga­ni­za­tions to offer adult edu­ca­tion and work­force programs;
  • pro­vid­ing intern­ships through Philadel­phia Youth Network’s WorkReady Intern­ship Pro­gram; and
  • inte­grat­ing explic­it diver­si­ty goals into request-for-pro­pos­als process­es for large projects.

The university’s efforts — which have cre­at­ed new oppor­tu­ni­ties local­ly — fit with­in a broad­er nation­al dis­cus­sion about help­ing com­mu­ni­ties of col­or thrive.

The Nation­al Equi­ty Atlas, which calls equi­ty an eco­nom­ic engine, found that the U.S. Gross Domes­tic Prod­uct would have been $2.5 tril­lion high­er in 2015 if peo­ple of col­or earned as much as their white counterparts.

Read Drex­el University’s guide on imple­ment­ing local eco­nom­ic inclu­sion strategies

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