In Nashville, Landmark Equity Policy Redefines Business as Usual

Posted February 19, 2019
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
African-American woman generates ideas for her business

In Jan­u­ary, the Nashville Metro Coun­cil unan­i­mous­ly passed leg­is­la­tion to increase the num­ber of city con­tracts award­ed to minor­i­ty- and women-owned businesses.

This is a big move for the city,” Ash­ford Hugh­es says of the new law — called the Equal Busi­ness Oppor­tu­ni­ty ordi­nance — which estab­lished pro­cure­ment goals based on race and gen­der. It’s a first step toward includ­ing more of the city’s res­i­dents in the oppor­tu­ni­ties Nashville has to offer.”

Beyond serv­ing as the chief diver­si­ty, equi­ty and inclu­sion offi­cer for Nashville May­or David Briley’s office, Hugh­es is also involved in the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s South­ern Cities for Eco­nom­ic Inclu­sion ini­tia­tive. Start­ed in 2015, the sev­en-city ini­tia­tive aims to expand job oppor­tu­ni­ties, increase wealth and boost wages for peo­ple of col­or and those in low-income com­mu­ni­ties. The cohort’s mem­bers all hail from the South, rep­re­sent­ing Asheville and Char­lotte, North Car­oli­na; Atlanta; Mem­phis and Nashville, Ten­nessee; New Orleans; and Rich­mond, Virginia.

Since the initiative’s launch, Casey has facil­i­tat­ed peer-learn­ing ses­sions and helped par­tic­i­pants devel­op inclu­sive poli­cies, such as pri­or­i­tiz­ing local hir­ing and strength­en­ing con­tract­ing. Adopt­ing such prac­tices is a pri­or­i­ty in the South, where racism and seg­re­ga­tion have left behind many peo­ple of col­or and sup­pressed eco­nom­ic mobility.

It’s great to learn from such smart, ded­i­cat­ed col­leagues about how they’ve expand­ed eco­nom­ic inclu­sion,” says Hugh­es of his expe­ri­ence work­ing with lead­ers from the oth­er six cities. It makes it feel like Nashville is not doing this alone.”

Some lessons that the group has learned, accord­ing to Hugh­es, include:

  • Pro­duce good data to dri­ve good pol­i­cy, includ­ing reports that mea­sure dis­par­i­ties and offer rec­om­men­da­tions for how to address them;
  • Edu­cate deci­sion-mak­ers quick­ly, pro­vid­ing them with key data and con­text for why eco­nom­ic-inclu­sion polices are needed
  • Give minor­i­ty busi­ness­es a voice, so that they can help guide pol­i­cy pro­pos­als by shar­ing their con­cerns and high­light­ing the chal­lenges that they face.

Vic­to­ries like Nashville’s show what can be accom­plished when cities take what they’ve learned in the cohort and act,” says Scot Spencer, asso­ciate direc­tor of advo­ca­cy and influ­ence at the Casey Foun­da­tion. We want to share these lessons so oth­er regions can use them to devel­op their own poli­cies and prac­tices to advance eco­nom­ic inclusion.”

Learn more about the busi­ness case for eco­nom­ic inclusion

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