The Business Case for Economic Inclusion

Posted August 7, 2018
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Women working in a healthcare setting

Susie Fitzhugh for the Casey Foundation

Dis­in­vest­ed neigh­bor­hoods ben­e­fit from eco­nom­ic inclu­sion strate­gies, such as com­mit­ments to hire local res­i­dents and sup­port local women- and minor­i­ty-owned busi­ness­es. The pos­i­tive reper­cus­sions of these poli­cies, how­ev­er, don’t begin and end with the pop­u­la­tions they are designed to help.

In Bal­ti­more, many busi­ness­es and anchor insti­tu­tions — such as Johns Hop­kins Health Sys­tem and Cop­pin State Uni­ver­si­ty — have imple­ment­ed poli­cies and prac­tices that cre­ate eco­nom­ic oppor­tu­ni­ties for his­tor­i­cal­ly mar­gin­al­ized pop­u­la­tions. These insti­tu­tions also have reaped their own ben­e­fits from this work, accord­ing to a report from the Bal­ti­more Inte­gra­tion Part­ner­ship.

After inten­tion­al­ly shift­ing to sup­port eco­nom­ic inclu­sion, Bal­ti­more busi­ness­es large and small have expe­ri­enced stronger com­mu­ni­ty ties and enhanced employ­ee and client sat­is­fac­tion. They’ve also seen work­force diver­si­ty increase — a change that has helped improve inter­nal com­pa­ny deci­sion-mak­ing, accord­ing to the report.

Enti­tled Col­lec­tive­ly We Rise, the report spot­lights com­pa­nies and insti­tu­tions that have suc­cess­ful­ly shift­ed to sup­port eco­nom­ic inclu­sion in Bal­ti­more. These include:

  • SewLaB USA. The small man­u­fac­tur­er relies on local sup­pli­ers and empha­sizes the hir­ing, train­ing and career advance­ment of most­ly low-income work­ers from Bal­ti­more City. The orga­ni­za­tion also encour­ages employ­ees to become entre­pre­neurs, pro­vid­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties for work­ers to devel­op their own prod­uct lines and spin-off companies.
  • Bön Sec­ours Hos­pi­tal. The West Bal­ti­more hos­pi­tal — in part­ner­ship with oth­er orga­ni­za­tions — has helped to cre­ate more than 800 units of afford­able hous­ing while pro­vid­ing a range of work­force devel­op­ment resources for residents.
  • Notre Dame of Mary­land Uni­ver­si­ty. The pri­vate insti­tu­tion has part­nered with a social ser­vices provider that offers office-skills train­ing for indi­vid­u­als fac­ing social or eco­nom­ic chal­lenges. Devel­oped with input from an array of anchor insti­tu­tions, the train­ing pro­gram now feeds local tal­ent into the university.

The report also offers advice to insti­tu­tions inter­est­ed in mak­ing a sim­i­lar shift. Three key rec­om­men­da­tions are:

  1. Estab­lish­ing an explic­it com­mit­ment to diver­si­ty. Define clear hir­ing tar­gets from low-income com­mu­ni­ties of col­or and set goals to increase pro­cure­ment from minor­i­ty-owned firms.
  2. Help­ing orga­ni­za­tions expand their eco­nom­ic inclu­sion activ­i­ties. For exam­ple: Use resources to cre­ate direc­to­ries of work­force devel­op­ment pro­grams and data­bas­es that iden­ti­fy minor­i­ty-owned firms.
  3. Explor­ing col­lab­o­ra­tions. Con­sid­er what indi­vid­u­als, busi­ness orga­ni­za­tions, gov­ern­ment offi­cials, com­mu­ni­ty groups and faith-based groups can help sup­port eco­nom­ic inclusion.

Learn more about inclu­sive pro­cure­ment practices

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