Connecting Communities to Close Racial Gaps

Connecting Communities to Close Racial Gaps

Living Cities has been committed to ending the systemic challenges to poverty for over 25 years. But despite the best efforts of this organization and our many partners, forty six million Americans are still living in poverty.

The field has evolved in the 25 years since Living Cities began its work–and it continues to evolve. But we know one thing for certain: if we want to ensure all people in the US can thrive, we have to tackle some of the largest, systemic, interconnected problems. And interconnected problems require interconnected solutions.

To better explore and solve these interconnected problems, Living Cities is committed to open sourcing social change. We have always been open and honest about what is working in our efforts and what isn’t. And we have pushed others to do the same, with the hopes that if we can learn together, we can solve our society’s most intractable problems, faster.

Now, we have decided to take these learning opportunities to a new level, and invite others to join us.

Living Cities is building a flexible online platform, which we call the Economic Opportunity Roadmap, to help practitioners learn from and with each other in real-time. The Economic Opportunity Roadmap, or simply, “the Roadmap,” is a community engagement platform that tells the user how to best get from point A to point B in terms of creating economic opportunity and closing racial gaps for low-income people. The platform will point out short cuts – but also barriers and traffic congestion – along the way.

Home page of the Roadmap platform

The Roadmap will be designed with and for the practitioners that are a part of our community, focused on enabling the most promising practices to be spread and adopted in more places faster. Practitioners who are doing the work on the ground will crowdsource solutions with each other, share best practices, communicate regularly, and access the best evidence available. We hope practitioners will share all of their learnings with others, because we believe that insights and evidence at all stages are valuable, from an a-ha moment to a best practice that has been tested in multiple cities. We plan to regularly highlight solutions on this platform that the community deems most valuable.

The initial launch of the Roadmap includes a small subset of our closest partners that have agreed to pilot the first phase of the Roadmap development. This pilot will focus on exploring two of our highest priority areas of learning:

  • What does it take to build an entrepreneurial ecosystem that supports entrepreneurs of color to start and grow businesses that create wealth for the entrepreneur and living-wage jobs for low-income people of color?; and
  • What does it take to operationalize racial equity and inclusion into an organization’s operations (including philanthropy, private sector and public sector)?

We will continue to grow and evolve the Roadmap based on the findings from this pilot phase, and invite other users to join. We are actively working with several partners on this pilot, including: Context Partners, which is helping us design and implement a set of community engagement strategies to foster and facilitate connections across our network and to help us create a “network of networks”; Slalom, a Salesforce developer that built our pilot platform based on our specific hypotheses and assumptions about our community; and the Gates Foundation, which pioneered a similar “community in a box” model for their post-secondary programming, and we are actively learning from their success.

In true open-source fashion, we are excited to share more with you about the Economic Opportunity Roadmap as it grows and develops. If you are interested in learning more about the Roadmap, and potentially joining as a user as we expand it, you can subscribe to our list here. If you think you are a good fit for joining the current pilots, and have experience to share related to the two questions above, you can email

If you have any questions or want to share your story on your racial equity journey, please email


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