News & Update

Leveraging Relationships and Centering Racial Equity

From local government officials to philanthropic stakeholders to Living Cities staff, this story is one in a series that demonstrates the impact Living Cities has across the U.S. — connecting individuals and highlighting successful initiatives.

Ashleigh Gardere

Executive Vice President of PolicyLink

I’ve been working with Living Cities for seven years now, since phase two of The Integration initiative in 2014, where a cross section of leaders in select cities intentionally apply collective impact, public-sector innovation, capital innovation and real-time sharing of learning.

My participation in this initiative truly transformed my work…

My participation in this initiative truly transformed my work — first as the Senior Advisor to former New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu, then as the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at the New Orleans Business Alliance. This new approach introduced a leadership style and discipline focused on the concept of shared results and changed our thinking of who needed to be at the table in order to achieve meaningful outcomes.

After Hurricane Katrina, the city of New Orleans was decimated and we needed to rebuild the systems necessary for civilization. We were able to do that with Living Cities and by leveraging relationship building and partnerships to uplift our city from a natural disaster, and to do so in a way that was even better than the systems we had in place before. It’s reminiscent of what we are experiencing now with Covid-19 and the potential we have to take a look at what’s working and what’s not so that we can radically shift operations and our ways of existing and organizing to reflect a more equitable future.

Today, I continue to take those learnings to promote and support the development of a shared, equity agenda on a national level at PolicyLink. By working across systems, building and leveraging relationships and centering racial equity across our work, we’re driven to make waves of changes for U.S. cities and communities.

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