Our Work

We harness the knowledge and power of philanthropy, the financial sector, local government and community to close the racial wealth gap.

Living Cities seeks to shift the flow of capital so all people – particularly Black, Indigenous, Asian, Latine and other marginalized people – can build wealth through home and business ownership, investment, and other pathways.

Our Approach

The Living Cities Approach

We seek to shift the flow of capital so all people can build wealth through home and business ownership, investment, and other pathways. Our solutions drive systems change: diversifying who makes capital decisions; replacing harmful narratives; and transforming policies and practices that govern the flow of resources.

To do this, we interrogate where systemic racism creates barriers to financial inclusion and we test new approaches to equitable capital access – with local governments and communities, through impact investing, and through the efforts of the foundations and financial institutions who are Living Cities members.

Bringing together this cross-sector knowledge, Living Cities generates actionable insights and catalyzes collective action.

Defining Success

How We Talk About What We Do

Flow of Capital

describes access to the financial resources – private, public, and philanthropic – that are needed to invest, sustain, grow, and exercise economic power to pursue wealth and stability.

Systems Change

involves transforming social, political, and economic systems to achieve inclusive and equitable outcomes. It's about changing policies and practices that hinder financial access and growth.

Narrative Change

is our strategy to broaden the national economic conversation to present a more inclusive and accurate picture of the challenges and successes of building wealth and closing racial wealth gaps.

Areas of Focus

Addressing the Barriers to Wealth Equity

Current Initiatives

Closing Racial Income and Wealth Gaps

We partner with city governments to focus on the root causes of racial and economic inequity and encourage investors to steer capital into historically underserved and overlooked populations.

The Living Cities City and Community Engagement (CCE) team manages our programmatic initiatives.

Our Impact

A Track Record of Change

For more than three decades, we have supported cross-sector leadership to innovate, learn together and ultimately change systems to advance economic equity. Past initiatives have include:

In 2015 City Accelerator was launched, in collaboration with Citi Foundation, to foster partnerships between philanthropy and local government to drive innovation in cities as a means to help tackle some of their most pressing challenges and improve the lives of low-income residents. Between then and 2020, six cohorts of approximately 30 cities across the United States collaborated to address topics ranging from inclusive procurement practices to embedding innovation in local government systems.

The Racial Equity Here (REH) initiative, launched in 2016, brought together five U.S. cities committed to improving racial equity and advancing opportunity for all. Through REH, the cities worked with the Government Alliance on Race & Equity (GARE) to apply a racial equity lens to local government policy and operations.

Designed and established by Living Cities philanthropic and private sector members in 2008, the Catalyst Fund was launched to attract new PRI investors to the field by making the cost to invest low and reducing the perceived risk with the ability to invest side-by-side with PRI proponents such as Ford, MacArthur, and Annie E. Casey Foundations. The portfolio was intentionally flexible – a resource that could be deployed at the collaborative’s discretion to meet Living Cities’ emerging programmatic priorities.

The Innovation Teams program aimed to improve the capacity of City Halls to effectively design and implement new approaches that improve citizens’ lives. We partnered with Bloomberg Philanthropies to support a growing network of cities with dedicated innovation teams to help agency leaders and staff through a data-driven process to assess problems, generate responsive new interventions, develop partnerships, and deliver measurable results.

The Working Cities Challenge aimed to improve the lives of low-income residents by encouraging cross-sector collaboration focused on changing systems. Public, private and nonprofit leaders across Massachusetts and Rhode Island teamed up to help resolve economic issues in smaller cities – and challenged leaders in those communities to do the same.

The Civic Tech and Data Collaborative was a partnership of Code for America (CfA), Living Cities, and the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership, supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. We worked with seven communities around the country to understand how to harness the power of data and technology to increase efficiency, equity, and effectiveness in order to benefit the most vulnerable residents in our urban communities.

Starting in 2014, Living Cities invested in Pay for Success partnerships to test new ways of investing in human capital, and to develop a commercially viable market for doing so. Pay for Success, also called “Social Impact Bonds,” were a gateway to a more outcomes-driven approach to solving social problems.

In 2008, we launched the Project on Municipal Innovation, where we worked with the Harvard Kennedy School’s Ash Center to convene and support a network of mayoral chiefs of staff and policy leaders. We supported them to improve the lives of residents through advancing transformative change through innovation in city government.

Launched in 2010 and completed in 2019, Living Cities led The Integration Initiative (TII), a cross-sector, multi-city initiative “to transform the lives of low-income people and the communities in which they live.” In 2014, Living Cities launched phase two of The Integration initiative (TII), a systems change effort with leaders in select cities in areas such as workforce development, economic development, equitable transit-oriented development, education, and health.

Equipt to Innovate was a joint initiative launched by Living Cities and Governing magazine that defines high-performance government and empowers innovation. Equipt used an integrated, collaborative framework anchored in seven key characteristics of high-performance government — being dynamically planned, broadly partnered, resident-involved, race-informed, smartly resourced, employee-engaged and data-driven. It was used by cities in service of learning what works and driving better outcomes for their communities.

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