Talking Equity and Destination: Vibrant Communities with James Crowder

For community development organizations, practitioners and advocates; developers and housing providers, equity should be at the forefront of our neighborhood revitalization strategies. We already know this, but how successful are we at implementing equitable strategies into practice? Is equity actually the focus of our organizations’ community development strategies? Are we leaving anyone out of the conversation?

In his Destination: Vibrant Communities & Financial Empowerment Summit session Equitable Development Strategies: Learnings From Philadelphia, James Crowder of PolicyLink will facilitate an honest discussion about equity in community development, and give insight into successful equitable strategies.

Crowder has worked in the affordable housing and community development field for the length of his career, and says that improving the quality of life for low-income families in distressed communities of color is the overarching mission that drives his work.

james_crowderIf we head back to where Crowder launched his career, we’d land in New York where he started at New York City Housing Preservation and Development in a fellowship program. He had the opportunity to work in many facets of the agency, working with homeowners to encourage them to take out loans to improve their homes, strategic planning, preservation as well as working on LIHTC applications.

Next for Crowder was BCT Partners, a black-owned and led consulting firm.

“We were fortunate enough to have the technical assistance contract for choice neighborhoods,” Crowder said. “[We were] working with choice neighborhood grantees across the county to help them better implement their choice neighborhood plans.”

Following BCT Partners, Crowder was a program officer at LISC and focused on place based neighborhood revitalization in West Philadelphia. Today at PolicyLink, an organization focused on advancing racial equity, Crowder is a Senior Associate working on several projects around the country.

“We define equity as just and fair inclusion in a society where everyone is able to reach their full potential,” Crowder said. “The way that manifests itself in my work is primarily through different projects.”

One of those projects is All-In Cities, where he works with coalitions and city leaders in places like Fresno, Sacramento, Cincinnati and more to advance equity. The second focuses on economic inclusion in southern states. “[We’re] working in five states with partners to first better understand the barriers that folks are facing to getting employment,” Crowder said. The goal is to then develop policy campaigns in an effort to dismantle some of those barriers.

For him, now is the time to take action.

“Our country is changing. Demographics are changing. Our country is going to be primarily people of color by 2044. And the longer that we wait to invest in communities of color and people of color, the longer we do a disservice to our country,” Crowder said.

For Crowder, the focus on equity is as much about economics as it is morality.

“It’s in our best interest to invest in equity now. If we want to continue to be competitive in the 21st century economy moving forward — that’s why it’s critical to me,” Crowder said. “We can talk about the moral case and the injustice of the past and the housing policies that have gotten us to the segregated poverty and blight — we can dwell on that and talk about that all day long. There is a sufficient body of research on that already — ultimately, this is where we are right now. What can we do right now to get ready for the inevitable shift in this country?”

With a breadth of experience in the field, Crowder will lead an important discussion enabling attendees to realize concrete ways to move forward.

“The session is going to offer a frank discussion on the status of where things are in Michigan and some promising practices that other localities have done to address some of these issues, and space and time for folks to have focused conversations on what it would take to turn the needle there in Michigan.”

Follow this link for more information and to register for Destination: Vibrant Communities & Financial Empowerment Summit.