How many partnerships does it take to create healthy and sustainable communities for all? Tons. The opportunities are endless and the needs urgent. Just think about the challenges before us: rapidly accelerating climate change, unsafe drinking water, neighborhood flooding made worse with more intense storm events, western drought and wildfires, uneven access to safe and healthy local food, and the list goes on. That is why the Funders’ Network and Urban Sustainability Directors Network (USDN) have joined forces to provide financial and technical resources to communities across the United States and Canada through two grant programs: the Partners for Places general grant program and the Partners for Places Equity Pilot Initiative.
The four grant recipients in the Partners for Places Equity Pilot Initiative. This two-year pilot was created to provide financial and technical support to a cohort of cities and their place-based foundation partners, as a way to help local efforts use an equity lens in advancing sustainability and/or climate action. They are also learning together, and sharing their insights with each other to advance their work. Why is this important? Communities of color and low income neighborhoods are disproportionately harmed by the effects of climate change and environmental hazards, yet typically lack the political clout to ensure their needs are adequately addressed. That’s why it’s essential that decision-makers are equipped with the resources and tools to protect the health and well-being of their most vulnerable residents. The Equity Pilot Initiative is made possible with generous support from the Kendeda Fund and the Kresge Foundation.
The recipients are:
• City of Baltimore, Md. ($35,000): To ensure social equity is a key consideration and lens in updating and implementing the city of Baltimore’s sustainability plan, in addition to becoming a model that can be replicated and used across departments. (Partner: Baltimore Community Foundation)
• Knoxville, Tenn. ($74,000): Working with the Change Center Jobs Initiative and the City of Knoxville Save Our Sons Initiative to strengthen career pathways for young adults of color by expanding employment and job-training opportunities, mentoring students and entrepreneurs, promoting diversity and inclusion in the private sector and building the capacity of local government to address equity through a wide variety of projects. (Partner: Anonymous)
• Las Cruces, N.M. ($51,981): To launch a community engagement project in eight underserved neighborhoods that gathers neighborhood-level data and stories, and then brings residents together with city staff to address institutional barriers to equity in community development, climate preparedness, and emergency planning. (Partner: Community Foundation of Southern New Mexico: Doña Ana Communities United initiative)
• Providence, R.I. ($50,000): To better understand the needs of the city’s most vulnerable, address them in an updated sustainability plan and make equity a fundamental part of Providence’s Office of Sustainability’s work. (Partner: Rhode Island Foundation)
As a member of the grant selection committee, I want to extend our congratulations to all of our Partners for Places grantees from these spring rounds. We look forward to hearing more about how the partnerships and the projects develop over the next year, how they are shared, and how they can inspire other cities to step outside their comfort zones to work with diverse sectors of the community. I’ve learned a lot by just sitting on the selection committee with funders and city sustainability leaders, and I’ll learn a lot more watching how the projects unfold over time.