News Column

Living Cities Expands Collective Impact Initiative Aimed at Revitalizing U.S. Cities

May 15, 2014



NEW YORK, May 15 -- Living Cities issued the following news release:

Living Cities today announced the expansion of its signature effort, The Integration Initiative (TII), which supports civic leaders in cities coming together in new ways to increase opportunities for low-income people at scale.

Albuquerque, New Orleans, San Antonio, San Francisco and Seattle/King County will each receive a $100,000 grant and participate in a one-year planning process, after which a subset of these cities will be invited to become fully participating sites and receive additional grants and loans. Existing efforts in Baltimore, Detroit, Minneapolis-St. Paul and Newark will be awarded additional funding over the next three years.

"The Integration Initiative is helping us to understand how to build a new type of urban practice focused on addressing income inequality and disparate access to opportunity at a systems level," said Ben Hecht, President and CEO of Living Cities. "We are harnessing the energy in cities for achieving greater shared prosperity."

In 2010, TII awarded five cities a total of $85 million in grants, flexible capital and commercial loans to stimulate systems change. Selected sites applied a collective impact approach - bringing together decision-makers from the public, private, philanthropic and non-profit sectors - to address systemic barriers to meaningful change across a range of issues impacting low-income people including workforce training (Baltimore), economic inclusion (Cleveland), urban revitalization (Detroit), transit-oriented development (Minneapolis-St. Paul), and education and health (Newark).

The new TII sites will generate learning across different geographies and local conditions about how large scale change happens--especially when fueled by new ways for different sectors to work together, deploying private capital for public purposes, and harnessing public sector resources and influence for maximum impact.

"Cities across the country have different historical contexts and face different realities in terms of tackling seemingly intractable challenges like growing economic inequality," said Brian Reilly, Director of The Integration Initiative. "Expanding to new sites will deepen our understanding of how change happens in different geographies."

Over the past three years, TII has generated lessons on how realigning institutions across issues, sectors, and disciplines can result in enduring change. In Minneapolis-St. Paul, for example, five local and state funding streams have been redirected to support housing and mixed use development along the region's transit system to increase low-income residents' mobility. In Detroit, TII unlocked a pipeline of private investment opportunities for public purposes.

"The Integration Initiative has shown us the importance of using government and foundation grants to leverage private capital." said Rip Rapson, President of the Kresge Foundation, which is part of the Detroit Initiative. "This kind of thinking is essential if we are to reach the scale we need to solve the complex problems facing low income people in our cities."

Through TII, Living Cities has developed a framework for using collective impact to tackle complex challenges that is now being picked up by others. In May 2013, the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston adapted the TII framework for use by small and medium cities in Massachusetts. Living Cities is one of the key funders of the resulting Initiative - the Working Cities Challenge - which has recently selected six cities to address a variety of problems by building on cross-sector collaboration and strengthening civic leadership.

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