What Can Government Do?

Officials at all levels of government can do many smart things to make the current system of place-based antipoverty policies work better for urban and suburban communities alike. Modest changes can lead to greater scale, enhanced collaboration and integration, and more strategic use of resources within the basic contours of today’s system.  These steps would allow more communities and families to access the supports they need to find new economic opportunity and a path out of poverty.

States and counties can do more to help eliminate fragmentation by creating incentives for collaboration across jurisdictions either through existing funding streams or by carving out program dollars specific to those efforts.  For example, in Illinois, the governor signaled support for multi-jurisdictional collaborations by dedicating line-item funding to reward collaborative efforts that promote neighborhood stabilization efforts.

Counties, councils of governments and metropolitan planning organizations, which operate at a more effective scale for addressing the growing scope of poverty, also have a clear role to play.  Counties that are not positioned to address the shifting geography of poverty could work with existing networks like the National League of Cities and the National Association of Counties, to access information and technical assistance, share best practices, and engage leadership on efforts to create and support more scaled and integrated solutions.

At the federal level, a number of policy efforts are integrating by example by attempting to cut across traditional agency lines and thereby promote integrated solutions at multiple levels of the system.

Some examples:

  • The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) implemented the sustainable communities initiative regional planning grants by working closely with the Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency through the Sustainable Communities Partnership program;
  • HUD and the Department of Education are working to ensure that respective neighborhood focused programs such as Choice Neighborhoods and Promise Neighborhoods encourage on-the-ground coordination in low-income communities eligible for both investments; and

Federal policies in areas such as economic and workforce development and homeland security are elevating regional action.

Additional resources for government:

Other steps:

  • Communicate the findings to your constituencies in various ways
  • Host a hearing or town hall meeting;
  • Visit a local nonprofit in your district or area to see what projects are working and why;
  • Write an op-ed about what’s happening in your community and why we need to take action now.


What Can Practitioners Do?

Metropolitan areas will need strong intermediaries to facilitate the blending of multiple funding streams and to address capacity and resource gaps.

In many communities across the United States, leaders have emerged from the field of community development, schools, churches, charities, clinics and elsewhere to position metropolitan areas for success.  These regional “quarterbacks” are spearheading and supporting innovations underway.

Depending on the region, the quarterback may be a single entity or a coalition of regional actors bringing their skill sets together.  Community development financial leaders, such as IFF (formerly the Illinois Facilities Fund) or the Low Income Investment Fund, which have in-house financial and development capabilities, are positioned to engage in broader community development efforts.  These practitioners can help to build capacity and facilitate planning. Other intermediaries like the Chicago region’s Metropolitan Mayors Caucus, the Metropolitan Planning Council, can provide technical assistance and support to resource- and capacity strapped suburbs, and provide a regional perspective for integrated development strategies.

Additional resources for practitioners:

Engage local elected officials by:

  • Meeting with them directly or inviting them to visit your program or see the problem in their community;
  • Speaking out on the issue to important audiences you need to engage like the business community
  • Raising the visibility of your neighborhoods’ problem or solution with the local media by inviting them to see their program.


What Can Philanthropy Do?

Philanthropic funders are a critical source of support that can catalyze regional capacity in suburbia. By seeding and supporting collaborative regional models, philanthropy can help support efforts to expand and sustain the programs, systems, and networks that are often missing in suburbs struggling with rising poverty.

Some examples of what funders are doing to support and reward solutions:

  • In the Chicago suburbs, the Chicago Community Trust and the Grand Victoria Foundation provided seed funding for emerging collaboratives to address the housing crisis, allowing them to hire coordinators manage the process;
  • The Seattle Foundation funded the formation of the Road Map Project with other philanthropic partners in the region and offered operational space to the newly formed Community Center for Education Results; and
  • A combination of national and community foundations partnered with a handful of other agencies and intermediaries in both the Bay Area and the Denver regions to support the development of affordable housing near transit lines.


A Blueprint for Action for Government, Practitioners, and Funders

More can be done to support emerging regional models of scaled, collaborative, and strategically funded solutions that address poverty and promote opportunity in metropolitan America. To enable broader adoption of effective strategies government, practitioners, and funders can each take steps to get to scale, promote collaboration and fund strategically by following these tenets:

Getting to scale means taking steps to:

  • Improve systems and networks,
  • Promote high-performance organizations, and
  • Support smart consolidation.

Promoting collaboration and integration requires strategies that:

  • Identify and reduce barriers to integration and collaboration,
  • Reward integrated and collaborative approaches, and
  • Catalyze regional capacity.

Funding strategically and flexibly means that government funding streams should:

  • Commit to enterprise-level funding,
  • Promote strategic tools that leverage public and private funds,
  • Develop and maintain consistent, comparable data sources.

To set the stage for the successful implementation of each of these tenets in regions across the country government should commit to:

  • Regional planning strategies that prioritize and promote equitable development;
  • Building capacity in places where it does not exist to ensure that struggling suburbs are poised to absorb and implement resources; and
  • Strategies that engage and promote the regional intermediaries or “quarterbacks” who can help coordinate interventions across jurisdictions and policy silos.

Building on these near-term steps for long-term systems change in an era of growing suburban poverty, let’s rethink how $82 billion a year in federal place-based antipoverty spending could work much better for more people and more places.

Visit the policy recommendations page for more information.

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