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Eighteen of the world’s largest foundations and financial institutions have re-committed to work together for another three years within Living Cities, a long-standing collaborative. This marks the tenth time that these institutions have committed to harness their collective resources to support local communities. Unlike previous commitments, today they are explicitly putting racial disparities at the center of the collaborative and seeking to use their grants, loans and influence to close the racial income and wealth gaps in American cities.
“Overall trends are worsening and nothing validates this more than the growing racial wealth gap,” said Brandee McHale, Incoming Global Director of Community Investment and Development at Citi and Living Cities Board Chair. “While Living Cities can point to work in specific places, the most critical role it plays is changing the way we approach the work in our individual institutions so we can more effectively serve as change agents and shift the status quo in philanthropy.”
Over the past six years, Living Cities has been on a journey to infuse racial equity across its portfolio because it realized its race neutral approach was contributing to growing racial gaps. “Living Cities’ early work set the stage for what has become a defining organizational commitment to close equity gaps, expose the root causes of disparate outcomes for communities, and sit fully in its mission to embrace and implement real change,” said Maria Torres-Springer, Vice President for US Programs at the Ford Foundation, a member institution. “Its leadership… ensure[s] Living Cities can enter the next 30 years of its work positioned to tackle the racial income gaps in our country in ways that go beyond short term fixes.”
Living Cities brings together philanthropy with the financial sector as board members to shape Living Cities’ work and take collective action. “No foundation leader, no matter how gifted, and no bank leader, no matter how courageous, can take this on [alone] and win more than a few headlines. Together we have the potential to educate, inform and invest in the social change for which our democracy and economy cries out,” said Joe Scantlebury, Vice President for Program Strategy at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, another Living Cities member.
This collaborative approach also influences the member institutions: “The work of Living Cities fuels both my and Prudential’s purpose to create equity and reinforces our commitment to the effort,” said Lata Reddy, Senior Vice President at Prudential Financial, Inc., Chair at the Prudential Foundation and Living Cities Vice Board Chair. “My life’s work has centered around leveling the playing field and Living Cities embodies those same values.”
Through their involvement with Living Cities, these large institutions identify their responsibility in unpacking and dismantling structural inequities and racism. Living Cities will work with its members to break silos within city governments across the country, reckon with the root causes of the inequities, share best practices for dismantling structural barriers through policy change, and create greater access to capital for more entrepreneurial opportunities for people of color. To learn more from Living Cities’ President and CEO, Ben Hecht, about what this commitment to center racial equity has meant, click here.
“A country without racial wealth and income gaps may seem like a dream,” said Board Member Don Chen, President of Surdna Foundation. “But it’s actually a choice between an economic system that optimizes prosperity for a powerful few and one that ensures that the fruits of the world’s biggest economy are more broadly shared with workers and their families. It’s a choice between tolerating current racial disparities and taking action to make racial equity a goal in efforts to reshape the U.S. economy and its social compact. It’s the choice between deepening despair and a hopeful future.”
About Living Cities
Living Cities harnesses the collective power of 18 of the world’s largest foundations and financial institutions to close racial wealth and income gaps in American cities. Our staff, investments, convenings and networks support efforts that operationalize racial equity and inclusion in local government, create inclusive narratives, bring communities together to devise and act on a shared vision for the future, and eliminate inequities in systems such as entrepreneurship, homeownership and access to capital.
Contact: Jeff Raderstrong
Tel.: (646) 442-3236