The Value of Opportunity

How the next City Accelerator Cohort aims to promote economic inclusion and scale inclusive procurement
May 15, 2019 AT 11:00 AM
Baltimore, a semi-finalist in Cohort 6, aims to formalize a technical assistance, “sub-university” to train potential MBE vendors on ways to maximize the impact of city-offered services to create more competitive bidders. David Kidd
By Rodney K. Strong  |  Contributor
Chairman and CEO of Griffin & Strong, P.C.

All it takes is an opportunity. 

While Griffin & Strong, P.C. (GSPC) has been at the forefront of the fight for economic inclusion for over 27 years, new allies are being developed continuously. Two years ago, Griffin & Strong was invited to apply to serve as cohort lead for the Living Cities City Accelerator, an initiative supported by the Citi Foundation. We saw this opportunity and Living Cities’ focus on economic equity as alignment with our organization’s mission. After a competitive process, GSPC was selected as cohort expert.

The shared learning of practitioners, business owners and other experts across the United States has challenged, inspired and resonated not only with the cohort participants, but with our firm and now several other cities across the United States.

All it took, was one opportunity.

Two years later, the value of strategic cross-sector partnerships has increased, as public and private interest have become more intertwined. It is now of the utmost importance for firms positioned between the public and private, such as GSPC, and not-for-profit entities, like Living Cities, to find ways to create and maximize collective impact.

This partnership began with Griffin & Strong’s selection to lead the City Accelerator cohort on Inclusive Procurement, culminating in the release of our implementation guide, Culture, Collaboration, and Capital on strategies to promote economic inclusion in local government contracting. It continues today, as we work side by side with Living Cities and municipal governments across the United States to promote equity and economic inclusion. The decision that Living Cities made to partner with Griffin & Strong, a Black owned law and public policy consulting firm, has produced considerable impact for not only the grant recipients, Living Cities, and Griffin & Strong, but will now impact 10 new cities through the City Accelerator’s newest cohort, continuing the work started two years ago to address procurement inclusion, innovation and re-orientation.

The initial cities (Charlotte, Chicago, Los Angeles, Memphis and Milwaukee) took on the challenge of working to promote equity through innovation in municipal process and in turn inspired other governments to strive to be on the cutting edge of economic equity. It is our hope that this new cohort will continue to build upon the foundation laid by leaders before us, who understood the role and saw the potential of government in helping us to combat racial bias through a focus on intentional inclusivity. This mantle of leadership has been carried for the past two years by Mayor Jim Strickland, championing Memphis’ 800 initiative, and Mayor Vi Lyles in Charlotte, supporting the training program that helped businesses secure a contract with the 2019 NBA All Star Game hosted in the city and others across the United States who see the value in economic justice. Chicago’s procurement reform effort is continuing, nearing its conclusion, while in Los Angeles and Milwaukee, the City Accelerator has prompted new initiatives that are impacting inclusive cultures in government operation. This opportunity is now being extended to these new cities, whom we hope to support in the creation of economic opportunity for all.

We encourage you to become familiar with the approaches proposed by these new cities through exploring their visual pitches here. Each of the semi-finalists aim to couple the established best practice approaches explored in Culture, Collaboration, and Capital, while expanding these approaches through innovation. Baltimore aims to formalize a technical assistance, “sub-university” to train potential MBE vendors on ways to maximize the impact of city-offered services to create more competitive bidders. South Bend, Ind., is using its first MWBE Disparity Study to focus on implementing study recommendations and leveraging the $1.8 billion purchasing power of the top 10 local employers to create, stabilize and scale MBE/MWBE firms. The city intends to capitalize on this momentum to also impact distressed communities and Section 3 businesses. Similarly, Nashville completed a recent study, launching a new diverse business program supplemented by its Minority Enterprise Growth and Needs Study, designed to identify barriers for MBE business growth in Nashville and Davidson County. In Houston, contract sizing has precluded small businesses from being able to compete fairly in the marketplace. Knowing this, the city desires to break apart large contracts to create more opportunity for diverse firms.

This is only a small sample of some of the approaches being proposed by our next City Accelerator semi-finalists. Ultimately, it is our desire to amplify contract compliance and economic inclusion by not only demonstrating that there is power in effective procurement inclusion programming, but to scale inclusive procurement in a way that is actionable for not only those in the cohort, but for all cities across the country.

With economic growth happening all around us and the racial wealth gap widening, the stakes are higher than ever, and it is critical for each of us to get it right.

Someone’s future opportunity depends on it.  

Be part of the campaign for civic innovation at the City Accelerator, presented by Citi Foundation.