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Is This the Eligibility and Redistribution Engine America Needs?

A former mayor of Compton, Calif., who oversaw the country’s largest experiment with universal basic income, thinks a new software platform can help bootstrap underserved communities.

TFIC Compton UBI.png
The podcast cover image for this The Future in Context (TFIC) episode shows an AI-generated photo realistic image of what Compton, CA might look like when and if UBI is fully implemented. (DALL-E 3)

Listen to this episode on the player below or subscribe for free on YouTube or the podcast app of your choice — Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Audacy and Audible.

There is no equity without data.
Aja Brown
Former Compton, Calif., Mayor Aja Brown grew up poor. Early on, she developed a sense of what could be for her community. Later, as an urban planner, she had what she calls a “heart to see Compton reach its full potential.” Once she sat behind the mayor’s desk, armed with a 12-point vision plan that reflected community needs and a determination to revitalize her city, she used the levers available to her to nudge Compton toward a preferred future. During her tenure, Brown focused on sustainability, economic development and youth empowerment, leveraging private investment to drive progress.

She also championed the Compton Pledge, America’s largest experiment with a universal basic income program, to help address systemic inequalities. That work has led her to the intersection of public policy, philanthropy and technology — where she believes data-driven solutions can be better delivered outside of government.

Show Notes

Here are the top four takeaways from this episode:

  1. Community-Centered Leadership: Brown’s tenure as mayor was defined by her community-centered approach, rooted in a comprehensive 12-point vision plan that addressed the pressing needs of Compton residents. By focusing on sustainability, economic development and youth empowerment, she aimed to revitalize the city and empower its citizens.
  2. Innovative Policy Initiatives: Brown’s implementation of innovative policy initiatives, such as the Compton Pledge guaranteed income program, showcased her commitment to addressing systemic inequalities. By directly delivering resources to residents during the pandemic, Brown demonstrated the power of combining philanthropy with policy-driven solutions to uplift communities.
  3. Technology as a Tool for Equity: Brown emphasizes the importance of technology, exemplified by platforms like Forward, in streamlining government processes and ensuring equitable distribution of resources. By leveraging data-driven solutions, technology can empower underserved communities and improve the efficiency and transparency of government.
  4. Continued Advocacy for Change: Brown’s work exemplifies a continued advocacy for change and equity in governance. Her dedication to empowering communities and driving transformative initiatives underscores the ongoing need for innovative approaches to address systemic challenges and uplift marginalized populations.

Related Links to items referenced in the episode:

Our editors used ChatGPT 4.0 to summarize the episode in bullet form to help create the show notes. The main image for this story was created using DALL-E 3.
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Carl Smith is a senior staff writer for Governing and covers a broad range of issues affecting states and localities. He can be reached at or on Twitter at @governingwriter.
Paul W. Taylor is the Senior Editor of e.Republic Editorial and of its flagship titles - Government Technology and Governing.
Ashley Silver is the co-host of The Future in Context podcast and a staff writer with Governing’s sister publication, Government Technology.
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