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WBJ: 5 Things We Can Achieve Together With A New Playbook

If our environment is to afford everyone the opportunity to thrive, from Anacostia to Georgetown and Oxon Hill to Arlington, we must rethink business as usual.

To read the original story on the Washington Business Journal please click here.


By: Stu Solomon - President and CEO, Connected DMV January 3, 2022

There’s no question that Greater Washington is one of the nation’s most critical metropolitan areas. It is home to the federal government, some of the world’s largest companies, 18 premiere academic institutions, and vital philanthropic and community organizations working to better the lives of all who live and work here.


Yet, according to the Brookings Metro Monitor 2021 report, Greater Washington ranks 51st among 53 large metro areas for racial inclusion, or the gap between the white population and people of color on key poverty indicators. In addition, the DC Policy Center found that even when District-born and raised youth find jobs, they are likely to be in low-paying occupations with little opportunity for economic mobility. In Greater Washington, inequities generally break down in an “East-West divide,” where neighborhoods in the eastern half of the region have high levels of poverty and distress.


While inequities are often complex and multifaceted, the data show that investments over the past three decades produced some short-term gains but did not make the kind of positive multi-generational impact necessary to begin to close the divide.


There are three key contributing factors at the root of many of these distressing figures. First, this region is deeply fragmented. Greater Washington is an amalgamation of 24 local city and county jurisdictions that span two states and the District of Columbia — without a common administration, legislative body, or budget. This results in redundancy, inconsistency, and missed opportunities. Second, the region has a more conservative business and investment climate due to the dominance of the government sector, which often limits regional thinking for solutions and constrains the resiliency that comes from a more diversified economic base. Third, investments to change the status quo have been episodic and siloed, resulting in benefits that are often short-term with little return on investment for funders, along with ineffective outcomes for our most vulnerable populations.


If our environment is to afford everyone the opportunity to thrive, from Anacostia to Georgetown and Oxon Hill to Arlington, we must rethink business as usual.

We need a playbook that establishes a unified collaboration model across our regional organizations and the public, private, academic, and community sectors in Greater Washington. This playbook and approach would enable the region to align and unite on a single, integrated plan to address our regional infrastructure needs and achieve durable economic growth and social equity. Aligning around a regional plan is possible – as other regional efforts in the U.S., such as the Allegheny Conference on Community Development in the Pittsburgh region, have demonstrated.

The time is now for Greater Washington to create a more rigorous model for the region to produce five key outcomes.

  1. Achieve equitable economic growth: Equip our regional organizations with the data and tools to assist with regional planning, evaluation, and development activities for equitable and inclusive growth by focusing on opportunities that create jobs and drive investments in distressed communities.

  2. Maximize strategic growth opportunities: Increase innovation, expand entrepreneurial capacity, and identify pathways from education to the workforce that prepare our region to capitalize on emerging industry sectors and technologies that create high-paying jobs.

  3. Market our region to the world effectively: Demonstrate that we are bringing together all sectors in our region – government, industry, academia, community and philanthropy – to work across jurisdictional boundaries, attract talent, leverage our strategic assets, achieve economies of scale, and realize our region’s full potential.

  4. Prepare all communities for prosperity: Focus on 10 key areas that are critical to making an impact on equitable and inclusive economic opportunities for all communities in our region: technology and connectivity, finance, workforce, education, public safety, transportation, food and water, energy, health care, and housing.

  5. Foster resilience and sustainability: Explore economic diversification strategies that reduce our region’s vulnerability to economic seasonality and structural shocks such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s time to stop admiring the problem and start working across sectors and jurisdictional boundaries to propel the region towards a future-focused and resilient economy where all can thrive. We’ve talked about it for decades — it’s time to deliver.


If you lead an organization in the region and are interested in getting involved in our cross-sector, cross-jurisdictional work toward real transformational solutions for Greater Washington, please contact us today. Learn more: www.connecteddmv.org.


Connected DMV focuses on initiatives that span local jurisdictions and require public-private-academia-community collaboration to best achieve the dual objectives of enduring economic health and social equity.

 

Stu Solomon is president and CEO of Connected DMV, an initiatives-based, charitable 501(c)(3) organization that works with regional organizations across Washington D.C., Maryland, and Virginia – the DMV – to help drive ongoing improvements to social, digital, and physical infrastructure.