I recently participated in a half day roundtable discussion in Oakland, California entitled: “Are there Solutions to Gentrification? Building Prosperity from the Community Up.” The session was hosted by Confluence Philanthropy and The California Endowment with approximately 30 attendees including representatives from Akonadi Foundation, The San Francisco Foundation, Just Cause, Self-Help Credit Union, Impact Hub Oakland, Cityteam, Veris Wealth Partners, Nia Global Solutions, Office of Mayor Libby Schaaf, real estate investors, and small business owners.
The diverse perspectives of the attendees created a respectful tension that inspired the group to question and broaden our thinking about gentrification and collaborative eco-systems. I walked away from the meeting with a more nuanced understanding of how low and moderate income populations in Oakland are being affected by public policies, housing demands, rising rents and low-wage jobs. And I gained greater insight on the economic forces that influence the acceleration of development and displacement.
I left the room with a renewed sense of urgency to think BIG as we work to scale solutions that create transparent marketplaces, practical education, and quality jobs; key determinates for upward mobility and wealth creation.
A few moments from the discussion that made me reflect:
1.) There are great misunderstandings between those who have an abundance of resources and those who need access to basic essentials for upward mobility. The “Haves” and the “Have Nots” rarely sit at the same table for fear of judgement, guilt and a lack of empathy for each other’s life journey.
2.) David Jackson, Director of Cityteam, and Shawn Ginwright, a Board Member of The California Endowment, emphasized that long-lasting social and economic impact requires human interaction and connection, and an inner-transformation of how we view ourselves and each other. By working together across class and race, we create a richer and more fulfilling life experience for all.
3.) We have spent enough time and money on assessments, and we have a good understanding of what the problems are. It is time to collaborate with key stakeholders, prototype solutions, create goals, and take action. The social justice community needs the proper support and time to imagine what is possible and to create long-term plans with milestone objectives.
The Impact America team spends a significant amount of time understanding the needs of the communities we aim to serve (from New York to Detroit to Silicon Valley) by planting our feet on the ground and engaging with various stakeholders in the community. The challenges we face in Oakland and across the country are real, yet my optimism remains. I believe in the ability to make meaningful progress and impact through collaboration and listening to voices from all corners.
In the words of Cornel West — “You cannot lead the people, if you do not love the people. You cannot save the people, if you will not serve the people.”
– Kesha Cash