opportunity communities: how do we get to empowerment?

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  • 1. john a. powell Executive Director, Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity Williams Chair in Civil Rights & Civil Liberties,Moritz College of Law Forum on Collaborative Solutions to Inclusive and Sustainable Community Economic Development January 29, 2010Yakima, WA


  • Setting the Context:
    • Understanding how people are situated within opportunity structures
  • A new community development model
    • Institutions matter, but so do people
    • Communities of Opportunity
    • Expanding our scope to the region
  • Strengthening Engagement and Empowerment


  • Opportunity includes access to:
    • Healthcare
    • Education
    • Employment
    • Services
    • Healthy food


  • Homeownership
    • Hispanics 42%
    • African Americans 37%
    • Asians 56%
    • Native Americans 51%
  • Economic
    • Hispanic buying power ranks high: 3.5% of state total
    • In 50 top markets for Hispanic buying power, Seattle area ranked 29th, Yakima area ranked 43rd
  • Workforce
    • Hispanic workers account for 82% of agricultural workforce
    • Undocumented Mexicans account for estimated 70% of seasonal agricultural labor force

Source: Amy Loftis, Role of Hispanic Families and Businesses in the Economy of Washington State. University of Washington Figures for 2000. 5. WASHINGTON, contd.

  • Education
    • For 1998-2000, 16-24 yr old Hispanics who were HS drop outs was approx. 28%
  • Digital Divide
    • In 98, Hispanic householdshalfas likely to own computer as white households, and2.5 times lesslikely to have access to internet at any location (home, school, work)

Source: Amy Loftis, Role of Hispanic Families and Businesses in the Economy of Washington State. University of Washington. 6.

  • Yakima School District: approx. 75% of students eligible for free and reduced lunch
  • Almost 50% of population (25 yrs and older) with less than a 9 thgrade education is Latino
    • 5.4% is White
  • Latino median household income: $26,038
    • White median household income: $48,062
  • Latino unemployment rate: 20%
    • White unemployment rate: 6.2%
  • 8.8% of Latino households dont own a car
    • 7.1% of white households dont own a car

Source: Census 2000, SF3.http://fairplan.u31.infinology.net/ESL/ESL_charts/Washington/Yakima%20County,%20Washington_SF3_Language.pdf 7. TRIBAL COMMUNITY

  • In 1997, American Indian population 2.2% of total population in Eastern region (1.6% of total state share of population)
  • Yakama Reservation
    • Tribal enrollment 9,600. Approx. 16,300 people live on or near reservation
    • Unemployment BIA estimates 2003: 57%
      • 28% of employed living below poverty

Source: Yakima County Coordinated Public Transit--Human ServicesTransportation Plan, 2007. 8.

  • One community has no insurance and no hospital down the street
  • Another community has no insurance but a hospital down the street


  • Yakima County approx. 36% Latino
    • Almost 30% of Spanish households are linguistically isolated
  • Rural population has limited access to services inc. medical services
  • Other Barriers: Language, cultural differences, and staffing resources
  • So, no hospital down the street, language barriers,andliving in overcrowded, substandard housing
    • Major health concerns: Lead poisoning, respiratory illnesses, and pesticide exposure

Source: Census 2000, SF3.http://fairplan.u31.infinology.net/ESL/ESL_charts/Washington/Yakima%20County,%20Washington_SF3_Language.pdf 10.

  • A series of mutually reinforcing federal policies across multiple domains have contributed to the disparities we see today.
    • School Desegregation
    • Suburbanization/ Homeownership
    • Urban Renewal
    • Public Housing
    • Transportation

Disparities in how federalgovernment invested in people and in places. 11. Source: Barbara Reskin.http://faculty.uwashington.edu/reskin/ 12. Adapted from the Aspen Roundtable on Community Change. Structural Racism and Community Building.June 2004 13. Some people ride the Up escalator to reach opportunity Others have to run up the Down escalator to get there 14.

    • People are impacted by the relationships between institutions and systems
    • But people also impact these relationships and can change the structure of the system


  • We need to think about how to connect people physically, economically,andsocially.
  • We need a new model of community development


  • It may not be an issue ofconnectingthese structures so much as an issue ofcreatingthese structures first


    • Everyone should have fair access to the critical opportunity structures needed to succeed in life
    • Affirmatively connecting people to opportunity creates positive, transformative change in communities


    • Asystemsresponse
      • Where are your key leverage points?
      • What are the critical intervention points?
    • Equityfocused
      • Creating a community for all
    • Emphasis on strategiccollaboration
      • Across multiple domains
    • Openingpathways to opportunity through engagement
      • People , places, linkages

For more information, see our report Pathways to Opportunity: Partnership and Collaboration for Revitalizing the Rosemont-Walbrook Neighborhood available atwww.kirwaninstitute.org 19. 20.

  • Do opportunity structures in your community exist?


  • Are they responsive to community needs?

or 22.

  • How to make opportunity structures and institutions responsive to our needs? How to create accountability?


  • Organizational capacity- building:
    • Leadership and professional development
    • Strategic planning
    • Coordinated service delivery
  • Community capacity- building:
    • Engagement and empowerment


  • The less resourced a community is, the more critical organizing becomes

25. 26. Source: Manuel Pastor et. al.This Could Be the Start of Something Big.Cornell University Press. 2009. Page 47. 27. Regionalism: Growing Together to Expand Opportunity for All. 2007.Summary report, pp. 1-2. Equitable regionalism affirms the need forevery community to have a voicein the resource development and future of the region.It builds and sustains region-wide,collaborativeinstitutions withinclusiverepresentation and a common goal:improving the health of the wholeand expandingopportunity for allpeople and communities across the region.Equitable regionalism requirescomprehensive and strategic investmentin peopleandneighborhoods. 28.

  • Regional model is relevant for rural communities too, not just metropolitan areas like Seattle
  • Linking Regional Equity values with clients day- to- day experiences:
    • Focus on specific issues of opportunity or inequality that have regional dimensions
    • Educate clients: develop regional consciousness


  • think tanks
  • Community development organizations
  • Community organizers and advocates
  • Each of these has a special role in lifting up engagement and empowerment to encourage equity and growth at a regional scale
    • think tanksPolicy focus
    • CDCs and CEDs Projects focus
    • Community organizersPower in the community focus

Source: Manuel Pastor et. al. Sustainable Advocacy for Fair Credit and Fair Banking.Prepared forthe Kirwan InstituteDec