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Igniting Systems Change

By Stephanie Gidigbi

The Systems Change Guide explores several key SPARCC concepts and approaches to advance systems change. It spotlights regional efforts and serves as a guide to actualize systems change from theory to reality. It also includes an appendix of tools & resources to assess and prioritize systems change activities.

Research shows that place as well as race matter and that both impact life expectancy and social economic mobility. While recent attention has been paid to cities experiencing rapid economic growth and development, less is reported about the vast majority seeing higher and more concentrated rates of poverty.

We live in a society of interconnected systems, structured by the “norms” of an America built on class and race. From our roads to our homes, social inequities are embedded in the concrete of our foundation as a nation. Government policies from the 1950s, such as redlining, continue to negatively impact communities of color – a situation that puts many once-thriving neighborhoods and regions at a competitive disadvantage. Highways divide us from our neighbors because of infrastructure built on American inequality and our collective investment in structural racism that devalues the moral and economic fabric of the country.

If current and past development trends remain the same, patterns of segregation, concentrated poverty and displacement will fail to meet the needs of America’s increasingly diverse population. However, there is an opportunity to disrupt the status quo and produce better outcomes for everyone. Over the next decade, the public sector alone will invest trillions of dollars in communities across the country to help reshape the built environment.

As a nation, we simply can’t afford more of the same failed approaches – economically, socially or environmentally. We must divest from the systemic inequalities that divide us and invest in equitable development—a range of approaches for creating healthy, vibrant, and sustainable communities where residents of all incomes, races, and ethnicities have access to transportation options, affordable homes, clean air and water, and basic rights to thrive.

Achieving racial equity requires an intentional commitment and inclusive approach that supports the empowerment of people to transform systems that allocate power and resources, in order to create communities where all people, regardless of race or origin, have equitable access to thrive.

The Strong Prosperous and Resilient Communities Challenge (SPARCC) ignites a systems change approach for altering the status quo through innovative practices and inclusive policy solutions that influence and institutionalize how communities plan, design and invest in community development projects to achieve a broader range of racial justice, health, climate, and community benefits. SPARCC seeks to advance an integrated vision for the future that considers and holistically addresses the interrelated root causes of racial inequity, health disparities, and climate vulnerabilities.

Check out the Systems Change Guide here

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