Denise Fairchild

Inclusive Procurement and Contracting


Inclusive Procurement and Contracting:

Building a Field of Policy and Practice

Denise Fairchild and Kalima Rose

 "Announcing New Study on Inclusive Procurement and Contracting"   

This study, co-authored by Emerald Cities and PolicyLink, and generously supported by a grant from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, surveys the current landscape on inclusive procurement and contracting policies and practices in the infrastructure and construction industries. The goal was to specifically determine how to best position minority-owned, women-owned, and disadvantaged businesses (MWDBEs) to effectively compete for large-scale construction projects in these industries.

A successful inclusive procurement program of action is key not only to providing jobs, but also to closing the wealth gap needed to secure the well-being and future of children, families, and the regions in which they live.

This report details the rationale for inclusive practices in this industry and includes historical and current equitable development policies and trends. It also identifies challenges and best practices and sets forth recommendations for strengthening the field of practice. The report provides insight into inclusive procurement and contracting policies within the energy, water, transportation, health, education, and public housing sectors. It also considers the field of practice in different geographic regions of the United States.

Read The Full Report

Working Hard for the Next Generation


October was a stimulating month. I took a journey into the Emerald field and was blessed with a close-up and personal reminder of what Emerald Cities is all about: The Next Generation!

As part of a week-long trek, I participated in the 35-year celebration of YouthBuild, USA, the annual fundraiser for PACT (Pre-apprenticeship Construction Training Program) at the Seattle Vocational Training Institute, and Georgia Trade Up’s graduation of their first class of pre-apprentice tradeswomen. What I witnessed was emotionally impactful. I reveled in the amazing work of our labor and community partners building a stronger, better future for our youth. They are preparing them for good-paying careers  not just jobs  in the construction industry. Each of these programs represents ground-breaking alliances between community and labor, forging new relationships that have historically been non-existent and sometimes, adversarial. Seattle's Business and Construction Trades Council President Lee Nugent best exemplified the quality of this labor-community partnership.

I felt like I was back in church when Lee locked the doors (figuratively) at the PACT fundraiser and wouldn’t let the 350 dinner guests go until we had completely emptied our pockets. “OK,” he bellowed, “it takes $9,000 to train one pre-apprentice. Who wants to donate $9,000?” A hand goes up. Dropping at 1k increments and bottoming out at $50, Lee filled the coffers until even the least of us could contribute more. And, like church and a good minister on a money mission, we felt blessed and grateful for the opportunity to tithe and to go home. This was signature Emerald Cities. 

The most rewarding experience, however, was hearing directly from the participants. Ryan's story is included in this month's news. But, I heard from so many more about what these programs are doing for them. They recounted their struggles: drugs, crime, educational competence, single parenthood, women working in non-traditional careers. I heard their dreams: to give my son a better life, to make my family proud of me, to prove that I am somebody, to find a better way. I saw their resolve: to not give up, to reach out for help, to never go back. I saw their tears of joy, their expression of gratitude and appreciation for those that helped along the way; their pride of accomplishment. It brought me to tears on several occasions and it reminded me what the work of ECC is all about.

ECC’s quest to transform our regional economies – to make them greener, healthier, more equitable, and economically vibrant – is not about the baby boomers (my generation). It may not even be about the X-Generation (my oldest son). It is about the Millenials (my youngest son). The Millenials (and beyond) are the generation born for change. They are the generation that will be most affected by climate change. They are the ones who understand and care most about environmental issues. They are the ones who will need careers and incomes sufficient to support the retirement needs of the Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers. They are the ones for whom inter-generational equity is paramount. We owe them a sustainable economy where we “meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” We owe them healthy communities and better lifestyles. We owe them an economy that produces good careers, pays well, offers benefits and dignity. We owe them a high road economy.

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The Mondragon Experience - Part Two


“Progress is not acquiring more, but being more, acting better, giving more of oneself” - Don Jose Maria Arizmendiarrieta, Mondragon Founder

In Part I, I recounted my experience in Arrasate-Mondragon in Basque County, Spain with a delegation of labor and community leaders. We spent a week as MIT Fellows exploring worker-owned cooperatives as an alternative model of worker democracy. Last month I highlighted several of the important operating principles—inter-cooperation, wage solidarity, transparency, confidence, among others—and pondered its applicability to addressing poverty in America. Part II of the Mondragon reflections goes beyond the power of the cooperative enterprise and focuses more on the underlying social and cultural values that, I suggest, is an unstated but critical part of Mondragon’s economic success.

If the Mondragon story is any example, our relationship to capital and work is only a part of a high road economy. It is not just about high wage jobs. Green jobs and concerns about how to share its economic outputs must entail a broader set of outcome measures. It is also about our relationship to one another, family, community and nature. I learned so much more that cooperative economics on my learning journey throughout the Basque country. Among the profound observations were:

  1. The unspeakable and unbelievable natural beauty of lakes, rivers, valleys, and mountains as vibrant backdrops to a more simple and holistic lifestyle.
  2. A strong cultural identity and pride, and a history of independence unbroken by wars, conquest, and attempts at cultural imperialism by Romans, Moors, Spaniards and so many others.
  3. An amazing commitment to family with public expressions of inter-generational care and love.
  4. A vibrant community life– every day, everywhere the streets were alive with dancing, eating, playing, talking and just being.
  5. An enlightened energy consciousness, including demand response energy systems in every building, coupled with renewable energy sources. That the lack of residential air conditioning facilitated, an active community/street life, especially on hot days.

None of these social, cultural, environmental or community factors were discussed as part of the Mondragon Cooperative Program. But, they were obvious to even the most casual observer. It is all part and partial of the Mondragon/Basque Country experience. Worker-owned cooperatives without these quality of life elements would be less meaningful. Or put another way, it is, perhaps, these factors that make worker-owned cooperatives as powerful as they are. It is a different lifestyle; one that defines what it is to be in the Basque Experience. How people live – cooperatively, with trust and confidence and respect for nature – is an extension of their natural course of being.

And so while some of us are in the collective struggle to define new strategies to build community wealth, let’s not forget to struggle to rebuild the essential social, cultural and environmental supports to make it work, and apply it across a more highly diverse American culture. New statistics show US residents residents with high levels of life stress, family disintegration, public health challenges, and disconnect from nature. Is it a wonder that the New Economics Foundation's Happy Planet 2012 Index ranks the US 105out of 151 countries? This ranking isbased on” how many long, happy and sustainable lives they provide for the people that live in them per unit of environmental output.

As we build out our clean economy program, when do we start that conversation and how do we begin to measure these social, environmental and community values, and to take action? I am pleased that our Emerald Cities family has taken on the challenge of building a new organizational rubric and metrics that push on the multi-dimensionality of our vision of a high road economy that balances environment, community, and equity. The Basque region seems to have figured out the full package.

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The Mondragon Experience - Part One


It’s not about GDP. Nor jobs. To me, it’s even beyond the quest for economic democracy. Freshly minted from a two-week journey to Basque Country in northern Spain, I am ever more fervent about our sustainability work addressing core quality of life issues. Our relationship to capital and work is only a part of the clean economy agenda. Green jobs and concerns about how to share its economic outputs must entail a broader set of outcome measures. It also is about our relationship to one another, family, community and nature. As we build out our clean economy program, when do we start that conversation and how do we begin to measure it to take action?

As an MIT Mel King Fellow, I was part of a 20-person labor-community delegation that completed a 40 hour learning journey on the Mondragon Cooperative Experience. A week in Arrasate-Mondragon in Basque County, Spain opened us all to new ideas and challenges. We learned about the origin and evolution of the Mondragon cooperatives, the organizational structure and management model for their 120 (and growing) cooperative empire, the culture and value of cooperatives as well as the financing, education and market strategy for the cooperative movement. We went to the factories. Met with the workers. Talked to the Cooperatives bankers, trainers, university faculty, and officials from numerous cooperative units. And, even among a delegation rooted in economic justice and equitable development work, the experience was a frontal assault on our sensibilities and approach to economic development. Clearly, they face the challenges of the global economy, but with over 85,000 employees, an unemployment rate 6% below Spain’s, and a growing international operation, the cooperative model offers a lot to learn.

For me, there were several mind-thumping concepts: inter-cooperation being the most profound. Business units (n=120) share each other’s profits and losses to ensure the integrity of the entire movement. My! My! Imagine how that might redefine our Third Sector Economy or even our labor-community partnerships. The other prevailing principles, expressed again and again by many voices included: wage solidarity (between labor and management), confidence/trust among members, the collective over the individual, the role of information in advancing equity, and of course collective ownership. Clearly, my colleagues and I have a lot of downloading and sorting to do before our fellowship journey is over. Can we get close to building a new economic framework of jobs and justice that even comes close?

But as profound as all that was, it was only the beginning of the experiential learning. I observed so many more mind altering conditions… To be continued next month.

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Obama's 'All Above' and 'All In' Plan


President Obama is stepping it up. His climate action plan rightfully credits important progress during his first term. But the plan recognizes that there is so much more to do. Not only in prevention but also climate change adaptation. The good news is that the President hasn’t backed down. Read his lips. Climate change is real. Climate change is here. It is our moral obligation to do something about it! The quality of life for our children and future generations are at stake. Now that’s bringing it home. It offers a more personal as opposed to scientific argument about why a clean energy future needs to happen now.

These bold pronouncements by the Administration in the face of the aggressive backlash and resistance to climate change science and initiatives are courageous. The easy thing to do would have been to forget it and ‘ostrich’ the problems. The legacy industries and their congressional friends are probably not happy. But, I am certain that many of our colleagues in the clean energy community are not happy either. We obviously need and want more.

Obama has proposed an all above, incremental approach to a clean energy future. The Administration is tackling the problems sector by sector in ways that are palatable. There is a different strategy for the utility, agriculture, manufacturing, commercial, health and government sectors. An array of instruments and tools are proposed to drive change – incentives, loan programs, regulations, collaborations, research and development, and more. Whew! That’s a lot to keep track of and to scale up into an impact agenda. It would be easier – in some sense – and many would prefer a more sweeping, comprehensive plan that would include a cost accounting for carbon pollution and perhaps a market driven approach to carbon, such as the cap and trade approach used in California. And of course, there is some concern about what’s on the trading block… clean coal? Public lands? Keystone?

Well, there is no perfect solution, especially given today’s political landscape. And we cannot stop progress in search of perfection. Let’s keep making progress. Let’s keep calling out climate change for what it is -- global public enemy number one. Let’s keep working on a new and different energy future. As Obama advances an ‘all above’ climate plan, the rest of us need to commit to an ‘all in’ plan. Are you ready to give up cheap energy? Drive more efficient cars (or take the bus)? Pay for energy smart appliances? Buy local? Retrofit our homes and businesses? I’m working on it. Hope you are too. Read the Plan here.

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The Nexus of Community Health And Wealth


Community Institutions – our schools, universities, libraries, churches, and health institutions – have always anchored our communities with essential services. We turn to them to nourish and shelter our minds, our bodies and our spirits. And increasingly, given dwindling corporate responsibility, we rely upon them to drive the local economy. The real estate, financial and human capital that they bring into a community is substantial. ECC’s efforts to partner with these “anchor institutions” is taking root throughout our local markets. Our directors, for example, are working with community colleges, churches and affordable housing developers. The logic and apparent success of these efforts are grounded in our like-minded and complementary missions. Anchor institutions are mission driven; unable to detach their institutional purpose and viability from the well-being of their core constituents and surrounding communities. ECC’s goal is to help these institutions meet their core mission (education, health, housing, religions, etc) with their fiduciary and legal responsibilities as an organization, while also addressing the broader environmental, economic and social needs of the community. Such solutions not only fulfill the mission of Emerald Cities, but reinforce the economic well-being of the partnering institutions. It is for this reason that ECC is now engaging in a strategic dialogue with health institutions and leaders. ECC is partnering with The California Endowment, Health Care without Harm, BlueGreen Alliance, SEIU, MIT Co-Lab, among others to engage California health and community leaders around building a Sustainable/Green Health movement. Clearly, hospitals and other health institutions around the US are undertaking innovative community and public health strategies as inroads to personal health and well-being. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) gives new urgency and legal standing to devising community benefit programs that incorporate environmental and community health factors. Moreover, as the third largest emitters of green house gas, as well as one of the largest users of hazardous materials, hospital and medical facilities have an important role to play in improving community and environmental health. The strategic question is how do we green the health sector inside and out to make a visible and material difference in not only community health, but also community wealth. Imagine the economic impact of energy efficient facilities, green procurement policies and practices along the supply chain, effective hazardous and waste management. The work of University Hospital in Cleveland, Kaiser Permanente, Catholic Health Charities provide proof of concept. Let’s take this to scale. We look forward to working with our health partners and contributing our unique solution – energy efficiency – to this promise of Community Health and Community Wealth.

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Adaptation: Peril or Promise?


I am a bit troubled by the growing interest in climate change adaptation and resiliency. Are you? To me, it signals that we have given up on climate change mitigation. The subliminal message is that it is too hard and too late to stop global warming. That, in fact, the best we can do is “ drop, duck and cover” (that’s California earthquake speak!). This sentiment may be bit exaggerated, but it does force a reality check for us climate change warriors. Clearly, the scale of the problem does not equal the extant resource commitments. Change is underway, but we are not just fighting climate change, we are up against an organized lobby of climate change deniers, legacy industries fighting viciously for its last gasp, a still nascent and vastly underdeveloped alternative energy sector, Joe/Jane public who believe in climate change but only nominally contribute – for a variety of reasons -- to the solution, and a national policy environment that is paralyzed by the politics of it all. So, in the face of these ground battles, I worry that the shift to issues of adaptation and resilience will pull already limited attention, resources, people and time away from prevention. The inevitability of climate change and adaptation then becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

But, there is more to my mental madness. In reality, I do feel that it is a smart move to figure out how to manage the impacts to life, lifestyle and habitat that climate change brings. As NY Governor Cuomo reminded us after Hurricane Sandy, we are experiencing the 100-year flood every 2 years. What concerns me, however, are the Equity Dimensions of Adaptation. The language and science of Adaptation grows out of Darwin’s study of natural selection and accentuates a “survival of the fittest’ ethos, which many Americans already embrace as our cultural norm. Now that is scary stuff. Once again this may be hyperbole, but it should also give Adaptation advocates pause. The reality here is that too many communities already go without adequate food, water, shelter, health care and other basic needs. Adaptation strategies must address a century of underinvestment in the physical infrastructure and the civic capacity found in resilient communities. Are we prepared to make the kind of investments needed to build a resilient society? Are we prepared to channel the political and moral authority and the economic resources needed to protect America’s most vulnerable? These are some of the questions that some of us will be exploring at the Inaugural National Adaptation Forum in Denver in April.

No matter what path we chose -- mitigation or adaptation -- the lift is heavy. It requires the political, moral, economic and social capacity that is yet evident to address the many dimensions of climate change. This is particularly challenging since we don’t have the luxury to choose one over another; we need to do both!! My hope is that this national “shift” to an Adaptation frame includes “mitigation or prevention” as the centerpiece to Adaptation. And most importantly, that perhaps America will fully confront climate change justice issues to ensure that all populations and communities, especially the most economically vulnerable, have the resources and capacities to be resilient now and in a climate disaster. Now that is a hopeful and promising thought!

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A New Year, A New Resolve


January always presents a new beginning. It magically opens up space for new resolve, perspectives, and energy (pun intended) to be better and do more. The good news for 2013 on the national front is the reboot of a progressive mandate. Witness the Administration’s new resolve to tackle the three E’s - the economy, the environment, and equality (Inaugural Address, 2013):

For we, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it. We believe that America’s prosperity must rest upon the broad shoulders of a rising middle class. We know that America thrives when every person can find independence and pride in their work; when the wages of honest labor liberate families from the brink of hardship... We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations... The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult.  But America cannot resist this transition, we must lead it... We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths –- that all of us are created equal –- is the star that guides us still.

Aahhhh, makes the heart and spirit soar. But of course, we're all aware of the high rate of broken resolve and failed good intentions. That's because change is not easy. It means fighting the status quo, complacency, and challenges. Recognizing that there are clear and present dangers to the Inaugural vision for a new and better America, let me leave you with these final words:

That is our generation’s task -- to make these words, these rights, these values of life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness real for every American.... You and I, as citizens, have the power to set this country’s course.

We can chart the path if we continue to work together. Happy New Year and thanks for being a part of the Emerald Cities family.

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Community Colleges As Anchors To High Road Economies


Community Colleges have always been at the forefront of economic development.  It has only been recently, however, that they have been recognized, rewarded and supported for their critical roles.  These two-year institutions provide universal access for anyone seeking first and second chance educational and economic opportunities.  Education and training programs and a full array of supportive services are offered to help students transfer to 4-year colleges, meet the workforce needs of industry, or improve critically needed basic skills.

But there’s more.  ECC sees community colleges as institutional anchors to high road economies. They have important catalytic as opposed to supportive roles to play. They can create jobs through comprehensive campus sustainability efforts.  They obviously can skill up the workforce for the full range of careers needed for a robust sustainability sector.  They are well positioned to offer community education programs to align the awareness and behaviors of local residents and business to the realities of a conservation economy. They can help incubate green tech businesses by providing business development support services to budding entrepreneurs in their career technical programs.  And just as importantly, community colleges can bring extensive intellectual, political, social and material resources of the faculty, staff, and students to the broader regional sustainable development movement.

What makes this all so very sweet – ala ECC’s sweet spot – is that community colleges are also important centers for advancing ECC’s equity agenda.  Community colleges reach important populations often left behind or completely out of the mainstream economy – low income, communities of color, youth, disadvantaged and working class populations. Community colleges offer the ideal nexus between  ECC’s environmental, economic and equity goals.

 That is why we were excited about launching our national community college initiative last month. At full throttle we expect to really move the needle and institutionalize our efforts in the Bay area and other markets through our new partnerships with Peralta, San Francisco and New Hampshire Community College systems, and, hopefully more.  Currently up to 23 campuses, more than 25,000 students and diverse set of educational resources are arsenals in our efforts to green our cities, build our communities and strengthen our democracy. ECC has organized an exceptional and mutually beneficial public-private partnership to bring the full economic potential of this initiative to scale.  Oh Happy Day!

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Finding The Political Nexus


The countdown to the 2012 election is here.  One week to go and the pulse of the American electorate is not yet clear.  But what’s at stake is.   This election season makes the seemingly incongruent nexus of environment, economy and democracy clearer than ever. 

The three dominant issues looping the airwaves are jobs, energy and human/civil rights. The latter particularly relates to the constitutional issues on the rights of women and the role of government in civil society.  While the candidates‘ policy stances and strategies on these issues differ, there is a national call to action to ‘fix it’.  There is a unified recognition among the American public that our future depends on a solution to these challenges.  Despite unanimity on the issues, our political system is too broken to lead to effective solutions.  We are hopelessly polarized.  We are intransigent in our views.  We are angry; lashing out by demonizing the other side.  The political discourse is poisonous. And this reality defies past and professed efforts to ‘reach across the aisles’. 

But this commentary cannot unpack the role of politics, the legislative process and the media in the making of this new normal. Rather, it suggests Emerald Cities Collaborative as an alternative to a broken system.

Emerald Cities sits at the epicenter of what matters to Americans today.  ECC’s core business focuses on re-examining and investing in America’s energy future. It also links our energy futures to strengthening our local economies.  But perhaps the boldest idea is harnessing the power of the democratic process to find common ground.  In essence, ECC uses an ‘all on the table’ approach and  ‘multi-stakeholder” consensus building process to rebuild America.   At the national level and within our 10 regional markets, ECC is working with business, labor, community organizations, academics and government to figure it out.  We are creating the civic space and civic capacity to deal with the tough issues.  We are addressing our immediate needs, while planning a better, more inclusive future. We are crossing the divides – demographic, geographic and special interests.  We are breaking through real and perceived differences.  We don’t always agree, differing, for example, on energy options, job-sharing policies among other challenges. But, we are working to find the nexus and we do.  It is not always easy.  Some of our conversations are difficult.  It doesn’t always result in full agreement.  But, there is always the nexus – a common place where we can act.

So, perhaps I am biased. But to me, ECC is the best of what America is and should be.  Our future requires a renewed investment in rebuilding America’s civic infrastructure --  where democratic processes and not politics respects and balances the diversity of views, interests and needs to tackle America’s toughest issues. 

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