Equitable Economic Development

Historically, economic development projects have not benefited all populations, and have particularly shortchanged some, including people of color, immigrants and low-income communities.  Many development decisions have resulted in projects that exclude these same communities from shared benefits generated in the economy.  Today, cities and states are developing new and creative strategies to jumpstart their economies and re-imagine their futures. They are collaborating in innovative ways to produce beneficial outcomes for these historically shortchanged communities.  The Strong Local Economies Program aims to influence economic development planning and practice so that equity, transparency, sustainability, and community engagement become driving forces on any project.

What we fund:

We seek funding opportunities that:

  • Integrate equity and sustainability into economic development practices by transforming the training of professionals, developers, and planners.  Examples may include curriculum redesign, shifts in ongoing professional development opportunities, and research that demonstrates the impact of these changes.
  • Establish and replicate successful local and regional policies that promote equitable economic development outcomes. These policies may include community benefits agreements, local hire policies, sustainable land-use planning practices, and transit equity measures.  We seek best practices and implementation models, as well as ways to share knowledge and promote collaboration through networking and partnerships.
  • Encourage equitable and sustainable outcomes for large publicly subsidized development projects. These opportunities will be very limited.  Applicants should convey a thorough overall picture of a specific development project, its economic impact, and potential to create positive community benefits, as well as the full array of organizations collaborating to influence the project’s outcomes.  We seek to support activities such as: coalition development, community organizing and policy advocacy that leads to accountability measures, community benefits agreements, and first source hiring agreements.
  • Use strategic communications to highlight cases where economic development resulted in equitable outcomes and benefits for our priority communities.  We also seek ways to communicate cases of missed opportunities, where residents and local businesses could have benefited if equity considerations were driving decision-making.

We give preference to the following types of efforts:

  • Community organizing campaigns that advocate for specific community benefits related to large, publicly subsidized economic development projects;
  • Organizations that seek to create and implement community benefits agreements, local hire, and local sourcing policies;
  • New curriculum and leadership trainings for economic development professionals that emphasize equity and sustainability in economic planning decisions, practice, and policy;
  • Research and communications projects that highlight best practices in equitable economic development.  Alternatively, we seek critiques of publicly subsidized projects that failed to produce equitable outcomes;
  • Regional economic development planning that activates local economies and creates new opportunities for historically shortchanged communities;
  • Organizations addressing policy issues and contracting opportunities within a next generation infrastructure framework (as described by our Sustainable Environments Program).

How to apply:

If you are interested in applying for a Surdna Foundation grant, please submit a letter of inquiry by clicking here. Please note: We can only support organizations that meet our guidelines listed under "What we fund."

Program Related Investments

Surdna's Program Related Investment Fund supports the foundation’s mission by providing investment capital to fund innovations that use market-based approaches to address economic, cultural, and environmental challenges.

Learn More

Latest Tweets (Inner Pages)

Fostering sustainable communities in the United States — communities guided by principles of social justice and distinguished by healthy environments, strong local economies, and thriving cultures.