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Catalogue Blog

Equitable Development in the District

by Marie LeBlanc, Community Partnerships Coordinator

This year, the print Catalogue for Philanthropy opened with an infographic, “Our Region, Our Impact”. The spread presented facts and figures on the levels of poverty and income distribution in the Greater Washington region, as well as the impact of Catalogue nonprofits and ways they serve under-served communities. As many readers are likely aware, income inequality on the Greater Washington region is one of the highest in the nation — the top 20% of earners bring in annual salaries of over $250,000 and the bottom 20% of earners, not even $10,000.

Within the District, gentrification has played a large role in not only increasing inequality, but the ways in which rich and poor interact and engage in geographic spaces. This week, the Nonprofit Quarterly highlighted the work of one DC nonprofit, ONE DC, in addressing gentrification (or displacement, as they refer to it) and promoting equitable development across the city:

Equitable development is defined as development activity with a triple bottom line, taking into account the interests of the business community and local developers, fairness in the treatment of employees, and sustainability in protecting and enhancing resources (human and others) in responding to an array of social and environmental needs. There are many communities throughout the U.S. experimenting with these principles, and one such project that offers a manifestation of this burgeoning “equitable development” movement is ONE DC (Organizing Neighborhood Equity DC) in Washington, D.C.’s Shaw neighborhood…

By engaging in what ONE DC refers to as “participatory democracy,” this membership-led organization is confronting several powerful private and public entities to protect residents’ interests. Its strategy, as stated on the organization’s web page, is one where “people within movements for social change, those directly affected by the issues, make the decisions related to the campaign or movement; minimize hierarchy within their organization to maximize shared power and equity of voice; and utilize direct action as an effective means to compel decision-makers to implement decisions made by the community.”

Perhaps the most interesting and innovative aspect to ONE DC’s work is that “the overarching goal is not simply reform but institutional change and social transformation.” Unlike other direct service organizations that provide a much needed, but often one-off service to clients trapped in systems of poverty, ONE DC attempts to achieve specific objectives (“human rights to affordable housing, living wage jobs, and equitable development”) by empowering affected communities with voice in the process and stake in the (equitable) development of their communities.

Learn more about and support Catalogue nonprofits also working in community and economic development online here.

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