The Biden Administration’s executive orders announcing a commitment to racial equity create a palpable opportunity to repair and heal the way infrastructure has been historically used to harm communities of color and low wealth communities. The Biden Administration and its federal agencies and state and local partners will need to build strong relationships and partnerships grounded in the expertise and leadership already circulating among communities in the United States facing the greatest systemic challenges and the most barriers to wealth and resources.  

 

Curated from decades of movement leadership and practice, Communities First offers the following principles through which the Biden Administration and its philanthropic, investment, and capacity building partners can direct federal and investment resources to communities advancing solutions that address the ongoing impacts of historical and structural inequity and bring community visions of self-determination to life. The following principles honor the legacies of frontline community leadership by investing in community infrastructures needed to implement integrative, community-driven solutions. Together, these principles keep us working toward tomorrow’s solution pathways, starting with communities first.

The Principles

1.Invest in People. Prioritize investing in the capacity of people and communities to lead and implement infrastructure solutions. 

2.Proactive Collaboration. By moving proactively yet flexibly to facilitate thriving pathways in hardest hit communities, the Biden Administration concretizes its commitment to strong and prosperous communities. Proactive collaboration prioritizes the flow of resources to communities facing critical systemic challenges and obstacles.

3.Center Community Wisdom. Commit to centering communities’ local wisdom and expertise, honoring that communities themselves are best positioned to meet community needs. By centering community expertise, investments leverage frontline communities’ leadership plans, solutions, priorities, needs while preserving community culture and expression.

4.Self-Determination. Federal investments prioritize community ownership and self-determination, supporting emergent community infrastructures that are equity-driven with wealth creation at the center. By supporting communities’ insistence on self-determination, cross-sector investments support community infrastructures to absorb the scale of capital needed for long-term success.

5.Responsiveness & Accountability. Prioritize responsiveness and accountability will support the Biden Administration’s goals to direct resources and support community infrastructures in service to community vision, pace and plans. Leveraging federal resources at the direction of community imperatives is key to successful community infrastructure collaborations.

6.Bridge Integrative Pathways. Federal investments in the community will require cross-sector and integrative pathways on part of the Biden Administration and a network of capacity builders, fiscal agents, investors, and government partners. In doing so, the Administration can heed its call to promote holistic outcomes across community health, safety, environmental sustainability, and civic engagement.

7.Repair Past Harm. Acknowledge the damage and destruction past infrastructure funding has caused in communities of color and low wealth communities is an important step in ensuring that current and future funding does not repeat history and deepen inequities. Many of the challenges communities face today as a result of weaponized infrastructure can be reversed and healed with thoughtful infrastructure spending that puts community articulated needs and priorities first and that supports community led use of resources for wealth creation.