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Exchanging Ideas for a Just Economy

Last week, the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) hosted its annual conference in Washington, DC. Entitled “A Just Economy: Ideas, Action, Impact,” the conference brought together nearly 800 community-based practitioners and policymakers to discuss responsible community investment and share strategies to ensure equal access to credit, capital, housing, jobs, and banking services. The three-day long event featured multiple workshops in subject tracts including workforce and community development, organizing and advocacy, fair lending, affordable housing, and business development; and presented speakers from key federal agencies including the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, along with U.S. Senators and community activists. 

As part of the workforce and community development track, Democracy Collaborative Research Director Steve Dubb moderated a panel on “Anchor Institutions: Partnering with Healthcare Institutions to Build Communities.” Panelists David Zuckerman, Democracy Collaborative Research Associate, and Dr. Kevin Barnett, Senior Investigator for the Public Health Institute in Oakland, CA, discussed effective strategies for partnering with hospitals, presented new community benefit opportunities in the Affordable Care Act, and highlighted best practices that leverage these anchor institutions’ resources to build community wealth.

Throughout the conference, the theme of growing wealth inequality was met with calls to “change the game,” align capital with social mission, and inject more democracy into our capitalism. With much attention directed towards the Housing Finance Reform bill that was before the Senate, the focus of the conference’s Capitol Hill lobby day was preserving affordable housing goals, protecting programs that make homeownership more equitable, and supporting access to government-sponsored enterprises. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts spoke out against the myth that lending in underserved and low-income communities led to the current economic crisis and called for a new housing finance structure that limits the role of large banks. Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa was recognized with the Representative Henry B. Gonzalez Award for his career-long efforts to help all Americans grow economic opportunity.

The conference wrapped up with NCRC’s National Achievement Awards dinner recognizing community leaders working to promote wealth building for traditionally underserved populations.  Honorees included the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund, noted for their work forming resident-owned communities across the state; Manna, Inc. of Washington, DC, known for their financial literacy and homeownership training programs; and the Reverend Dr. William Barber II of North Carolina. Reverend Barber is the president of the North Carolina NAACP and organizer of the broad-based Moral Monday movement, which has advocated for progressive alternatives in North Carolina and now in other states as well. Honored with a lifetime achievement award for his work to promote civil rights and economic justice, Reverend Barber closed out the conference with a rousing address calling for a diverse, collaborative, progressive coalition to work toward higher-ground politics and economic policies that support livable and just communities for all. 

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