G4G Challenge Communities
Common among localities seeking to attract, welcome, and integrate international newcomers are multi-sector strategic plans that engage a range of key stakeholders from government, business, and civil society to set a vision and agenda for the community. Recommendations emanating from these plans span a variety of priority areas, including education and economic opportunity, civic engagement, public safety, and others. In many communities, such plans also lead to the creation of formal institutions within or in partnership with local government, such as a mayoral office to oversee immigrant integration or a non-profit organization or public-private partnership effort to coordinate efforts.
- Create a shared, community-wide vision for change
- Launch, deepen, or scale a place-based immigrant integration effort
- Bring together multiple sectors—business, community organizations, philanthropy, residents, and local government—to achieve collective impact that reflects a shared vision
- Build relationships across sectors that serve to leverage the unique resources and assets of diverse partners
- Expand from a single policy focus to a more comprehensive package of policies and programs
- Maximize the economic, civic, and social opportunities available to all residents, both immigrants and receiving communities alike.
A successful planning process engages multiple sectors and includes the immigrant community in a central way. Such efforts may be led by the local government, city council, chamber of commerce, or another entity that can serve as a convener. The following steps offer a roadmap for this process:
Establish the Convener and Core Partners
Successful planning processes bring many partners to the table, yet a smaller group of core partners and one or two organizations that convene and support the work behind the scenes is needed to give direction to the effort. In addition, identifying a skilled facilitator who can help design a strong process and ensure that participants contribute is key to a successful outcome.
Lay the Groundwork
Begin by connecting with key government, community, business, and philanthropic partners and establishing an initial vision for the process. Use this time to identify resources for staffing and running the process, and to map and assess other, existing community efforts.
Design the Process
At this phase, the core partners and facilitator create a design for the planning process, answering questions such as: Who are the necessary stakeholders? Who makes final decisions and how? How long will the process last? How will the results be shared with the community? What information is needed to make sound decisions? Will there be pre-determined categories or issue areas to structure the process around policy and practice areas?
Identify and Engage the Planning Participants
At this phase, key participants are identified and recruited. This may result in the creation of a formal body, such as a taskforce or steering committee, as well as sub-committees that breakout to plan around issue areas, such as economic development or public safety. Many plans also place a strong emphasis on engaging broader community or resident input, both within the larger structure, and through the use of surveys, focus groups, town halls, and other forms of dialogue.
Gather and Assess Data on Community Needs and Assets
Many local governments start by working with their community partners to ask the animating question: What is the area currently doing to attract, welcome, and integrate immigrants, and where are the gaps? Research partners can be great collaborators in providing additional data, particularly around business or economic case to both inform and strengthen support for efforts.
Conduct the Process
Timing for planning processes has ranged from ten weeks up to a year and involve regular and well-facilitated interactions among participants. Communications are critical to framing the purpose of the process and to ensuring that participants are heard throughout the process and understand what is expected of them. The process typically culminates in the creation of a written plan that identifies a community vision, goals, strategies, and tactics, as well as the resources that exist or are needed to achieve them. Many plans also incorporate the creation of new infrastructure – such as establishing an Office of New Americans or the creation of an intermediary organization – to ensure long-term implementation.
Publish and Disseminate the Plan
Transparency and communication are hallmarks of a successful effort, and once completed, it is important to share the plan not only with participants, but with the wider community to highlight the expected impact and benefits for all community members, both recent arrivals to and long-term residents of the community.
Implement, Monitor and Adjust the Plan
Well-designed plans involve many partners in implementation, which means there may be significant coordination and often a staggered approach to implementation because some activities may be easily carried out, while others require resource development or further design. At this stage, the convener or backbone organization(s) should continue to convene a core group to monitor efforts and ensure that the plan is carried out, meets established goals and metrics, and is refined as needed. Plans should be viewed as living documents that can be revisited, and from time to time, updated in consultation with the community.
Key Areas of Focus
Working groups or advisory committees will often focus the work of planning processes into themes, and subcommittees will reflect those themes. Members of the working group or task force will break into smaller groups according to their expertise and interest area, and lead more in-depth, often community-focused conversations around the following broad areas:
- Equitable Access to Services: Ensuring that all residents have access to city services and opportunities by reducing barriers and encouraging participation. Many cities work towards this goal by establishing broad language access policies that require that all city documents and activities are accessible in multiple languages; hosting town halls in immigrant communities that bring information directly to residents on various services and initiatives offered by the city; and having outreach coordinators whose job is to be present in the community to share information on what the city is doing.
- Economic Opportunity and Education: Harnessing the full potential of all residents by working to ensure that newcomers have the skills, training, and education to thrive, and that workforce, education, and economic development systems are prepared to serve and leverage the talents of all residents. This can often include programs to support small business owners, workforce development initiatives, programs that connect newcomers with other business leaders in their field, and efforts to attract and retain international students and companies.
- Civic Engagement: Working to ensure that newcomers fully participate in civic life, including increasing access to leadership, citizenship, and civic participation. This can include initiatives that promote citizenship and leadership development opportunities such as Los Angeles’ Citizenship Corners in public libraries and Nashville’s MyCity Academy.
- Safe and Connected Communities: Working to foster trust and build relationships between immigrants and receiving communities, as well as focus on building connections with specific institutions, such as local law enforcement.
CASE STUDY: ATLANTA
In October 2013 city officials, business leaders and community representatives gathered at a convening hosted by Americas Society/Council of the Americas to discuss the state of play of immigration in the city of Atlanta and how the city could become a more global, welcoming place for international communities. As a result of this conversation, Mayor Kasim Reed announced that Atlanta would join Welcoming America’s Welcoming Cities and Counties Initiative, and in May 2013 he appointed the Mayoral Welcoming Atlanta Working Group. The group was tasked with developing a set of recommendations to ensure that Atlanta’s newly arrived communities are being integrated and supported.
The working group, made up of 21 leaders representing the city government, business, immigrant serving organizations, philanthropy, consulates and other non-profits engaged nearly 100 individuals in the planning process over the course of three months. National organizations including Welcoming America, Partnership for a New American Economy, and Americas Society/Council of the Americas offered expertise to help guide the process. The working group focused its effort around five pillars: Ensuring Equitable Access to Basic Services; Expanding Educational Opportunities; Facilitating Economic Empowerment; Enhancing Public Safety and Fostering a Connected Community; and Building Immigrant Civic Engagement and Leadership. Subcommittees were formed to develop recommendations in each of these areas.
On September 17, 2014, Mayor Reed joined members of the Welcoming Atlanta Working Group to announce the city’s commitment to a number of initiatives—including 20 recommendations from the Working Group—to make Atlanta a more global and welcoming city to immigrants. With this he announced the creation of an Office of Immigrant Affairs, which was formally established in June 2015.
Timeline in Brief:
- October 2013: Atlanta joins Welcoming Cities and Counties Initiative at AS/COA convening| Press
- February 2014: Atlanta city staff conducts stakeholder meetings with leaders across sectors to inform the development of the Welcoming Atlanta Working Group
- May 2014: Atlanta Mayor appoints Welcoming Atlanta Working Group to develop recommendations | Press
- Summer 2014: Working Group engages community members to develop recommendations
- September 2014: Mayor Reed announces 20 new recommendations to make Atlanta more welcoming, including the creation of an Office of Immigrant Affairs | Press Release; Media Coverage; PNAE Fact Sheet
- June 2015: The Atlanta Office of Immigrant Affairs is formally launched, along with its website WelcomingAtlanta.com.
- Convene the Right Partners: The selection process for working group or taskforce members is very important. It’s critical to get a diverse group that includes all of the sectors that will be involved, as well as leaders with connections to the immigrant community who understand both challenges and assets. Often task force members include representatives from several government agencies, community-serving organizations, consulates, foundations, and the private sector, including local chambers of commerce. Equally important is selecting a chair (or co-chairs) who have the commitment to see the plan through, as well as the cache to bring attention to the effort and its implementation.
- Be inclusive. This process should be framed as a community initiative for the community and by the community. Whether through listening sessions, townhall meetings, surveys, or community events, there should be easily accessible and open venues to engage members of the community to give input and participate in the planning process.
- Public-Private Partnerships Maximize Impact. In addition to ensuring that membership of the working group, taskforce, or steering committee is representative across sectors, it’s important for the private sector to be a partner in releasing and endorsing the plan. Not only does this broaden the message, it helps increase institutional buy-in for the plan’s implementation and success.
- Learn from the Experience of Other Cities: Several cities, including Charlotte, Chicago, Cincinnati, Dayton, Indianapolis, and Pittsburgh have completed or are in the process of completing strategic planning processes. These cities can be a resource to others interested in undertaking this process, from offering language for community surveys to community outreach strategies to the structure and timeline for the process itself.