What Does it Mean for us to Build Better?

Written by Katie Janowiak, Vice President of Communications & Impact, San Diego Grantmakers and Bree Burris, Director of Marketing & Communications, San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation

We are still buzzing with excitement about our recent joint announcement that San Diego Grantmakers and the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation (EDC) are joining forces on November 17 to host a first of its kind virtual summit. We’ve built this gathering, which brings together leaders from across sectors, to challenge thinking and inspire action toward a more inclusive and equitable economy. Our two organizations—together representing local companies, foundations, public sector organizations, educational institutions, individual philanthropists, and impact investors working to create opportunities for our region to recover and thrive—share inclusive growth as a goal and have collaborated frequently in the past. But now, with our region’s needs so stark and urgent, felt like a unique chance to bring together San Diego’s changemakers to calibrate our diverse efforts toward a clear goal. 

The pandemic and social upheaval of the past year have laid bare the wealth and health inequities across our society borne so heavily by low-income; Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC); and other marginalized groups. However, the intersecting crises of a global pandemic, its economic fallout, and a nationwide racial justice reckoning have spurred movement toward a different way of thinking. In every sector and across society, people are coalescing around the need to rethink what this economic recovery can mean: creating the conditions needed to broadly and profoundly improve community and individual well-being and resiliency. 

We discovered many approaches that could guide our own rethinking: democratic economy (as defined by our Summit partners at The Democracy Collaborative), Greenlined economy and circular economy, to name a few. Though they explore the need from different perspectives, each demands systems change, sustainability, and justice for people and planet. 

For us, the concept of an equitable economy best reflects a more ambitious and systematic approach to nurturing our local economy and society. An equitable economy has a few key attributes:

  1. It prioritizes the preservation of local economies and supports their resilience in the face of future crises.
  1. It is intrinsically linked to local and/or shared ownership, support for women and BIPOC entrepreneurs, and environmental sustainability. 
  1. It builds and propagates an infrastructure that supports communities driving sustainable economic practices and just policies. 
  1. It empowers all segments of our society to reach their full potential while protecting the environment.

At its core, building an equitable economy is about rethinking fundamental institutions and activities to better empower individuals to participate in the economy and society. To do this, we have to recenter financial power structures around community prosperity and reorient practices like investing, employment, purchasing, housing, banking, and responsible land and natural resource use to focus on community wealth building and inclusive systems. To succeed, these practices should be undertaken broadly by corporate, public, private, philanthropic, and nonprofit actors across society. And, we must all be flexible and nimble, work across sectors, and let shared prosperity and well-being guide our decisions.

An equitable economy provides an important framework as we are in the throes of crisis and recovery, and must align with inclusion growth efforts already underway. And in fact, one of the most exciting things about the San Diego/Imperial County region, and a key reason we are holding this Summit at this crucial moment in time, is that many hallmark strategies of an equitable economy are already being piloted and some have already succeeded. There’s an incredible array of San Diego businesses, impact investors, government leaders, civic groups, and philanthropy/nonprofit actors embracing collaboration and innovations, which are moving us closer toward this goal. The Summit gives us an opportunity to learn from these partners, colleagues, and neighbors. 

But we aren’t there yet. Together we need an even better understanding of how the systems that hinder and even harm our communities are designed, so that we can determine a path forward for redesigning them with equity and community at the center. This is what we hope to accomplish at the Build Better Summit on November 17. Let’s jumpstart the movement to transition to an equitable economy. Let’s set out concrete steps that we can take together to move the San Diego region toward shared prosperity and resilience. Let’s listen, learn, and act to address the immediate effects of vast inequities, as well as the systems changes that must be undertaken. 

We have the opportunity now to align our efforts and build new foundations upon which our communities and economy stand. Let’s build better, together.

Learn more about how we’ll get this recovery right

Register now for Build Better: A Bold Virtual Summit to Reimagine Our Region’s Future