June 5, 2023

Community Partner Profile: Creating a Framework for Community Leadership and Ownership with the Opportunity Accelerator

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In February, PartnerTulsa received a national grant to support the ongoing work of determining an implementation structure that places ownership and governance in the hands of the Kirkpatrick Heights/Greenwood stakeholders and leaders. Led by Results for America, the Opportunity Accelerator (OA) initiative is a new collaboration promoting economic mobility, reducing racial disparities and improving the well-being of residents. We connected with Angelique Kedem, a senior advisor at one of the OA collaborative organizations, The Haywood Burns Institute, to learn more about why Tulsa was selected and what it means for the Kirkpatrick Heights and Greenwood communities.

Q: Tulsa is one of just a few cities in the U.S. participating in the Opportunity Accelerator program, which seeks to support governments in their efforts to promote economic mobility and reduce racial disparities. What do you see as unique about Tulsa’s focus for your work together?

Tulsa has been on a journey of co-creating with impacted communities in the Kirkpatrick Heights/Greenwood neighborhoods on a vision for the redevelopment of historic Black Wall Street. This kind of partnership between government and community is essential to effectively reshape the history of oppression experienced by communities of color. Co-creation by its nature is about co-ownership in defining what is to be addressed, how, and by whom. It requires power sharing, which in our experience, government is not typically structured to support. Tulsa, however, presents an opportunity to partner in this type of groundbreaking way. So far, we have seen Tulsa operate with intentionality in taking the time and making the space for community ownership of the design and implementation of the Master Plan for Kirkpatrick Heights/Greenwood.

Q: Why was Tulsa selected, and what stood out about the City’s application?
Tulsa is engaged in historic work by committing to the revitalization of an area that has suffered from not only the 1921 race massacre but a legacy of oppressive policies such as redlining and urban renewal, which stripped wealth and stifled economic mobility for the Black community. The OA exists to help communities – the public sector, place-based partnerships, and residents – advance economic well-being for groups that have been pushed to the margins of our society. To realize this, governments and communities need to be in partnership to design the environments that facilitate this; what we call structural well-being: the necessary built environment, investments, institutions and policies that ensure belonging and well-being for all. Being able to make a contribution to the revitalization of historic Black Wall Street and help Tulsa build a vision centering impacted communities and their well-being is important to all of us. Tulsa submitted a proposal that aligned with these priorities, anchored in community partnership, and demonstrated clarity regarding the pivotal next steps toward implementation of the Master Plan. The selection of a community-owned governance structure was named as an essential next step to move the community’s vision forward, which helped us see a direct connection to how our area of expertise could support and benefit this important work.

Q: The Opportunity Accelerator seeks to engage the people who are served and/or directly impacted by programs. How does community input build trust and connection with organizations like PartnerTulsa?
Community trust was lifted up by PartnerTulsa as their central concern in everything they are aspiring to do. There is a clear understanding of the amount of time and energy, and level of transparency, required to build trust with community partners. This includes effective communication and power-sharing regarding process development, decision making and intended outcomes. And a deep understanding of the time it takes to authentically build relationships. While most institutions rush to implementation, which often limits time and space for community input, PartnerTulsa will ensure community voice and ownership in the design and implementation of the Master Plan. As the work continues, they will hold a constant balance between breaking ground and ensuring community perspectives and interests are heard and protected.

Q: What is the aspirational outcome you hope to see through this work with Tulsa?
We want the Kirkpatrick Heights/Greenwood community to know they were at the center of this effort. Where everyone will see the impact of honoring their voices and direction throughout the entire process, which will ultimately benefit this community and beyond while influencing all economic mobility strategies to be inclusive, participatory and intentionally focused on racial justice.