Opportunity is the Fabric of Innovation
A city’s revitalization must include creating opportunities and connecting all residents to opportunity in an equitable way. Equity is not just the right thing to do; it’s the best thing to do. Individuals, organizations, cities that understand how valuable equity is likely realize the rich diversity that equity brings into existence.
The case has already been made regarding the effects of systemic racism and inequity on opportunity. A city that does not work to address these imbalances—empowering all its residents to take advantage of opportunities—will, by default, continue to build the opportunity portfolios of the privileged, while ignoring those in less-privileged positions.
Opportunity must be robust and cannot be driven by privilege and position. It must be for ALL. By ignoring the voices of those in less-privileged positions, cities unknowingly lose out on robust infusions of innovation from those who and have been able to overcome and navigate a system of obstacles and inequity that some have never had to even consider. A city that wants to connect all of its residents to opportunity must be egalitarian in its sociopolitical philosophy, rigorous in its resident engagement, and holistic in its execution strategy.
Opportunities that attract new residents must exist side-by-side with opportunities that appeal to existing residents. Innovative solutions that connect all residents to opportunities can come out of sustained, focused community engagement. I say that if “necessity is the mother of invention,” then opportunity is the fabric of innovation. As with innovation, opportunity for all has to be the warp and weft of a world-class city.
Opportunity must be relevant. Not all opportunities will be relevant to all, but opportunities should be varied and diverse enough that they are attainable to all. We need intentionality in providing a plethora of opportunities across multiple sectors.
Opportunity must be relative. Opportunities should have on-ramps of participation relative to all of a city’s residents. This can happen through dynamic school, business, and community partnerships that, among other things, expand the knowledge of residents around what is available now and in the future.
Providing economic opportunities that can only be seized by a segment of the population is to exclude some by default. It cannot be about socioeconomic position, but about seeing to it that there are pathways for individuals to begin, advance, and expand upon opportunities. There must be something for everyone.
Connecting residents to economic and other opportunities requires connecting to ALL residents. In order to create a vibrant tapestry of innovation, we must foster robust, relevant, and relative opportunity networks that include the difficult work of building inclusive relationships. Whatever is created has to be created together.
Delphia Simmons is a 2015-17 Detroit Revitalization Fellow at Coalition on Temporary Shelter (COTS). The Detroit Revitalization Fellows (DRF) is a leadership and talent intervention for mid-career professionals seeking to engage in meaningful full-time work and leadership development over the course of two years. On January 23 the fellowship program launched the application for our next cohort. To learn more and apply visit www.detroitfellows.wayne.edu. A variation of this article was published at Huffington Post.