5 cities share lessons for increasing procurement inclusivity

Source: Smart Cities Dive | Katie Pyzyk | January 29, 2019

Dive Brief:

  • Living Cities and the Citi Foundation have released the results of an 18-month inclusive procurement challenge. The results have been published in a guide, "Culture, Collaboration and Capital: Leveraging Procurement for Economic Equity," which highlights best practices that other cities can follow. 

  • Five cities participated in the accelerator to find innovative, locally-tailored municipal strategies for developing procurement relationships that are more inclusive of business owners of color. Charlotte, NC; Chicago; Los Angeles; Memphis, TN; and Milwaukee participated in the accelerator.

  • “It is urgent that we dismantle the barriers that continue to stifle entrepreneurship, particularly among people of color who we increasingly need to be the business-builders of tomorrow,“ said Living Cities CEO Ben Hecht in a statement.

Dive Insight:

Procurement agreements between a municipality and private businesses is mutually beneficial in that it provides the government entity with needed resources and the company with work. But in many cases, government contracts are notoriously hard for local businesses to secure. Diverse businesses and business owners sometimes report a pronounced feeling of difficulty landing procurement agreements and a lack of resources. Therefore this guide compiles information gathered from the five cities during the accelerator and provides step-by-step actions other cities can undertake to increase their procurement inclusivity.

The inclusive procurement accelerator challenged cities to reexamine their programs, prompting them to reach out to businesses and sectors of the community that they might not have engaged with before. Municipalities especially reached out to businesses that might not reach out to the city first and encouraged them to contract with the city.

For example, Los Angeles held a series of public events to build relationships with diverse businesses interested in contracting with the city. Charlotte launched a 13-week program that provides business owners of color with mentoring and other resources to grow their business and have better contracting access to the city.

In addition to working directly with the business community, the cities also better engaged potential partner organizations to further advance their inclusive procurement processes. Milwaukee partnered with its local African American Chamber of Commerce and other similar organizations to promote awareness of its new city-wide buying plan. 

"Government contracting does not have to remain concentrated among the few individuals and companies who traditionally have had access to the institutional knowledge, education, capital, and support to win a government contract," the report reads. "These City Accelerator cities prove that a more inclusive and equitable approach is possible."

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