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Building Equitable Communities: Key Takeaways from DCI’s Marketing Summit

On Thursday, August 20, economic development marketing professionals from across the country gathered virtually for day one of the 2020 DCI Marketing Summit to discuss some of the most urgent issues facing the industry. Following a presentation on DCI’s newly published Talent Wars research, Tracye McDaniel, President of TIP Strategies, facilitated a session on race, diversity and inclusion as it relates to economic development marketing and building equitable communities.

Building Equitable Communities - DCI Marketing Summit

As the former Chair of the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) and current Co-Chair of IEDC’s Race and Economic Development Committee, McDaniel plays an important leadership role in the economic development industry. Drawing on her rich depth of experience, McDaniel shared important insights about the steps that economic development organizations (EDOs) can take toward equity and economic inclusivity in their communities. She began the session by providing baseline definitions of key terms to ground the discussion:

  • Equity: Providing fair access to resources and opportunity while eliminating systemic barriers that prevent full economic participation.
  • Economic inclusion: Creating an economy in which every individual and group is valued and able to fully contribute to your community’s economic vitality.

With economic and racial disparities magnified by the pandemic, McDaniel stressed that “Equity and inclusion are everyone’s responsibility.” Our current state of inequity has far-reaching implications, posing an economic risk for many communities. McDaniel cited research showing that the United States could add $2.7 trillion to its GDP by closing racial earnings gaps, particularly in high-growth industries like business/financial services, advertising/marketing, tech and health.

Building Equitable Communities - DCI Marketing Summit

While economic development marketers aren’t in a position to fix all the problems in their communities, McDaniel emphasized that they are in a unique position to be part of the solution. “We have an opportunity to tell the full story of our communities,” she noted. For economic development marketers, telling the full story means being brave enough to tell stories about their community that are unfinished or to be continued. “People want to hear about the hard parts, how you overcame challenges. Telling stories about progress is important,” McDaniel said. With notes of affirmation arising in the Zoom chat box and breakout session, it was clear this point struck a chord with attendees, especially in light of the economic hardships that communities everywhere have faced during the pandemic.

The discussion continued into a breakout session, where participants had the opportunity to converse with their industry colleagues in a more intimate setting of approximately six people per group. Common themes emerged as the breakout groups addressed questions about their role as economic development marketing professionals in promoting diversity and inclusion in their communities. Coming back together, attendees shared their perspectives:

  • Intentionality proved to be an important focus point – whether that means incorporating diverse representation in images and word choice, focusing on building diverse talent pipelines or creating data reports that look at equity and inclusion.
  • Boldness was another common theme. Since EDOs have a leading role to play in how their communities move forward, marketing professionals shouldn’t be afraid to boldly push their organizations to be more proactive on diversity and inclusion.
  • Outreach and openness were also emphasized. Attendees brainstormed ideas like reaching out to inspiring figures who may not have access to seats of power, exploring minority and women-owned businesses as possible vendors, embarking on a process of trial and improvement and actively listening to the community’s needs.

Building Equitable Communities - DCI Marketing Summit

Capping off an hour of rich dialogue, McDaniel and Julie Curtin, President of DCI’s Economic Development practice, announced that DCI was gifting every participant with a copy of Building Equitable Cities: How to Drive Economic Mobility and Regional Growth by Janis Bowdler, Henry Cisneros, Jeffrey Lubell and Patrick L. Phillips. McDaniel closed out the session by providing a list of five elements that make a meaningful statement on racial justice:

  1. Name the problem unequivocally.
  2. Demonstrate empathy.
  3. Demonstrate humility.
  4. State your plan of action.
  5. Most important, do the work.

 Have ideas or questions about how to incorporate diversity, inclusion and equity into your economic development organization’s marketing? DCI’s Economic Development team can help you craft your message.

Written By

Jeremiah Kim

Jeremiah is a Digital Coordinator in DCI’s Economic Development practice. Since joining DCI in 2019, Jeremiah has created social media and website content for a variety of clients including the Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency, the New Hampshire Division of Economic Development and Think Dutchess Alliance for Business.

More Articles by Jeremiah Kim

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