City Accelerator Pushes Diversity in Philadelphia Procurement

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COUNCILMEMBER Derek Green

The Citi Foundation and Living Cities have expanded the City Accelerator initiative on Inclusive Procurement, a retake on its fourth cohort, to 10 additional U.S. cities, including Philadelphia.

The 10 cities will work together over the next year to pursue a range of projects to find innovative, effective, locally-tailored strategies to leverage public purchasing power to develop firms owned by people of color. Local initiatives range from implementing aggressive outreach strategies, developing procurement portals and creating an ecosystem of support services for firms owned by people of color to increase their opportunities to gain city contracts.

“Philadelphia is experiencing great momentum and economic success right now, but we know this comes with the responsibility of building an economy that works for all our residents,” said Mayor Jim Kenney. “It is a great honor that Philadelphia has been selected to join the sixth City Accelerator cohort, and its focus on the adoption of equitable procurement strategies to promote economic equity aligns perfectly with many efforts being undertaken by our administration. We recently shared our vision for inclusive growth in Philadelphia, which includes targeted and intentional strategies aimed at expanding financial access and business supports to increase diverse business inclusion. As part of our work to improve equitable economic outcomes, our plan also specifically highlighted the need to make City procurement processes and outcomes more equitable. We look forward to working with the Citi Foundation, Living Cities and Griffin & Strong to deliver on the vision, commitment, and strategies we have laid out.”

Participation in the City Accelerator cohort will build on Philadelphia’s recent efforts to improve City procurement.

For example, earlier this year, Councilmember Derek Green introduced legislation to revise the City’s procurement procedures. His legislative package would increase the maximum dollar amount that triggers the need for a formal RFP process—from the current level of $34,000 to $100,000 for Philadelphia-based businesses and $75,000 for all businesses, thus incentivizing local minority- and women-owned enterprises to enter into City contracts—and provide for a ballot question in the upcoming November 2019 election to approve the required amendment to the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter.

Philadelphia’s goal in participating in the City Accelerator is to significantly increase response rates to contracts by minority business enterprises (MBEs), with a particular focus on local MBEs. By better connecting these businesses to City contracting opportunities, the City and its partners hope to grow Philadelphia’s economy in an equitable manner.

The City will utilize a comprehensive approach to develop an understanding of the organizational barriers that limit MBE response rates and certification with the City, initiate and implement strategies to target specific challenges, and grow partnerships with key stakeholders to inform the development of a strategy that could be scaled citywide in the future.

Proposed strategies to be explored through the City Accelerator include:
• Research
• Compliance and Monitoring
• Outreach and Certification
• Anchor Institution Partnership
• Industry-Specific Solutions
• Increasing Access to Capital
“Many cities aspire to spend a greater proportion of their expenditures with small and minority-owned businesses, but the municipal procurement process is often a deterrent to achieving that,” said Ed Skyler, Citi’s chief executive VP for global public affairs and chair of the Citi Foundation. “The City Accelerator has already helped cities in all parts of the country identify new ways to enhance transparency, communication and awareness in the procurement process — making it easier for small and minority-owned businesses to participate — and we’re excited to see the new approaches that come from these next 10 participating cities.”

The Citi Foundation and Living Cities launched the City Accelerator in March 2014 to foster innovation and promote collaboration between urban leaders to tackle some of their cities’ most pressing issues. Now in its sixth cohort, its largest to date, the City Accelerator has brought together 22 municipalities to test new approaches that improve the lives of residents, especially people of color.

“Inclusive procurement is a strong element in closing racial income and wealth gaps,” said Living Cities President and CEO Ben Hecht. “When cities leverage their buying power to support the very residents that have been kept out of wealth-building activities, they are contributing to the betterment of the entire community.”

In addition to a $50,000 grant, each city will receive a combination of coaching, technical assistance and implementation resources in the coming year. Cities may consider local policy reform, supplier diversity engagement, improved contract compliance practices, utilization of tax incentives and economic development tools.

“Procurement by City government is a powerful tool that can help create economic opportunity for communities who have historically been shut out,” said Nefertiri Sickout, deputy diversity & inclusion officer in the Mayor’s Office of Diversity & Inclusion. “Being part of this City Accelerator cohort will provide us with resources and support to make Philadelphia’s procurement practices more inclusive, and it will give us the chance to learn from our peers who are facing similar challenges in their cities. Reaching parity in response rates and contracts awarded for minority-owned firms will not happen overnight—but the actions taken as part of this cohort will help the City of Philadelphia build a system that is more equitable and increases both access and opportunity for minority-owned businesses.”

The team leading Philadelphia’s efforts will include representatives from City government and local economic development partners:
• Iola Harper, deputy director of commerce, Office of Economic Opportunity
• Nefertiri Sickout, deputy diversity & inclusion officer, Mayor’s Office of Diversity & Inclusion
• Stephanie Tipton, chief of staff, Office of the Chief Administrative Officer
• Monique Nesmith-Joyner, interim procurement commissioner
• Andrew Buss, deputy chief information officer, Office of Innovation & Technology
• Michelle Flamer, senior attorney, City of Philadelphia Law Department
• Derek S. Green, City Councilmember at Large
• Valerie Cofield, president/CEO, Eastern Minority Supplier Development Council
• Gregory DeShields, PHL diversity executive director, Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau
• Jeff Hornstein, executive director, Economy League of Greater Philadelphia
• Mariya Khandros, director of shared solutions, Economy League of Greater Philadelphia

Technical assistance for the effort will be provided by Griffin & Strong, a law and public policy consulting firm specializing in disparity research and supplier diversity for government entities and private corporations.

To track the progress and work of these City Accelerator cities in the coming year, visit Governing Magazine, Citi’s blog and follow the #CityAccelerator hashtag on Twitter.

Citi is the leading global bank. The Citi Foundation leverages the enormous expertise of Citi and its people.

Living Cities harnesses the collective power of 18 of the world’s largest foundations and financial institutions to develop and scale new approaches for creating opportunities for low-income people and improving the cities where they live.

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