Equity Resources for Economic Development & Planning

Posted on: July 15th, 2020 by Carrie Kissel

Paint swirls overlaid with the text "Equity and inclusion resources for regional development organizations"

This page represents the collection of resources and practices related to equity and inclusion gathered and shared in response to member requests, as well as other resources shared with NADO by federal agencies and other partners.

RDOs, their leadership, their staff, and their external partners are all starting from different places and have different interests in equity and inclusion.  Our member regions’ populations vary quite a bit around the United States, and so does the approach to addressing equity.  For instance, even in locations with little racial, ethnic, or language diversity, there may be barriers to accessing programs and services among people with limited income and residents with disabilities, as well as among minority groups that may be a small part of the total population.  Many RDOs consider equity to be integrated across their regional programs and services.  Some complete plans and written documents with an equity focus, such as an updated public participation plan, a housing assessment, or an ADA and sidewalk inventory.  Others work on equity-focused projects, such as workforce housing, entrepreneurship in low-income communities, or public dialogues about diversity.

Email us at [email protected] (info null@null nado NULL.org) with any additional resources on equity and inclusion in community and economic development and regional planning work. Additional resources will be added over time.

(Last updated October 19, 2020)

Upcoming Events

  • NADO’s Annual Training Conference, October 20 – 22, will feature a plenary session on Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, as well as content about equity and inclusion in other sessions.
  • On October 23 at 2:30 p.m. ET, the Smart Growth Network will host the webinar What Does Equity in Smart Growth Really Mean? (http://smartgrowth NULL.org/what-does-equity-in-smart-growth-really-mean-a-conversation-between-calvin-gladney-and-andre-perry/?utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery&utm_term=) The webinar will feature a conversation between Calvin Gladney, President and CEO of Smart Growth America and a national thought leader on equitable and sustainable community revitalization, and Andre Perry of the Brookings Institution and author of Know Your Price: Valuing Black Lives and Property in America’s Black Cities.
  • On October 28 at 1:00 p.m. ET, Forward Cities will hold the webinar A Collaborative Approach to Creating More Equitable Opportunities for Entrepreneurs (https://us02web NULL.zoom NULL.us/webinar/register/3316016054448/WN_Z9FKsO2cRUCqFJ0nskPtIg), with a focus on Columbus and Franklin County, OH as a case study.
  • On November 18, 1:00 – 7:00 p.m. ET, the Aspen Institute Community Strategies Group will hold the virtual summit All Land is not Created Equal: Unleashing Family and Community Wealth through Land Ownership (https://aspeninstitute NULL.formstack NULL.com/forms/chpp_csg). The summit will include discussion on the role of land in wealth inequality, about heirs’ property and fractionated land, and about strategies and policies that can address this issue to build rural regions and urban communities that are more inclusive and resilient.

RDO Examples

  • Region 9 Development Commission’s (MN) Equity & Inclusion Initiatives (https://www NULL.rndc NULL.org/what-we-do/welcoming-communities/) are exemplary resources for helping to create vibrant and resilient communities through community and economic development.
  • Mid-America Regional Council has an excellent toolkit for local governments entitled Becoming a Welcoming Community (https://www NULL.marc NULL.org/Data-Economy/Workforce-Development/GradForce-KC/Gateways-for-Growth/Assets/GatewaysKC_ToolkitforLocalCommunities NULL.aspx). It is designed to create a welcoming and encouraging climate attractive for immigrants who want to resettle and integrate into the community.
  • Region Five Development Commission (MN) established an extensive Welcoming Communities initiative (https://www NULL.regionfive NULL.org/welcoming-communities) that is focused on workforce attraction and expanding cultural agility for individuals, organizations, and communities. The Equitable Economic Systems for regional prosperity initiative seeks to dislodge the cultural inertia and increase the public courage to be welcoming. It further seeks to increase welcoming community advocacy groups to help build welcoming communities. These actions lay the necessary social groundwork for a modernized approach to rural community and economic development – an approach based on welcoming diversity and building value  chains/interconnections of all kinds to foster economic innovation and equitably grow vibrant, inclusive communities.
  • From the Southwest Regional Development Commission (http://www NULL.swrdc NULL.org/) in Minnesota: Local Human Services-Public Transportation Coordination Plan (LHSPTCP). LHSPTCP’s Strategy #2 is to identify non-English languages spoken, written, and read throughout the region in order to provide service schedules and marketing materials for all transportation riders. Read the Languages & Interpreter Services in Southwest Minnesota  (http://www NULL.swrdc NULL.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Languages_Interpreters-SW-MN-SRDC NULL.pdf)document. (PDF, developed with MnDOT funding support)
  • Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (MA) includes Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Plans (http://www NULL.pvpc NULL.org/housing_planning) in their Housing Planning program. PVPC is also able to assist in planning and facilitating community conversations around housing challenges and needs in communities and with the implementation of key action items in these plans. Through this range of work, PVPC is working to create a region where all people are afforded the opportunity to obtain a safe, stable home in a community where they are able to prosper.
  • The Big Table (https://data NULL.greaterpeoria NULL.us/big-table/) organized by the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council and partners promotes regional community building through conversations designed to strengthen and connect communities. Through open, thoughtful conversations that focus on how to strengthen the region, participants will spark new relationships and new ways for working together by deepening an understanding of what the region needs.

Resources for Internal Policies and External Programs 

  • Prosperity Now (https://prosperitynow NULL.org/) published a compilation of best practices and recommendations from a wide range of resources that Prosperity Now’s Racial Wealth Divide Initiative (RWDI) and Communications teams thought would be helpful for naming, framing, defining and understanding the issue: Communicating on Race and Racial Economic Equity (https://prosperitynow NULL.org/sites/default/files/resources/Prosperity%20Now_%20Communicating%20Race%20and%20Racial%20Economic%20Equity_%202 NULL.3 NULL.20_Final1 NULL.pdf).
  • The Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity (http://kirwaninstitute NULL.osu NULL.edu/) is an interdisciplinary engaged research institute at The Ohio State University established in May 2003. Its goal is to connect individuals and communities with opportunities needed for thriving by educating the public, building the capacity of allied social justice organizations, and investing in efforts that support equity and inclusion.
  • On October 29th, 2019, Central Appalachian Network hosted its first Equity webinar (https://www NULL.cannetwork NULL.org/can-organizational-equity-policies-webinar/). It focused on concrete ways to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion practices within the operational aspects of your organization.
  • The Annie E. Casey Foundation maintains a Race Matters Collection (https://www NULL.aecf NULL.org/search?title=Race%20Matters%20Collection&fq%5b%5d=report_series_id:179), which includes many excellent resources, including self-assessments, Organizational Assessment, Equity Impact Assessment, Purchasing Assessment, Community Building, and much more.
  • The mission of the Conscious Style Guide (https://consciousstyleguide NULL.com/) is to help writers and editors think critically about using language—including words, portrayals, framing, and representation—to empower instead of limit. In one place, you can access style guides covering terminology for various communities and find links to key articles debating usage. This page may be useful for crafting written documents for internal RDO processes or for programs.
  • A post from SurveyMonkey entitled “Resources for advancing racial equity in your workforce (https://www NULL.surveymonkey NULL.com/mp/workforce-racial-equity/?&utm_source=rsps_email&utm_medium=sm&utm_content=survey NULL.416954&utm_campaign=SM_ENG_P&date=2020-07-204&CID=147485358)” includes a number of helpful resources for organizations that are working to listen and learn from their employees, customers, and other stakeholders.


  • PolicyLink published a Community Engagement Guide for Sustainable Communities (https://www NULL.policylink NULL.org/resources-tools/community-engagement-guide-for-sustainable-communities) that describes a Sustainable Communities Initiative, where communities are catalyzing new networks of relationships, finding new problem-solving methods, and creating new inclusive decision-making tables to craft an authentic vision for an equitable and prosperous future.
  • Community Heart & Soul (https://www NULL.communityheartandsoul NULL.org/what-we-do/) seeks to help people to shape the future of their communities by actively seeking the collective wisdom of all residents, improving local decision-making, creating a shared sense of belonging, and ultimately strengthening the social, cultural, and economic vibrancy of each place. It launches a new way of doing business that nurtures a more vibrant community far into the future.

Regional Data and Tools

  • The USDA’s Economic Research Service publishes an extensive collection of data and research, including Rural Economy & Population (https://www NULL.ers NULL.usda NULL.gov/topics/rural-economy-population/) information.
  • The goal of StatsAmerica (http://www NULL.statsamerica NULL.org/) is to provide actionable data for economic developers to use in site requests, developing metrics, grant writing and strategic planning.
  • EJSCREEN (https://www NULL.epa NULL.gov/ejscreen)is the Environmental Justice Screening and Mapping Tool from the Environmental Protection Agency. It is based on nationally consistent data and an approach that combines environmental and demographic indicators in maps and reports.
  • The Urban Institute ranked 274 cities on their economic and racial inclusion (https://apps NULL.urban NULL.org/features/inclusion/index NULL.html?topic=map). Other communities and regions may be able to use the same metrics if they are not included in this list.
  • Racial Equity Tools (https://www NULL.racialequitytools NULL.org/home) is designed to support individuals and groups working to achieve racial equity (http://racialequitytools NULL.org/glossary#racial-equity). This site offers tools, research, tips, curricula and ideas for people who want to increase their own understanding and to help those working toward justice at every level – in systems, organizations, communities and the culture at large.

    Economic Resilience

  • Planning for a Just Recovery in U.S. Cities and Communities (https://www NULL.youtube NULL.com/watch?v=D05L32T2aFM&feature=youtu NULL.be) is a video from the Institute for Sustainable Cities.
  • The Aspen Institute Economic Opportunities Program (https://www NULL.aspeninstitute NULL.org/programs/economic-opportunities-program/) developed this Job Quality Tools Library (https://www NULL.aspeninstitute NULL.org/longform/job-quality-tools-library/) to support leaders working in a variety of fields related to economic opportunity to engage in practical action to improve jobs. The library offers tools, resources, and guidance to help leaders adopt practices to strengthen job quality in their own organizations, in the businesses they partner with, and across labor markets.
  • In November 2019, the Aspen Institute Community Strategies Group published Rural Development Hubs Report: Strengthening America’s Innovation Infrastructure (https://www NULL.aspeninstitute NULL.org/blog-posts/rural-development-hubs-report/).  Hubs are organizations that lead efforts to do economic development differently, focusing on equity and inclusion, investing in multiple forms of community assets, and rooting wealth locally through strategies for local ownership and control of businesses and assets.

Planning Resources 

  • The American Planning Association is committed to promoting equitable communities. APA offers a robust collection (https://www NULL.planning NULL.org/resources/equity/)of resources — from on-demand education and research reports to magazine articles and podcasts— that provide a framework for smart, inclusive growth. Take special note of their Equity Diversity Inclusion (https://www NULL.planning NULL.org/diversity/voices-of-equity/) and Planning for Equity Policy Guide (https://www NULL.planning NULL.org/publications/document/9178541/).
  • The Interaction Institute for Social Change has an Equity and Urban Planning (https://interactioninstitute NULL.org/equity-and-urban-planning-weave-equity-into-process-and-content/) page with four key lessons for equity in planning.
  • An article by the Lincoln Institute for Land Policy: Planning for Social Equity (https://www NULL.lincolninst NULL.edu/publications/articles/planning-social-equity) – How Baltimore and Dallas Are Connecting Segregated Neighborhoods to Opportunity


  • Policy Link’s Axel Santana covers strategies to improve equity in transportation infrastructure, workforce, safety outcomes, and more in The Road to Transportation Equity (https://www NULL.roadsbridges NULL.com/road-transportation-equity) for Roads and Bridges.
  • Transportation and Equity with Tamika Butler, Toole Design (https://www NULL.spreaker NULL.com/user/ite-talks-transportation/tamika-butler-equity). Tamika L. Butler, Esq., director of Equity and Inclusion at Toole Design, joins the ITE Talks Transportation Podcast to discuss the critical issue of equity in transportation. She delves deep into the challenges transportation professionals confront when it comes to designing systems and communities that are safer, more accessible, and more equitable for all, and discusses key disparities and concerns currently at play in the industry.
  • National RTAP created an ADA Toolkit (https://www NULL.nationalrtap NULL.org/Toolkits/ADA-Toolkit/Welcome) to help rural transit managers understand the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) requirements for public transit providers under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), and to help rural transit systems comply with the ADA requirements that apply to them.
  • Transit Planning 4 All (http://www NULL.acltoolkit NULL.com/p/toolkit NULL.html), sponsored by the Administration for Community Living, is an inclusive and coordinated transportation-planning project that has funded a series of pilot projects across the nation, each seeking to increase inclusion in transportation planning and services for people with disabilities and older adults.
  • The National Aging and Disability Transportation Center (https://www NULL.nadtc NULL.org/about/transportation-aging-disability/) is a great source of information for equitable transportation planning. One recent article (https://www NULL.nadtc NULL.org/news/blog/the-road-ahead-covid-19-open-streets-and-accessibility/)by Eileen Schroff discusses transportation planning for the future, in light of recent national developments.
  • In January 2020, NADO Associate Director Carrie Kissel provided an introductory presentation (http://ruraltransportation NULL.org/nado-staff-present-at-transportation-research-board-conference/) on going beyond compliance in rural transportation and equity at the Annual Meeting of the Transportation Research Board.

Federal Guidance on Civil Rights Policies 

All federal agencies have their own interpretations of how to comply with federal Civil Rights policies. The guidance published by the Federal Transit Administration is comprehensive and explains how similar policies (such as Environmental Justice and Title VI) relate to one another, so it may be worth reading even for organizations that do not receive transit funding.

  • Environmental Justice: Avoid, minimize, or mitigate disproportionately high and adverse human health and environmental effects, including social and economic effects, on minority populations and low-income populations (FTA Circular PDF (http://www NULL.transit NULL.dot NULL.gov/sites/fta NULL.dot NULL.gov/files/docs/FTA_EJ_Circular_7 NULL.14-12_FINAL NULL.pdf) 
  • Title VI of the Civil Rights Act: Prohibits discrimination by recipients of Federal financial assistance on the basis of race, color, and national origin, including the denial of meaningful access for limited English proficient (LEP) persons (FTA Circular (http://www NULL.transit NULL.dot NULL.gov/sites/fta NULL.dot NULL.gov/files/docs/FTA_Title_VI_FINAL NULL.pdf) PDF) 
  • Americans with Disabilities Act: Prohibits discrimination and ensures equal opportunity and access for persons with disabilities (FTA Circular (http://www NULL.transit NULL.dot NULL.gov/sites/fta NULL.dot NULL.gov/files/docs/Final_FTA_ADA_Circular_C_4710 NULL.1 NULL.pdf) PDF) 

To view PDFs, use a viewer such as Adobe Reader (http://get NULL.adobe NULL.com/reader).

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