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Inclusion Toolbox

Fighting inequality and expanding inclusion where you live and work
What are you doing in your community to promote inclusion and equality?  Share your stories with communitymanager@rhinohio.com

Why waste a crisis?
The events of the past year (the tragedies like Ferguson, Cleveland, Beaver Creek, and Charleston) have convinced a majority of Americans that now's the time to address inequality and exclusion.  
If you were afraid to raise the issues around inequality in your local community, take heart!  Rahm Emmanuel famously said "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. … This crisis provides the opportunity for us to do things that you could not before."   

When the PD's legendary opinionist
 Brent Larkinwrites"Our kids face a widening opportunity gap that must be closed", you can guess that inequality has hit the mainstream awareness

In fact recent polling suggests that even R's and D's agree that inequality must be addressed. Examples include: 
and 

 What can local advocates do locally to increase inclusion and reduce inequality?
1. Start by speaking to the entire community, not just the poor and minority segments. The big news of recent weeks is: a majority of  Americans "get it":that inequality is a problem.  
2.  Keep the message broad.  Income inequality could mean "tax the rich" or "raise the minimum wage"; opportunity inequality could mean more "open housing" or social benefit spending.  Keeping the "big tent" open means there's plenty to work on without coming into conflict.
3. Avoid blaming.  Middle class whites don't want to hear about "white privilege". They don't feel privileged and the fact is that all wages have been stagnant since the 1970's.  Coming to your community with a 60's style social justice message could provoke a backlash.  
4. Stay scientific. Be ready to cite evidence of inequality not just ideasBe ready to show how assistance programs strengthen local economies (more sales at the grocery store). Show how housing stability increases health, education and job stability outcomes.   
5. Focus on solutions. Locally, you can work on changes to local programs & policies and to expanding personal involvement across class lines. Examples of local campaigns could include:  
supporting expanded housing choice.  That could be support for non traditional moves, removal of residency barriers to assisted housing and support for accessibility modifications.  Don't wait for the Feds to nab your local jurisdiction for restrictive policies, change policies now! 
rewarding inclusive policies of local government, schools and institutions. Examples could include: "ban the box" in employment AND HOUSING, a local minimum wage, a micro loan program for low income entrepreneurs, a farmers market for local producers and consumers.
bringing professions and institutions in community action activities: free legal clinics and pro bono representation, free home health screenings, free internet access in low income housing, or expanded emergency financial assistance to stabilize rental households. No more "someone else's problem" blindness.
expanding transportation opportunities for low income families to get to work, school and recreation. Uber-ize public transit.  
locating new jobs and housing developments within easy of both majority and minority communities.  
mobilizing local media--too often concerned with crime and crashes--to focus on local needs and quietly successful efforts to bridge gaps.
engagingyoung people in solutions to the problems that they will inherit.
6. Embrace "personal change" projects. The US is still a nation of rugged individualists, "self made", bootstraping sort of folks who went off into the wilderness to make new homes. Bridging the gaps between low income and middle income communities will show those common values. In Port Clintonresidents were angry about Putnam's book on inequality, but then rolled up their sleeves to become the change they believed in.   Governor Kaisch might tell you that every low income household needs a case manager, but more likely they just need a neighbor.  More onlocal efforts
7. Don't get political. Politics (right now anyhow) is the 3rd rail of social change. As soon as you are identified with an R or a D--your efforts will be doomed. Avoid engaging political figures in your efforts to expand equality unless you have a broad consensus. Instead of waiting for them to lead, let them follow you.  (They'll take the credit regardless).
8. In the controversy over locality development and mobility do both and teach the controversy.  
9.  Don't get discouraged.   It has taken 40 years of conscious choices and unintended consequences to suppress the earning power and housing choices of lower and middle class Americans. You won't change inequality with a weekend cleanup campaign. Having a support group within your professional, religious, or social networks can be critical to helping you continue to learn and grow and maintain your focus for the long haul.
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