Moving from data to action

by Angela Glover Blackwell of PolicyLink

This equity atlas vividly demonstrates the power of data to tell the story of a changing region and what it needs to prosper in the future. Now you must use this data to drive action. Metro Atlanta must capitalize on its greatest asset—its rapidly growing, diverse population—to build a strong, equitable, sustainable economy. As the Atlas makes clear, almost all the growth in the region over the past decade has been driven by communities of color. Yet too many people in these communities are being left out and left behind. Longstanding inequities have resulted in significant gaps in education, employment, health, and wealth among the very populations that the region will depend on to be the workforce and business leaders of tomorrow. Closing these gaps is an economic imperative, for the region and the nation. Metro Atlanta, America’s seventh largest region, will effectively compete in the global marketplace only if all residents are fully able to participate in the economy and contribute to innovation. Policies and investments focus on connecting communities of color to jobs, transportation, housing, and quality education—in short, to all the opportunities and resources that make people, communities, regions, and the nation strong.

The challenge is big, but it can be overcome. Across the country, regions are doing the difficult work of bridging race, ethnicity, culture, and geography to build a movement for equity. In Atlanta, the Partnership for Southern Equity is playing a critical role in bringing together Metro Atlanta’s diverse communities to advance equity in the region.

With this report, Atlanta joins a growing number of regions that are using comprehensive data atlases to foster regional action. Portland recently released its second Regional Equity Atlas. Rhode Island and Kansas City recently released equity profiles to guide plans for sustainable regional growth — and in Rhode Island, the profile sparked policy action by the governor to open up economic opportunities for people of color in government jobs and contracts. In Houston and Southeast Florida, regional planning organizations, local governments, community organizations and residents, funders, and policymakers are also working together to develop equity profiles.

By using smart data analysis illuminated by maps and graphics, this work reframes the conversation about race and equity. It’s about objective facts and the American future. The data are clear. Now is time for Atlanta’s equity proponents to advocate for the recommendations in this atlas, and for the region’s public and private sector leaders to begin implementing them.