Bloomberg-Harvard City Leadership Initiative Fellowship

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In 2018, Grand Rapids was chosen to receive a Bloomberg-Harvard Fellow to work on equitable economic development initiatives. 

Grand Rapids continues to see strong economic growth across the majority of the city. Yet, a closer look at the data shows that Grand Rapids excludes two communities from this economic growth. These make up 32% of Grand Rapids’ population and see lower economic growth, as evidenced by:
  • Lower rates of education attainment
  • Higher rates of unemployment
  • Higher rates of poverty
Our goal is to make Grand Rapids a place where all residents are able to lead a prosperous life. Read more in the panels below.

Alyssa Davis was the 2018 summer fellow through the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative. She worked alongside community partners including:

  • City of Grand Rapids departments
  • Kellogg Foundation
  • Grand Valley State University Community Research Institute
  • Racial Equity Here Initiative

Alyssa combined existing data sources to create the Economic Opportunity Dashboard. This dashboard intends to provide insights on City economic development programs over time. It also evaluates the impact within the City's two communities of focus for equity.

The dashboard is set up to track key indicators tied to economic development and prosperity. Mayor Bliss is particularly interested in:

  • Accessibility of affordable housing
  • Public health
  • The rate of private economic investments
  • Access to opportunity and employment

Alyssa identified additional indicators that support Grand Rapids’ goals. In her final presentation on August 9, 2018. She made 3 recommendations the City should adopt to track progress and improve accountability.

The fellow developed 3 recommendations for us to consider, based on her research and the dashboard she developed: 

  1. Use the equity dashboard in decision-making processes for development projects
  2. Empower community in the development process
  3. Create more robust city support for employment-related equity goals

More details in the Report(PDF, 243KB)

The Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative is a collaboration among Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard Business School, and Bloomberg Philanthropies. Its mission is to inspire and strengthen city leaders, as well as equip them with the tools to lead high-performing, innovative cities. 

During the summer, Harvard graduate students serve as fellows in select cities. Students have the opportunity to work onsite in city governments throughout the country on specific projects of importance to participating mayors.

In 2018, Grand Rapids was chosen to receive a Bloomberg-Harvard Fellow to work on equitable economic development initiatives.

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