S.E. Williams | Executive Editor
For the first time ever, the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG)–the nation’s largest metropolitan planning organization representing six counties, 191 cities, and over 18 million residents–has chosen the Center for Social Innovation at UC Riverside (CSI-UCR) to conduct research and offer insights and recommendations to advance economic inclusion and equity across Southern California.
The project, the first of its kind involving SCAG and the University of California, Riverside, entails work by the Center for Social Innovation to inform an Inclusive Economic Recovery Strategy (IERS) for Southern California, and to serve as the equity advisor for the entire SCAG region.
The goal of the IERS is to provide a roadmap for inclusive economic development in the region, with a particular focus on equitable economic recovery. Additionally, the CSI-UCR director, Professor Karthick Ramakrishnan will serve as the economic advisor for the SCAG region specializing in equity, working alongside SCAG staff, SCAG’s Chief Economic Advisor, and SCAG’s Economic Recovery and Resiliency Strategy bench.
The COVID-19 pandemic has both revealed existing and created new economic disparities in terms of race, socioeconomic status, and other factors. As our country and region begin to make headway in fighting the pandemic, SCAG along with other government entities are prioritizing sustainability and racial equity as we begin our economic recovery. These values and priorities also align with those of the federal government and California’s state government as it looks to emerge from the pandemic with a more inclusive and equitable economy.
While there are a growing number of local initiatives meant to address systemic institutionalized racial inequities, the development and implementation of the IERS is intended to serve as a region-wide blueprint and foundation to achieve a more equitable recovery. SCAG has tasked the Center for Social Innovation at UC Riverside with this work given their extensive experience in researching and promoting economic inclusion and regional equity.
“For Southern California to truly recover from the devastation of the pandemic, we need to close this growing racial equity gap, and long-range planning for transportation and land use has a critical role to play,” said Rex Richardson, President of SCAG and Vice Mayor of Long Beach. “The Center for Social Innovation will be an important partner as we build out our strategy for building a strong, resilient, sustainable economy.”
“We are honored to have been chosen to advise a talented array of staff and affiliated researchers at the nation’s largest metropolitan planning organization,” Ramakrishnan noted. “Our Center has built a strong reputation as a trusted and credible research voice that advances inclusion and equity on projects ranging from local to national, and we are thrilled to work with others who share a strong commitment to building a more equitable Southern California region.”
Dr. Beth Tamayose, research director at the Center, added that “the Center is excited to bring our skills and experience in blending quantitative and qualitative research, and stakeholder engagement to help SCAG in this important initiative.”
In addition to Ramakrishnan and Tamayose, the Center’s project team includes associate director Karla Lopez del Rio, BA in development studies from UC Berkeley, and Gary Rettberg, who received his masters in public policy from UCR and serves as the Center’s research manager.
CSI’s work and research will contribute to the IERS report in May 2021, which will include an innovative framework and strategy for the region. Additionally, this work will be presented at the SCAG economic summit in December 2021.
The Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) is the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) for six counties in Southern California, including Imperial County, Los Angeles County, Orange County, Riverside County, San Bernardino County, and Ventura County. SCAG is the largest MPO in the U.S., representing over 18.5 million people. As the MPO, SCAG is tasked with researching and drawing up plans for areas including transportation, growth management, hazardous waste management, and air quality.
The Center for Social Innovation at UC Riverside provides a credible research voice that spurs civic leadership and policy innovation. It integrates researchers, community organizations, and civic stakeholders in collaborative projects and long-term partnerships that strengthen shared values of resilience, inclusion, sustainability, and equity (RISE). Importantly, the Center seeks to shift away from a “problem” narrative to an “opportunity” narrative for marginalized communities and localities.