Investing in What Works for America’s Communities: Essays on People, Place, and Purpose

One in six Americans lives in poverty – the highest level in 50 years – and where a person lives remains one of the most powerful influences of their life chances. Moreover, nearly half of children born into poverty will remain poor throughout childhood. And nearly one-third of poor children will remain impoverished into adulthood. Investing in What Works for America’s Communities: Essays on People, Place, and Purpose, a new book published by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and the Low Income Investment Fund, attempts to address these stubborn challenges by highlighting entrepreneurial solutions for addressing poverty from leading experts in community and economic development, academia, government policy, health, and philanthropy. Solutions, such as:

  • Integrating programs and funding streams to create multifaceted approaches; single, siloed strategies do not work on their own. Busting silos in government programs and creating innovative financing for investments in hard-to-serve communities. 
  • Investing simultaneously in both places (buildings and infrastructure) and people (education, health services, and job creation). Investing in cradle-to-career education and supportive public and health services. 
  • Creating accountability for community development investments through benchmarks, data, and outcomes measurement. 
  • Connecting communities in broader regional economies and through transit and anchor institutions. 

We invite you to explore these ideas and many more

Initial praise for Investing in What Works for America’s Communities:

Starting from the history and current state of community development, in this eclectic collection of essays, experts on health, education and transportation join community development thinkers and practitioners in urging us to break though silos in our programs, our financing streams, and our thinking. They challenge practitioners, policy makers and researchers alike to respond to the complex challenges facing our families and communities by using data-based rigorous analysis to direct scarce resources to what works.
Sarah Rosen Wartell, President, Urban Institute

This volume presents the thoughtful ideas and philosophies of an extremely diverse set of leading scholars and policy-oriented experts as well as practitioners who have been driving community-based innovation. In so doing, it leads one to interesting—and sometimes unexpected—places regarding the best approaches for driving effective transformational change. It is a must-read for those contemplating how to integrate people, place, capital, and public, private, and non-profit institutions to achieve community development and personal growth.
Raphael Bostic, Bedrosian Chair in Governance, USC Price School of Public Policy, former HUD Assistant Secretary, Policy Development and Research

This thoughtful collection will set the standard for the community development field for the next decade. It is an outstanding set of essays by experts in an ever-expanding and always complex field. These are demanding times in the world analyzed in this volume and the authors recognize that those in it are fighting a steep uphill battle. But community development professionals struggle on with imagination and sophistication and the book captures the essence of the learning by front-line workers and those researching their activity. I know when I see a “value-added volume” in the field. This is one of them. Were I still teaching about community development, “Investing in What Works” would be at the top of the required reading list and the basis for the organization of the course.
Lang Keyes, Ford Professor of City and Regional Planning Emeritus, Department of Urban Studies and Planning, MIT

This volume, an important resource for those engaged in community development, goes beyond the dichotomy of place-based versus people-based policies to define what makes communities sustainable and resilient. Through its holistic approach, this volume provides the latest analysis by foremost community development experts: practitioners, researchers, and policy makers on emerging programs that are successful in building stronger communities in the United States.
Susan Wachter, Professor of Real Estate and Finance, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the management of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco or of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.