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Charting a New Path Forward for Inclusive Economic Policy

This bonus insight is part of Common Future’s Policy Incubator Series, pulling lessons from our September webinar.

Authors: Lauren Paul, Vice President of Strategic Alliances

Inclusive economic policy looks like: 

  1. giving voice and visibility to disempowered residents,
  2. leveraging existing community assets to build lasting community power,
  3. distributing ownership opportunities to democratize the economy, and ,
  4. addressing deeply held narratives, such as deservedness, to bring about truly transformative change.

On Tuesday, September 27th, we convened a session to introduce the work of Common Future’s four brilliant policy entrepreneursRoque BarrosKeneshia RaymondBree Jones, and Trevor Smith: “Charting a New Path Forward For Inclusive Economic Policy.”

Facilitated by Incubator Steering Committee member and President/CEO of Pacific Community Ventures, Bulbul Gupta, and Common Future CEO, Rodney Foxworth, we got to hear from each one of these leaders.


During our time together, Roque, Bree, Keneshia, and Trevor illuminated fundamental aspects of their approaches building and sharing power with their communities to bring about transformative policy change. These are lessons from their lived experiences doing the work on the ground — not simply theoretical frameworks. From their stories, we learned that:




Shifting power dynamics within the policy development and advocacy space starts with giving voice and visibility to disempowered residents. Roque Barros of Imperial Valley Wellness Foundation spoke about his work engaging his community—one of the most resource rich but economically poor regions in California—by building decision-making tables where residents truly belong. Through his work around participatory decision-making processes, Roque is modeling a better process to make spending determinations around economic development dollars across the state. As Roque put it: “Sometimes community residents get invited to be in the passenger seat of the car, but we need the opportunity to drive the car — to own the car.”




By leveraging existing community assets, we can build lasting community power. Through her work at ParityBree Jones is building organic networks of engaged actors through her affordable housing development company. She leverages that power when advocating for anti-gentrification legislation and future overlay zone legislation. “We are tapping into social capital that already exists in these communities. We have mothers, daughters, cousins, coworkers–that’s the beauty of this, it’s predicated off of existing social networks.




Ownership must be distributed. Keneshia Raymond is striving to build a model in Tucson, AZ where community partnerships can better leverage existing U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development resources to provide real affordable ownership opportunities to disenfranchised communities, nationwide. Underneath this goal is a deeper value set: The residents of Tucson, AZ are deserving of ownership opportunities. “We are tackling affordable housing and what it truly is. Ownership should not be for the wealthy, it should be for everyone.”




We must address deeply held narratives, such as deservedness, to bring about truly transformative change. Trevor Smith addressed how his work through Liberation Ventures is building the narrative infrastructure necessary to facilitate the mindset shifts required for ideas with transformative potential, like reparations, to take hold: “The [reparations] movement is as old as the United States…movements move narratives…unless we address these deeply held anti-black narratives we will keep seeing this back and forth on issues.”

Our team at Common Future has over 50 years of cumulative experience designing incubation and accelerator programs for tech entrepreneurs, non-profit leaders, and foundation executives. Through our policy incubator, we’re applying similar methodologies to the policy space. By incubating the work of community-minded leaders to bring about transformative policy changes, we’re pioneering a new way of working for the field: Building the capacity of those closest to the problem to lead on the design and execution of economic policy solutions. Policy entrepreneurship represents an experimental approach to economic policy development and advocacy.

Through this experiment, we’re committed to learning out loud. Sign up here for monthly insights and lessons from our Policy Incubator.

As we continue to grow, learn and push economic policy development and advocacy institutions forward, we encourage you to keep the inquiry alive and the conversation going. Please direct additional thoughts or questions to Lauren Paul, Director of Partnerships and Policy at Common Future.

Want to learn more from our policy experiment or potentially collaborate? Reach out to to set-up a time to connect. 

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