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Culture and Process: Doing Business Where Government Has Never Done Business Before

Watch the first of a three-part webinar series presented by Next City and Living Cities on public procurement, race, and the pandemic. 

April 7, 2021

The data have shown what many already knew to be true, that businesses owned by people of color are the hardest hit by the pandemic and its economic fallout.

Despite looming local budget deficits, the 2021 American Rescue Plan has earmarked more than $45 billion in aid for cities. So local governments can still leverage the power of their own public spending. Mindful procurement programs can mitigate disproportionate losses for workers and for the neighborhoods they support. And a commitment to inclusive procurement is an obvious way to ensure that the eventual recovery includes or even starts in the hardest-hit communities.

What are some of the biggest lessons learned from decades of work on MWBE procurement programs? What are some of the emerging practices that can make public procurement work better specifically from the perspective of small businesses that have never before had the opportunity to do business with their local government? This first event in our three-part series will bring together perspectives from leaders responding to these challenges in cities, using established methods as well as new methods.

Welcome Remarks, Living Cities:

Norris Williams
Norris provides project management, knowledge, operations, strategic, and convening support for Living Cities projects that test economic development models which leverage local government, business, public charity, private foundation, and impact investing partnerships to generate income and wealth within economically marginalized communities.

Norris joined Living Cities in June 2015 after serving in a preceding temporary support role. Prior to Living Cities, Norris served as a Legislative Assistant in the Indiana House of Representatives and as a Fiscal Intern with the Ways and Means Committee of that same legislative body. During this time, Norris also served as a Board Member of Community Action of Greater Indianapolis.

Before, Norris was the Manager of University Partnerships working with the Center for Youth & Family Investment, where he was responsible for hiring, training, and supervising 140 college students from seven universities to tutor in underserved schools in the Washington, D.C. area. Norris earned a BA in Political Science from the University of the District of Columbia.


Oscar Perry Abello

Oscar Perry Abello is Next City’s senior economics correspondent and covers alternative economic models and policies. Abello, who helms the Bottom Line newsletter, has covered the work of all these speakers over the years. Abello has a bachelor’s degree from Villanova University, where he majored in economics and minored in peace and justice studies. He spent several years embedded in the international development industry before transitioning into journalism in 2015.


Magalie D. Austin

Magalie D. Austin serves as senior advisor to the mayor of New York City and director of the Office of Minority and Business Enterprises, where she is responsible for oversight, policy and accountability of the city’s MWBE program. Austin previously served as the chief diversity and industry relations officer for the New York City Department of Design and Construction, where she was responsible for managing the agency’s MWBE program and served as the commissioner representative to the built industry. Under Austin’s leadership, the Office of Diversity and Industry Relations created and implemented innovative solutions that increased contract opportunities for minority-and women-owned business entities, awarding over $2 billion in capital projects, making the agency one of the leading cite agencies in contract awards to MWBEs. During Austin’s tenure, DDC increased its MWBE utilization from 9.7% to 32%. 

Michael Partis
Michael Partis is the Executive Director of the Bronx Cooperative Development Initiative: a nonprofit focused on advancing economic democracy through shared wealth strategies and community-based planning with working-class Bronx residents. He is also the co-founder of The Bronx Brotherhood Project, a volunteer-based college success & mentorship program for Black and Latino teens at New Settlement College Access Center. Formerly, he was the Director of South Bronx Rising Together (SBRT): a collective impact initiative dedicated to improving health, grade-level reading and math, and post-secondary outcomes in the neighborhoods of Morrisiana and Crotona Park West. And for 8 years prior, Michael led community-informed policy development and partnerships at Young Movement - a New York-based, grassroots nonprofits focused on social entrepreneurship. He is also a Researcher at the Bronx African American History Project, where he and Professor Mark Naison are editing “After The Fires:” a collection of post-1970s South Bronx oral histories.

Rosanne Albright
Rosanne Albright is the point person for food systems in Phoenix’s Office of Environmental Programs. In Phoenix, they recognized that funding provided by The CARES Act could be put to work to create new connections between local farmers and local restaurants that will last far beyond the pandemic. Albright will talk about shepherding a new process by the city finance department and legal teams before presenting to city council, where she won $1,700,000 — more than three times what she originally requested. Albright will also speak to ways of pushing back against potential naysayers who want to rely on pre-existing systems. Albright participates in the city’s team leading the effort to achieve Phoenix’s 2050 sustainability goals for clean air, carbon neutrality, and the local food system. As a founding member of the Maricopa County Food Systems Coalition, she collaborates with several partners to improve the local food system.

This webinar series is underwritten by Living Cities and its City Accelerator, an initiative that drives inclusive economic opportunity through procurement and which is supported by the Citi Foundation. All who register will receive a copy of the Next City ebook, “The Power of Procurement,” plus the upcoming report from the most recent City Accelerator cohort, which has been focused on “Doubling the Adoption of Procurement Processes to Promote Economic Equity.”

This webinar series is to pay what you wish to register. Pay any amount that you would like or nothing at all. Your contribution toward these webinars will be used to find even more amazing guests, cover hosting fees, and organize seminars like this one more frequently. In addition to most major credit cards, Next City accepts Apple Pay and Google Pay. A video of the webinar will be made available to those who register.


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