Community Benefits in Practice and in Policy: Lessons from the United States and the United Kingdom

The Atkinson Foundation

Author +
Dina Graser

Year: 2016

Interest in community benefits has been growing in Ontario over the last few years, as a way of ensuring that public and private infrastructure investments foster prosperity and well-being in the communities where those projects take place.

In October 2015, Dina Graser was contracted to research how community benefits could produce meaningful change for low-income communities, and to make practical recommendations as how to best advance the field in Ontario.

Download Community Benefits in Practice and in Policy

Accordingly, three research components were undertaken between October 2015 and February 2016:

  • A review of community benefits agreements (CBAs), “social clauses,” and legislation and policies in the U.S. and in the U.K. This was done to understand the legal, procurement and political frameworks in which they were created.
  • Interviews with a wide range of experts and actors in the field of community benefits in the U.S. and the U.K.
  • A study tour to California with Colette Murphy, Executive Director of the Atkinson Foundation, to better understand the “ecosystem” that makes community benefits projects and policies possible there. The tour included meetings with leaders in the nonprofit and community sectors, staff in city governments and public agencies, economic development experts, organizers, workforce development pioneers, academics and policymakers in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley.

This report summarizes what has been learned through those activities, analyzes the state of play in Ontario, and makes recommendations as to how best to further this work in our own context.

Related reading: Community Benefits and Tower Renewal

Table of Contents

Executive Summary

The California Experience
The Oakland Army Base: Building a Movement
Los Angeles: From Projects to Policy
Concluding Thoughts on the U.S.
The U.K. experience
Role of legislation and policy
Northern Ireland
Social Enterprise
Concluding thoughts on the U.K. Experience
Eight core criteria: lessons from both jurisdictions
Political will and an internal champion
A clear policy basis and alignment with other public policy goals and practices
Policy guidelines and procurement strategies for implementation
Clear and measurable targets
A strong workforce pathway system
Monitoring and evaluation frameworks
Enabling SME and SE participation
The Value of Trust
Application to the Ontario context
Promising developments
Government: some political will, but a lack of expertise
Lack of community capacity
Need for a narrative
Need for organizational infrastructure