A definite highlight of the Open Places convening in Puerto Rico last week was an incredibly dynamic and engaging session with Cecilia Estolano of Estolano LeSar Perez Advisors and Roxana Tynan of LAANE.
Together they describe the unlikely partnership between community and bureaucracy [actually not a dirty word…] that they forged during Ms. Estolano’s tenure as Chief Executive Officer of the Community Redevelopment Agency of the City of Los Angeles. By building community power, calling out community knowledge and teaming that with technical research while also tapping into the best and highest aspirations of agency workers who too often are isolated from the people they set out to serve, this cross sector team was able to refocus the impact of a three-quarter of a billion dollar annual budget to provide real and direct impact to traditionally marginalized communities and provide real opportunities and ladders for success.
The Open Buffalo contingent had the opportunity to meet with Cecilia and Roxana to discuss the current wave of economic development projects in Buffalo and get insights on how to ensure the new Buffalo economy is an open Buffalo economy. Though now equipped with even more tools for working with community members to make this happen, we also left with a sense that it would be great to bring this team to town to share their uplifting and inspiring story.
LAANE has achieved an incredibly impressive suite of wins with Los Angeles residents, in good jobs, a healthy environment and thriving communities. This track record of progress is built on a very intentional mix of engagement, research and relationships all tied to outcomes and implementation.
LAANE was one of the models that Open Buffalo explored in its very early stages of envisioning what a new and collaborative social justice initiative could look like in this city. After having the great opportunity to hear more of the behind-the-scenes work that went into their success, as impressive as the scope of their accomplishments is their obvious and ongoing passion for this work and a commitment to real community-led change.