We have taken time to listen and think about what we can meaningfully say and do as we reflect in the wake of events that began three weeks ago. Our CEO Ed Walter committed ULI to change; it is up to us, the members of ULI, to effectuate that change. Here is what that means for ULI Philadelphia.
We are heartbroken. The murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and countless others are the result of centuries of systemic racism that perpetuate social and economic inequity for people of color in our society. These inequities require us to reflect on our role in the ongoing disparities that the Black and Brown community faces with regards to equal access to healthcare, education and employment opportunities, accessible and affordable housing, public transportation, essential city services, and parks and open spaces.
We are sorry. We acknowledge the oppression, pain and suffering Black and Brown members of our community continue to endure. The status quo in our society, the real estate industry and ULI are a part of the systemic problem, which is why we—the entire ULI community—must be part of the systemic change. We must do better as an organization and an industry.
We are resolute. ULI’s mission is to provide leadership in the responsible use of land and in creating and sustaining thriving communities worldwide. Real estate and land use policy have been used to systematically divide us for decades; now we must use it to bring us together. We can’t do that until we hear, understand and amplify more diverse perspectives. We recognize that both ULI and the broader real estate industry lack these perspectives and, as such, are not properly serving all of our communities. To truly fulfill our mission, we need leadership, membership and programming that is more representative of the population. That is why we are intent on creating and sustaining a culture of inclusion within ULI that will foster the same environment within the industry.
We are hopeful. Our members are connected by the love and passion we have for our city and region. At the heart of the ULI mission is a belief that communities can only truly thrive if they are built on the foundations of diversity, equity and inclusion. ULI has the unique ability to convene industry leaders around sharing best practices. As land use leaders, we have a responsibility to effect positive change in our communities and play an active role in bridging the racial divides in this country.
We are committed. Over the past year, ULI Philadelphia has begun the intentional work to address the deficit of perspectives within our organization and industry. We started by setting a vision and listening to understand and define the work ahead. Below are some immediate actions we will take. We want to be held accountable for delivering on these commitments and will provide an update on our progress in a year’s time:
We will continue listening to real estate and planning professionals of color about how we can improve. We all need to listen, learn and un-learn.
We will entrust our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion advisors with recommending changes and guiding implementation.
We will add this group to our Advisory Board, providing a greater voice for people of color in the leadership of our organization.
We will provide unconscious bias training and an anti-racism pledge for the volunteer leaders of our organization while encouraging them to bring these tools to their organizations.
We will convene programming on the harmful legacy of past and current development policies and practices that segregate Black and Brown communities and restrict access to better schools, safer streets and better opportunities.
We will convene programming focused on diversity, equity and inclusion within the real estate industry.
We will expand UrbanPlan, a real estate training program geared towards expanding the diversity of future industry leaders.
We will work with intention to increase the number of members and leaders of diverse backgrounds, mitigating barriers to entry.
We will actively support and partner with BIPOC businesses and organizations that reach and support diverse communities.
It’s easy to talk about something, it’s hard to do it. ULI is its members and so only we, the members, can change it. That’s our collective responsibility. For those who have volunteered to join us in this work already, we thank you! We have hard work ahead of us, and we appreciate your leadership and willingness to help. For those who have more to contribute, please join us. We look forward to coming together to advance this work and invite you to share what you think this change can and should look like below.
District Council Chair, ULI Philadelphia
Chair for Missions Advancement, ULI Philadelphia
Chief Operating Officer, Gattuso Development Corporation
Executive Director, ULI Philadelphia