When we talk about wanting to make a difference through our Equity & Inclusion practice, it is simultaneously a bland statement and an eyebrow-raising one. Bland because who doesn’t want to have a positive impact? But eyebrow-raising because it makes it sound like we are a non-profit or a think tank, rather than a for-profit business.
To be sure, scrupulous professional service providers are mindful of which clients they serve, what issues they take up, and how they go about their work. And we take care with all of those things. Not only because our reputation and our integrity are on the line, but our commitment to doing good in the equity and inclusion space goes deeper than that.
When we engage in equity and inclusion work, we tread on sacred and sensitive ground. We may be running numbers and doing research and advising clients, but we do so in an arena that is fraught with the deep-seated pain of layers upon layers of personal, systemic, and societal injustices.
We do these things because to us, equity and inclusion are not academic topics we pursue for business purposes. They are intensely personal matters for which we harbor a deep commitment to effect progress. As with all of our business lines, but especially in Equity & Inclusion, we bring our full selves to the work, eager not just to do a project but to make a difference.
When we study the distribution of public sector contracts, construction employment opportunities, and capital to buy a home or grow a business, we employ sophisticated analytical techniques and draw from a grounded understanding of legal, policy, and structural factors. Yes, our project management matters, but we also acknowledge the indignity of past and present discrimination that has kept entire groups from full economic participation.
When we assess the effect a proposed development will have on a community and city, we do so informed by the myriad impacts–positive and negative–that need to be accounted for in such an evaluation. Yes, our evaluation matters, but we also acknowledge traumas that have been visited upon certain neighborhoods again and again which influence their receptivity to present-day proposals.
And when we advise institutional clients on matters of equity and inclusion, we focus on the present and future landscape in which they seek to thrive. Yes, our thought leadership matters, but we also make space for a full accounting of past actions whose long shadow may continue to exert influence over how they are perceived or how they perceive.
We believe that having a balance of technical expertise and passion for Equity & Inclusion makes an important contribution to this work. We share the cynicism of both young idealists and long-time activists, who see through the shallow and opportunistic efforts of many in this space to virtue-signal, give lip service, or personally gain from others’ pain. It matters to us that our contribution is made not from a place of detached intellectual capacity but includes close personal investment. We hold ourselves accountable to this by approaching it from a place of humility and credibility, to participate in the solution rather than profiting from the problem. That is what we bring to the table to ensure that everyone can have a seat at the table!
Lee Huang, President & Principal | [email protected]
Lee Huang brings over 20 years of experience in economic development experience to ESI’s public, private, institutional, and not-for-profit clients. He leads consulting engagements in a wide range of fields, including higher education, economic inclusion, environmental sustainability, historic preservation, real estate, neighborhood economic development, non-profits, retail, state and local government, strategic planning, tax policy, and tourism/hospitality, and is a sought-after speaker on these and other topics.
Frank Robinson, Director | [email protected]
Frank Robinson is a Director with ESI. Mr. Robinson has been a leader in the economic development and sustainable development industries for over 18 years, working with corporate, government and nonprofit clients, banks and credit unions, as well as community development financial institutions (CDFI) and small businesses. With a knack for creatively engaging clients and re-envisioning possibilities, he enjoys hammering out logistics and bringing forth new realities.