Georgia Stand Up: Organizing for an Equitable Atlanta

December 20, 2007 -- Georgia STAND-UP

By Melissa Conrad, GSU Policy & Project Coordinator

Georgia Strategic Alliance for New Directions and Unified Policies (Georgia STAND-UP) is the only Georgia alliance of leaders representing community, faith, academic, and labor organizations which organizes and educates communities about issues related to economic development. Throughout 2007, Georgia STAND-UP utilized its four strategic program areas to continue to empower leaders and strengthen the alliance in order to work toward the creation of an equitable Atlanta.

Our Alliance & Community Organizing
In 2007, Alliance membership grew from 70 to more than 125 organizations and individuals.  Every month Georgia STAND-UP brings these individuals together to share information, develop a shared list of community benefits principles, and strategize opportunities for change throughout Atlanta and the metropolitan region.  Meeting topics in 2007 included:

       Mortgage Fraud & Predatory Lending
      The BeltLine
      Prioritizing Community Benefits Principles
      Redevelopment in Atlanta
      Affordable Housing & Displacement
      Economic Development
      Good Jobs

In September, Georgia STAND-UP launched its first community organizing campaign with a focus on voter registration and education for the southwest Atlanta, Clayton County, and DeKalb County communities. By creating a Voter Registration Coalition, Georgia STAND-UP partnered with community-based organizations and neighborhood leaders to develop a broad strategy for registering voters in the targeted areas. Through this coalition, there are plans to conduct voter registration drives in partnership with local grocery stores, to include accessing existing voter records to ensure voters remain on the rolls.

Georgia STAND-UP also launched its website to facilitate connectivity and communication.  The website provides a space for learning more about the ongoing work of Georgia STAND-UP and important public meetings and events throughout the city, along with campaign updates. 

Research & Policy

In 2007, Georgia STAND-UP developed strategic partnerships with scholars at both the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) and Emory University to examine issues of importance to STAND-UP Alliance members.  Through these partnerships, research activities specifically focused on issues of displacement related to the BeltLine project, and opportunities to reduce recidivism and improve livelihood among ex-felons re-entering their neighborhoods and communities.

One tangible result of these research efforts was the development of the report “The BeltLine & Rising Home Values: Residential Appreciation Near the Beltline Tax Allocation District and Policy Recommendations to Minimize Displacement” authored in partnership with Dan Immergluck, PhD, an associate professor of City and Regional Planning at Georgia Tech. This report, released in September, reveals how increased awareness of the Beltline project has resulted in large jumps in property values in neighborhoods close to the Beltline, particularly on the city’s southside.  The report is a powerful tool for staff, Alliance members, and decision makers to utilize in pushing new policies to provide community benefits for the BeltLine and other proposed economic development projects.

Grassroots Leadership Education

The Policy Institute is one of Georgia STAND-UP’s key programs.  The purpose of this seven-week intensive course is to create an infrastructure that builds “smart networks” of local leaders.  In the spring, 20 leaders completed the Policy Institute.  The objectives of the Policy Institute are for existing and emerging grassroots leaders to: develop a common language of analysis, understand the principal forces and dynamics driving economic policy and development, and provide background in the historic and present role that government, organized labor, and grassroots organizations play in achieving public policy outcomes that benefit working families.

Throughout 2007, Georgia STAND-UP staff conducted more than 50 Community Enrichment Workshops in neighborhoods around the city, serving more than 750 Atlanta residents and leaders. Georgia STAND-UP conducts Community Enrichment Workshops to build the skills and knowledge of labor, community, and faith leaders in areas such as community organizing, community benefits agreements, and analyzing specific economic development tools and to facilitate the involvement of new leaders in the ongoing research, organizing, and campaign efforts of the Alliance.

Community Benefits Campaigns

Throughout the year, Georgia STAND-UP focused much of its educational, organizing, and research efforts on the BeltLine community benefits campaign, an on-going campaign to increase community engagement opportunities and push for a comprehensive community benefits package for the BeltLine project.  Throughout the year, Alliance members contributed to the development of a comprehensive list of community benefits principles that serve as the basis for the Georgia STAND-UP “Plan for Community Equity: Community Benefits Recommendations for the BeltLine.”  The “Plan for Community Equity,” scheduled to be completed by the end of 2007, will include a comprehensive set of policy recommendations to ensure the BeltLine project provides high-quality jobs, quality job training, and tangible opportunities for residents to gain viable employment and long-term career opportunities. The plan is being developed by Georgia STAND-UP in partnership with the Community Benefits Subcommittee of the BeltLine Tax Allocation District Advisory Committee chaired by Deborah Scott, Executive Director of Georgia STAND-UP.

On the grassroots level, Georgia STAND-UP mobilized community residents and leaders to become active in BeltLine Study Groups, the official community engagement tool for the BeltLine project. Through BeltLine Study Groups, community residents are afforded opportunities to provide input on the BeltLine master planning process and the development of community benefits principles for their neighborhoods.

Georgia STAND-UP also sought to increase community engagement and community benefits on other development projects throughout Atlanta, including the redevelopment Fort McPherson, a 488–acre U.S. army base in southwest Atlanta slated to be closed

Strengthening the Partnership & Broadening the Movement

In February, Georgia STAND-UP hosted the 2007 Partnership for Working Families (Partnership) National Convening which helped to establish the south as a major player in the national community benefits movement.  With more than 200 staff and stakeholders in attendance, the convening provided a space for the sharing of strategies, lessons learned and new resources to expand the capacity of Partner organizations across the country.

In June, Georgia STAND-UP took an active role in the first United States Social Forum (USSF) held in Atlanta and sought to educate leaders about the importance of understanding and using new strategies in the south and across the country.  The USSF was a four-day gathering to share ideas and resources about social and economic justice, and to learn and challenge each other to realize “another world is possible and another U.S. is necessary.”  During the Forum, Georgia STAND-UP facilitated a workshop on the topic of “Community Benefits Agreements: Accessing Community Power to Impact Development.” Workshop presenters explained the basics of community benefits agreements, and highlighted the work of the Partnership for Working Families to spread the movement to major metropolitan areas across the country.

Looking Ahead to 2008
Throughout 2007, Georgia STAND-UP continued to build a strong movement for equitable development in the Atlanta region through research, education, organizing, and advocacy.  In 2008, the organization plans to increase the strength of this movement through targeted community organizing campaigns, new research releases, an expansion of the Policy Institute for Civic Leadership and community enrichment workshops, and a continuing push for community benefits for the BeltLine and other economic development projects around the city and region.