Breakthrough Communities (MIT Press 2009)

From MIT Press (2009) . . .

breakthrough-comm-cover-mockupArtwork: Guiding Light, Photomontage by Keba Armand Konte

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There’s a new Civil Rights Movement emerging in the twenty-first century:
The movement for Regional Equity”



W E B   P A G E   T A B L E   O F   C O N T E N T S

Overview of Breakthrough Communities Book

Table of Contents and Sample Chapters

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The emerging metropolitan regional equity movement promotes innovative policies to ensure that all communities in a metropolitan region share resources and opportunities equally. Too often, low-income communities and communities of color bear a disproportionate burden of pollution and lack access to basic infrastructure and job opportunities. The metropolitan regional equity movement–sometimes referred to as a new civil rights movement–works for solutions to these problems that take into account entire metropolitan regions: the inner city core, the suburbs, and exurban areas. This book describes current efforts to create sustainable communities with attention to the “triple bottom line”: economy, environment, and equity and argues that these three interests are mutually reinforcing.

After placing the movement in its historical, racial, and class context, Breakthrough Communities: Sustainability and Justice in the Next American Metropolis offers case studies in which activists’ accounts alternate with policy analyses. These describe efforts in Detroit, New York City, San Francisco, New Orleans, Atlanta, Camden, Chicago, Los Angeles, and other metropolitan areas to address such problems as vacant property, brownfields, affordable housing, accessible transportation, community food security, and the aftermath of Katrina and September 11. The volume concludes by considering future directions for the movement, including global linkages devoted to such issues as climate change.

Contributors:  Carl Anthony, Angela Glover Blackwell, Robert D. Bullard, Sheryll Cashin, Kizzy Charles-Guzmán, Don Chen, Celine d’Cruz, Amy Dean, Hattie Dorsey, Cynthia Duncan, Juliet Ellis, Danny Feingold, Deeohn Ferris, Kenneth Galdston, Greg Galluzzo, Howard Gillette, David Goldberg, Robert Gottlieb, Bart Harvey, William A. Johnson, Jr., Chris Jones, Van Jones, Anupama Joshi, Bruce Katz, Vicki Kovari, Mike Kruglik, Steve Lerner, Greg Leroy, Amy Liu, Stephen McCullough, Mary Nelson, Jeremy Nowak, Myron Orfield, Manuel Pastor, M. Paloma Pavel, john a. powell, Cheryl Rivera, Faith Rivers, Nicholas Ronderos, Rachel Rosner, David Rusk, Priscilla Salant, David Satterthwaite, Ellen Schneider, Peggy Shepard, L. Benjamin Starrett, Jennie Stephens, Elizabeth Tan, Petra Todorovich, Andrea Torrice, Mark Vallianatos, and Robert Yaro

Paloma Pavel. Ph.D., Editor. Paloma Pavel is President of Earth House Inc, and co-founder of the Earth House Leadership Center. In recent years she served as Director of Strategic Communications for the Sustainable Metropolitan Communities Initiative at the Ford Foundation. Pavel’s academic background includes graduate study at the London School of Economics and Harvard University. Her research at the London School of Economics addressed South African economics in the pre- and post-Apartheid eras. Her dissertation (Organizational Culture and Leadership) was part of a five-year study by the Carnegie Foundation on the workplace in America, which culminated in the publication Good Work. She regularly teaches at many Bay Area institutions, including California Institute for Integral Studies, where she co-chaired the graduate degree program in Organizational Development. With Prof. Robert Gottlieb of Occidental College, she co-edits the Sustainable Metropolitan Communities Books series at MIT Press. Pavel is a frequent lecturer and keynote presenter nationally and internationally on the theory of living systems and urban sustainability. As an international consultant, she works with individuals, communities, and organizations, focusing on strategic planning, strategic communications and leadership development.

Foreword by Carl Anthony. Carl Anthony is co-founder of the Earth House Leadership Center in Oakland, CA. His responsibilities in recent years have included an appointment as Ford Foundation Senior Fellow and Visiting Scholar in the Department of Geography at the University of California at Berkeley. Prior to that position, he served as Acting Director of the Community and Resource Development Unit at the Ford Foundation, where he directed the Foundation’s Sustainable Metropolitan Communities Initiative and the Regional Equity Demonstration. Carl funded the national Conversation on Regional Equity (CORE), a dialogue of national policy analysts and advocates for new metropolitan racial justice strategies. Prior to joining the Foundation he was Co-Chair of the Bay Area Alliance for Sustainable Development (BAASD). BAASD is a multi stake holder collaborative bringing together business leadership, environmental groups, social advocacy groups, labor, faith based organizations, elected and other public officials to build a consensus on how the region of 6.5 million, and over 100 jurisdictions, should grow. He was Founder and was, for 12 years, Executive Director of the Urban Habitat Program. The mission of Urban Habitat is to promote multicultural urban environmental leadership for sustainable, socially just communities in the San Francisco Bay Area. With his colleague Luke Cole at the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, he founded and published the Race, Poverty and the Environment Journal, the only environmental justice periodical in the United States.



TABLE OF CONTENTS (with sample chapters)

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Series Foreword — Robert Gottlieb  << click to download PDF

Foreword — Carl Anthony  << click to download PDF

Introduction — M. Paloma Pavel  << click to download PDF

Part I:  Roots of the Regional Equity Movement and the Reinterpretation of Metropolitan Space

Part l, Section 1:  Moving Beyond Apartheid in the Next American Metropolis

1. From Bootstrap Community Development to Regional Equity
Cynthia M. Duncan
2. Scaling Up: Regional Equity and the Revitalization of Progressive Politics
Angela Glover Blackwell and Manuel Pastor
3. Reinterpreting Metropolitan Space as a Strategy for Social Justice
john a. powell

Part I, Section 2:  Environment, Transportation, and Land Use in the Quest for Racial Justice

4. The Roots of Environmental Justice
Peggy M. Shepard and Kizzy Charles-Guzmán
5. Addressing Urban Transportation Equity in the United States
Robert D. Bullard
6. Race, Class, and Real Estate
Sheryll Cashin

Part I, Section 3: Geographic Context, Sustainability, and Regional Equity

7. Development and Opportunity in Small Towns and Rural Communities
Cynthia M. Duncan and Priscilla Salant

8. Katrina Is Everywhere: Lessons from the Gulf Coast
Amy Liu and Bruce Katz

9. Growing Together, or Growing Apart? Central Labor Councils and
Regional Equity (San Francisco Bay Area)
Amy B. Dean

Part II:  Breakthrough Communities: Stories and Strategies in the Quest for Regional Equity

Part II, Section 1:  Saying No to Forces Destroying the Community

10. Rekindling Hope in Cleveland (Cleveland, Ohio)
David Goldberg

11.  Closing the Gaps: The National Vacant Properties Campaign
(Cleveland, Ohio)
Don Chen

12.  Neighbors Building Neighborhoods: Community Stewardship
to Revitalize Midsize Cities (Rochester, New York)
Mayor William A. Johnson, Jr.

13.  Transforming Brownfield Communities: The Naugatuck Valley
Project (Connecticut)
Kenneth Galdston

Part II, Section 2 Getting Grounded in Place, Time, and Community

14.  Community Activism for Creative Rebuilding of
Neighborhoods (Chicago, Illinois)
Mary Nelson and Stephen McCullough

15.  Opportunity-based Housing in Atlanta (Atlanta, Georgia)
Steve Lerner

16.  A Regional Approach to Affordable Housing
Hattie Dorsey

17.  Preserving Heirs’ Property in Coastal South Carolina
(Charleston, South Carolina)
Faith R. Rivers and Jennie Stephens

Part II, Section 3: Exploring New Horizons: Connecting Local
Struggles to Global and Regional Stories

18.  LAX Rising (Los Angeles, California)
Danny Feingold

19.  Community Benefits Agreements: A Strategy for Renewing
Our Cities (Los Angles, California)
Greg LeRoy

20.  Reshaping a Region After September 11 (New York Metro Region)
Robert Yaro, Chris Jones, Petra Todorovich, and Nicolas Ronderos

21.  Faith-based Organizing for Metro Equity in Detroit
Victoria Kovari

22.  Values, Vision, and Message: The Spirit of Metro Equity
Greg Galluzzo, Mike Kruglik, and Reverend Cheryl Rivera

Part II, Section 4: Saying Yes: Framing Regional Collaborations to Win

23.  Bridging the Bay: University-Community Collaborations
(San Francisco Bay Area)
Manuel Pastor, Rachel Rosner, Juliet Ellis, and Elizabeth Tan

24.  Poor City, Rich Region: Confronting Poverty in Camden

From Dependency to Sustainability in Camden, New Jersey
Howard Gillette, Jr.

The ‘‘Inside Game’’: A Reinvestment Strategy
Jeremy Nowak

The ‘‘Outside Game’’: Can Faith Move Mountainless New Jersey?
David Rusk

25.  Farms to Schools: Promoting Urban Health, Combating Sprawl,
and Advancing Community Food Systems (Southern California)
Robert Gottlieb, Mark Vallianatos, and Anupama Joshi

Part III:  Regional Equity and the Future of Sustainable Metropolitan Communities

Part III, Section 1: Building the Capacity of the Regional Equity Movement

26.  Building the Capacity of the Regional Equity Movement
Angela Glover Blackwell and L. Benjamin Starrett

Part III. Section 2: Reaching Out to New Strategic Partners

27.  Business, Grass Roots, and the Regional Agenda
Bart Harvey

28.  Measuring Success: Using Metrics in Support of Regional Equity
David Rusk

29.  Networking for Social Justice: The African American Forum on
Race and Regionalism
Deeohn Ferris

30.  Sharing the New Story: Regional Equity and Strategic Media
Andrea Torrice and Ellen Schneider

Part III, Section 3: Uncovering Global Linkages for Sustainable
Metropolitan Communities

31.  Climate Change and the Quest for Regional Equity
Van Jones

32.  A Global Perspective: Community-driven Solutions to Urban Poverty
Celine d’Cruz and David Satterthwaite

Part III, Section 4:  Beyond Segregation: Toward a Shared Vision of Our Regions

33.  Beyond Segregation: Toward a Shared Vision of Our Regions
Myron Orfield

Part IV Resources


Contributor Biographies

Authors’ Organizations




What people are saying about Breakthrough Communities: Sustainability and Justice in the Next American Metropolis

“As we re-imagine the future of our cities and of the planet, Breakthrough Communities offers proven strategies that demonstrate that every voices matters. These are grounded visions of hope and possibility, where social justice forges a new road for economic and environmental sustainability.” –Danny Glover

“Breakthrough Communities showcases some of the most brilliant, innovative and creative thinkers of our time.  Their innovative ideas and solutions enable us to re-imagine, not just the future of our communities and our cities, but of our planet as well.” –Belvie Rooks, Board, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights

“Major changes in our society often are not recognized nor understood when they are occurring. Breakthrough Communities speaks to one of these: the rapid shift from seeing the metropolitan areas as a collection of legal-political jurisdictions to an understanding of the metropolis as competing, often conflicting, sometimes cooperating communities moving toward emerging visions of equity and shared prosperity in an extraordinary diverse world. These are stories of  successes in taking important steps to realize that vision. They are stories told by actual leaders in the struggles. They tell of strategies of change that work. As such this book is a must read for advocacy leaders, elected officials and average citizens trying to understand their communities” – Parris N. Glendening Governor of Maryland (1995-2003) President, Smart Growth Leadership Institute

“Occasionally there are books that reframe the way we think and act — and this is one of them. By seeing through a regional lens, it reveals the essential topography of our social structure and the superstructure of our environmental impacts. America’s most vexing challenges and golden opportunities lie in reshaping this topography and rethinking its superstructure at a regional scale. Writing here are the leaders of a movement that will change how we address social issues and transform public policy in a systemic way. Its range and insight is breathtaking — essential reading for all concerned with social justice and environmental health.” –Peter Calthorpe Principal, Calthorpe and Associates, author of The Next American Metropolis

“For too long we have ignored the gap between livable cities and sustainable land use. Through stories and strategies this book weaves new possibilities for envisioning and rebuilding our urban landscape. This is a remarkable book – indeed indispensable for charting our way forward.”; –Mary Evelyn Tucker Yale University, Forum on Religion and Ecology

“Breakthrough Communities is an inspiring window on the metropolitan regional-equity movement. This book offers a series of paths that lead us away from the despair and decline of the past, to a 21st century marked by hope, renewal, and transformation. Pavel and her colleagues show us what is actually working and what can work in cities and regions in the pursuit of racial, economic, and environmental justice. This is a powerful invitation to a world that I am aching to be a part of.”; –David Naguib Pellow Author of Resisting Global Toxics: Transnational Movements for Environmental Justice   and Professor of Sociology, University of Minnesota

“Here is the promise hidden in the turmoil of our time.  The dead-end poverty and pollution of the urban wasteland can yield to the  vision of a vital  metropolis.  For real-life accounts of collaborative strategies that fulfill this promise, read the stories in this book.” – Joanna Macy Author of World as Lover, World as Self

“An epic work of vital importance to the future of America . Provides an essential and practical answer to the growing racial and class divide — the otherwise missing demographic and geographic piece of the new economy agenda.” – David Korten Board chair, YES! magazine and author of The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community and Agenda for a New Economy.

“Often what a visionary does is not to see the future as such, but to recognize the seeds of a possible future in the present. In Breakthrough Communities, Carl Anthony and Paloma Pavel not only saw such seeds — they have cultivated them. The result is a truly visionary work in which multiple positive futures are nested in a “solve-the-whole-problem” approach. Certainly it’s a lighthouse that illuminates how cities — the make-it-or-break factor for environmental restoration — are perhaps the most fertile living laboratories of both ecological and social innovation. Certainly it illuminates the historic convergence of the two mighty rivers of the environmental and social justice movements. Certainly it illuminates how multi-cultural alliances and leadership by people of color are permanently changing the landscape of environmentalism. But more than all this, Breakthrough Communities shines with the radiant inner light of humanity that’s sparking the change of heart that can truly change the course of civilization. Future generations will look back on Breakthrough Communities as the seedlings of a true revolution.” – Kenny Ausubel Founder and Coexecutive Director of Bioneers



Stimulate All of America! A review of Breakthrough Communities.

By Susan C. Strong, Ph.D., Founder and Executive Director, The Metaphor Project

Facing criticism about continued job losses, President Obama recently announced a “summer speedup” for his stimulus plan. But creating more jobs faster is not enough by itself. We need answers to the following questions too: who exactly will get stimulated, when the rubber hits the road? Why? And how will the way the money is spent alter our common destiny? The answers to these questions will affect us all.(1) 

President Obama’s stated goal for the economic stimulus plan was to create a more green and varied basis for a new American economy. But talk of a better balance of industries and jobs just scratches the surface of what a healthier new American economy really requires, say advocates of something called “regional equity” or “metropolitan sustainability.” According to experts in the field like M. Paloma Pavel and Carl Anthony, building regional equity means creating ways to overcome the growing economic, ecological and social damage done us all by sprawl. Suburban flight away from our isolated, cash-strapped urban communities of color negatively impacts newer, more affluent suburbs too. (2)  In her just published anthology entitled Breakthrough Communities  (MIT Press, June, 2009), Dr. Pavel features a wide range of authors whose successful community organizing strategies have significantly boosted regional equity for everyone. (3)  These stories have direct application for the situation we’re in now, with new stimulus money set to start flowing faster. (A companion film, The New Metropolis, will be shown on PBS on in the near future.) Two examples in particular come to mind. First, there’s the “community benefits agreement,” an organizing model that grew out of new funding for improvements to the L.A. airport. The agreement ended up benefiting all members of the surrounding community. Then there’s the “fix-it first” greater Detroit-based campaign. Participants in that project succeeded in channeling federal transportation funds to repair of existing roads and building new public transit systems, rather than funding more sprawl via new roads. As editor of Breakthrough Communities, Dr. Pavel also identifies a clear model of how all successful regional equity organizing processes work. She discovered this model through the ten year process of in depth research and community engagement that led to the book. Every story in the anthology reflects a pattern of increasing effectiveness, that usually starts with people “waking up,” and moves on to their “saying no” to forces destroying their communities. Next comes “getting grounded” in the facts about their situation, then “exploring new horizons,” (especially at the regional scale). Finally the group starts “saying yes” by becoming proactive, framing the issues right, and seizing new opportunities. (4) In the next stage of the Breakthrough Communities Initiative, Dr. Pavel is now joined at her Oakland, CA, home base, Earth House Center (, by her distinguished colleague Carl Anthony. Together, they are launching a Breakthrough Communities Toolkit to teach this leadership model. The toolkit will include the book, the film, a curriculum guide and also an advocacy model based on Dr. Pavel’s work on California Senate Bill 375, which mandates community-based strategies for fighting global warming. Everyone can benefit from this model and these stories. Widely respected research has shown conclusively that boosting regional equity strengthens local economies in ways that help everyone in the region. (5) In the past, reform of certain national, state and local land-use and transportation policy rules has also been an important part of this success. Some current rules still have the power to seriously damage overall regional prosperity, as well as the economic situation of inner city residents, if they are left unchanged. Right now, with stimulus spending being fast tracked, the rules for its distribution still need a lot of public scrutiny and adjustment. (6) Moreover, there is no money in the bill for community-based planning. Though the bill’s overall time frame is ten years, the most favored start up period is a very short two years. True, we need to jump start the economic recovery. But genuinely democratic community planning can take longer than that, and is the only way to get lasting economic benefits for all.  Too much haste can also lead to funding things that will actually worsen our problems, such as the new highways that breed more new socially and ecologically damaging sprawl. Most important, stimulus spending rules that really do foster regional equity will help counter that destructive old American myth about everything always being merely a matter of individual responsibility—blaming the victims. That myth has once again been discredited by the way innocent bystanders have been hit by the meltdown’s spread. It’s clear: we’re in this one all together. When the recovery starts showing more signs of life, that lesson will need to be reinforced. Now, more urgently than ever, our future has to be about leveling the playing field, making the rules of the game fair, and seeing to it we have honest umpires at every level. Our American recovery must be deep and wide, genuinely green, politically broad-based, and above all, morally sound, leaving no one out. We need a lot more from the stimulus package than a bit more prosperity for the few–we need it to redeem some of our best American ideals–equality of opportunity and fair play for all, in every region of the land. Stimulus Package Watchdogs, stand up and bark!
Susan C. Strong, Ph.D., is the founder and executive director of The Metaphor Project. The Metaphor Project has been helping progressives mainstream their messages by “speaking American” since 1996. Many “speaking American” resources and guides are available free of charge at: shorter, less complete version of this article appeared on Daily Kos on 6.18.09 and was also forwarded to The Metaphor Project’s Network of member subscribers on that date. 

(1) The phrase “our common destiny” has been found to help foster positive outcomes and reduce conflict among diverse stakeholders in regional equity organizing, says Professor Chris Benner, co-author with Manuel Pastor and Martha Matsuoka, of This Could Be The Start of Something Big: How Social Movements for Regional Equity Are Reshaping Metropolitan America, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, 2009.
(2) See the Fall, 2008 issue of Race, Poverty & The Environment (Volume 15, #2).
(3) Breakthrough Communities: Sustainability and Justice in the Next American Metropolis, edited by M. Paloma Pavel, Foreword by Carl Anthony, MIT Press, 2009, Cambridge, MA, 411 pp. This book can be preordered now via the MIT Press website .
(4) See the Compass for Transformative Leadership, available at under Services.
(5) Manuel Pastor et al., Regions That Work: How Cities and Suburbs Can Grow Together, University of Minnesota Press, 2000.
(6) Four key sources support the statements in this paragraph: 
a. “Bringing Home the Green Recovery,” a paper available from
b. “Stimulus for Whom?” available at
c. “Economic Recovery for Everyone: Racial Equity and Prosperity,” prepared by the Center for Social Inclusion, a project of the Tides Center, available at
d. “The Stimulus: What If We’re Not Shovel Ready?” by Heidi Pickman, on the blog at


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A Project of Earth House Center For information contact Paloma Pavel, Ph.D. Phone: (510) 652-2425 Ext. 2    —    E-mail: Connect[at] Website: 5275 Miles Avenue  —  Oakland, CA 94618  —  (510) 652-2425

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