Local Return releases 2023 Policy Paper

Chart showing disparities among Rhode Island neighborhoods

COVID impacted everyone, but the people and places that were hit hardest were those without a “cushion.” Communities that lack a wealth of reserves in their regular lives had no breathing room to deal with crisis, illness, loss of work, or isolation. The pandemic forced us to see the disparate outcomes and burdens that persist across our neighborhoods. It’s clear: We cannot move forward from COVID using the same economic and community development strategies that we relied on in the past, which only helped create those vulnerabilities. This is Rhode Island’s moment to move toward a stronger future, to build deep and wide community resilience. By focusing on wealth, ownership, and investment, we can help Rhode Island’s economy and communities find strong, sustainable footing.

The purpose of this policy paper is to introduce several potential strategies of community
wealth-building. Our intent is to shift the boundaries of what’s considered possible in our state. We have intentionally included a diversity of ideas that could be implemented at multiple levels of government and with different degrees of investment. For each idea we discuss in the following pages, we describe how it promotes community wealth, another instance of implementation, and how it might work in Rhode Island.

We hope you will engage with these ideas, improve upon them, and help make them reality.