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The University of Kentucky Sustainability Challenge Committee awarded a $31,500 grant that will fund Phase 1 of the Economic Development Collaborative (EDC) bold idea #4: Create an Equity Map of Central KY.

Led by Marilyn Clark, the EDC, the Equitable Economic Development subcommittee and the UK Geography department, the plan aims to create a dynamic equity map for the state of Kentucky.

“The focal point of our economic inclusion work at the University of Kentucky is to have a positive community impact. The equity mapping project will inform our efforts and create a baseline upon which we can measure our success,” Barry Swanson, Chief Procurement Officer said. “These ingredients are essential to our efforts as we pursue our positive community impact goal.”

The equity map will be a useful resource for institutional leaders and policymakers at all levels for making informed decisions that impact urban and business development, social services, education, and health. When decision-makers can see problems and challenges represented in a visual context, they are better equipped to seek new ways to define equity and visualize sustainable solutions to achieve it.

“Business ownership is seen as a pathway to building generational wealth in America.  But after more than 50 years of programs for diverse businesses, we still see poverty in communities of color,” Clark said.  “In our efforts to build sustainable businesses, we need to learn more about the economic and social conditions in the communities where business owners live and work. 

The Sustainability Challenge Grant program is designed to engage multidisciplinary teams from the University community in the creation and implementation of ideas that will promote sustainability by simultaneously advancing economic vitality, ecological integrity and social equity. In the first four years of the program, 26 projects have been awarded a total of $700,000 to pursue transformational, sustainability-driven projects on our campus and beyond.

This project will help secure the sustainability of UK by engaging and inspiring students from multiple disciplines while leveraging UK’s role as a major player in the local and statewide economy to directly advance strategic economic objectives. This project will reveal how UK can best support equity in our communities through strengthening and expanding its relationships with its vendors.

The goals for the first stage of the mapping projects are as followed:

  1. Involve UK students in developing and maintaining a dynamic, interactive digital interface that uses data analytics and visual mapping to support sustainable and equitable economic development across Kentucky. (UK TEK)
  2. Utilize this interface as a tool to establish a baseline of equity measures at the county (and sub-county) level, which will serve as a benchmark for measuring progress and impact future equity efforts. (UK Sustainability Strategic Plan – Supplier Diversity)
  3. Utilize this data to make informed decisions about minority business development efforts across Kentucky through partnerships with Commerce Lexington, the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, the UK Agriculture Department Extension Offices, CEDIK and SBDC. (UK Sustainability Strategic Plan – Supplier Diversity)
  4. Reinforce the university’s commitment to sustainability, diversity, equity, and inclusion by publicizing and promoting the equity map. (UK Strategic Plan)

“Equity mapping is a powerful tool that can shine a light on the complex layers of inequity and turn it into an opportunity to impact lasting social and economic change,” Melody Flowers, Assistant Vice President of Economic Development and Real Estate said. “By creating a data-driven understanding of minority business ownership and need within the socio-economic context of their communities, a robust equity map can be used to guide resources and investment in the most impactful and sustainable manner.”

This work will begin in late August/early September as students come back to campus.

To read more about the EDC's 4th bold idea, click here.