We wanted to provide you with an update on ULI’s work to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) throughout the real estate industry and within our Institute. We are increasing and accelerating our already considerable efforts to promote diversity as there is much to be accomplished. This communication is not meant to be a comprehensive overview of all we are doing and will do, but rather a start at communicating some of the steps ULI has taken and is taking to accelerate representation of minorities across membership and staff. In addition, this letter outlines some of our programs of work that impact communities, with the goal of improving DEI more broadly.
ULI opposes all forms of racial discrimination and injustice. By now, you should have received Ed Walter’s note regarding renaming the ULI J.C. Nichols Prize for Visionaries in Urban Development as the ULI Prize for Visionaries in Urban Development. This change reflects the fact that the racial segregation espoused by J.C. Nichols decades ago does not reflect ULI’s mission or the diverse, vibrant communities our members are developing now. This is just one of many steps we will take to catalyze change in our industry and in our communities.
We believe that the Black Lives Matter movement is pivotal for our country as it is raising awareness of many factors contributing to the racial inequality and disenfranchisement that are prevalent in so many of our communities. The calls for racial justice throughout the United States have strengthened our resolve and accelerated our efforts to promote DEI as a fundamental force for creating thriving communities for the future. We readily acknowledge that past real estate and land use decisions have contributed to community divisiveness and racial inequality. We believe that current and future industry actions can remedy mistakes and foster unity. We also believe that the best way to effect change in the industry is for ULI to lead by example.
Our organization, and indeed our industry, must look more like the communities we serve. We are working to increase the racial diversity of ULI’s members and staff, and we are raising awareness of the need for the organization to significantly strengthen its support of policies and practices that increase DEI. This includes raising awareness among the membership of ULI programs and governance to advance these policies and practices so that members can guide ULI in our efforts and build momentum for program expansions. We will do this through several communication channels and provide updates on our efforts at the national and local levels of the organization. Our work is multifaceted and includes the following:
With the support of ULI members and staff, ULI will
- Increase the number of members who are Black and other people of color.
Increase racial diversity in ULI leadership positions within our networks and our governing bodies.
- Develop an education course that explores how past and current land use policies have contributed to racial injustice and that shows how revised policies and practices can help rectify negative consequences and spur change.
With the assistance of a DEI consultancy, ULI will
- Conduct a full review of Human Resources practices, policies, and procedures with a lens to remove any racial biases and implement revisions.
- Continue providing staff unconscious bias and cultural competency training.
We are establishing metrics to ensure accountability for our DEI efforts. ULI will
- Establish a baseline measurement of membership, leadership, and staff and report to membership on the composition of leadership and staff by mid-August.
- Establish targets for improvement in minority representation among leadership and staff.
- Provide progress reports to ULI members and include public reports in ULI’s Annual Report.
ULI is increasing and improving DEI throughout the industry and the Institute through several existing programs. Ultimately, the pace of expansion of these programs will be affected by the strength of leadership and support provided by local members and staff. Examples include:
- Pathways to Inclusion: This program is offered by the district councils and is supported by ULI Americas staff. Pathways to Inclusion, started by ULI Michigan in connection with the 2018 Spring Meeting in Detroit, is offered to minority real estate professionals. The program covers the cost to attend both the Spring and Fall Meetings for one year and includes annual membership. This program was subsequently offered by ULI Boston (fall 2018), ULI Nashville (spring 2019), ULI Washington (fall 2019), and ULI Toronto (spring 2020). ULI will continue to support these efforts in future Spring and Fall Meeting locations.
- Real Estate Diversity Initiative (REDI): This program is also offered by district councils and supported by ULI Americas staff. Started in ULI Colorado 12 years ago, REDI is offered to women and people of color to advance their careers and expand their professional networks. This program was picked up by ULI Minnesota about 10 years ago. In 2019, the program was expanded to four more district councils—ULI Memphis, ULI Indiana, ULI Kansas City, and ULI St. Louis—and ULI is seeking further expansions. A toolkit to successfully launch REDI was shared with all district councils at the annual District Council Summit in January 2020.
- UrbanPlan: This urban development curriculum reaches more than 4,000 students annually in the Americas. It is offered to high school and college students as well as public officials. Efforts are underway through the district councils to significantly expand this program in more diverse, underserved communities. Examples include:
- ULI Atlanta, offering a workshop with community leaders in a neighborhood designated as an Opportunity Zone;
- ULI Northwest, partnering with Prosper Portland, the local economic development organization, to run a workshop for Portland’s diverse communities;
- ULI St. Louis, offering UrbanPlan in Ferguson since 2016; and
- ULI Washington, offering an equity initiative to engage schools serving Black and Brown students in the Washington, D.C., area during the school year and summer.
ULI Learning: ULI Learning was launched last year with a deeper focus on expanding diversity across all dimensions. The introduction of FoRE (Foundations of Real Estate), piloted this year at Colgate University, is the basis for providing the fundamentals of real estate to more universities, with a focus on historically Black colleges and universities.
- Advisory Services: ULI Advisory Services panels have focused more on equity, inclusion, and more robust community engagement for the past five years, and this will continue. Numerous panel assignments related to improving racial equity can be found in Knowledge Finder.
- ULI Centers: We will build on the existing work of ULI’s centers to promote DEI throughout our communities. This includes efforts by the Terwilliger Center for Housing to expand the availability of affordable housing, providing mixed-income housing solutions that focus on creating more diverse, equitable, and inclusive neighborhoods. This also includes efforts by the Center for Sustainability and Economic Performance to make provision of social equity and inclusivity a key part of improving urban resilience and sustainability, and efforts by the Building Healthy Places Initiative to promote healthy living environments for all residents in our communities.
- Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI): WLI is a comprehensive, well-designed structure that focuses on the engagement, leadership, and visibility of women within ULI and the commercial real estate industry. WLI recently launched WLI Circles, a more intimate group setting for confidential input and frank discussions on business and personal opportunities and challenges. WLI Circles has an explicit goal of a minimum 20 percent minority representation. WLI is curating a list of women speakers available for networks to use; launch is slated for this fall. The WLI Summit held last year in Louisville, Kentucky, focused on “Leadership in Equity and Land Use,” attracting more than 400 attendees.
ULI is partnering with several other organizations as part of its DEI efforts. These include:
- Real Estate Associate Program (REAP): REAP is a program that finds and trains career-changing minority professionals for positions in real estate. Discounted membership and ULI Learning course offerings are currently under discussion.
- Paradigm for Parity (P4P): ULI signed a partnership earlier this year with P4P, an organization that promotes the acceleration of women in senior leadership positions. WLI brought P4P to the attention of leadership, with a request to partner with P4P and encourage our members to do the same.
- Real Estate Executive Council (REEC): REEC is the leading trade association formed to promote the interests of minority executives who work in commercial real estate. Financial support was provided to REEC for its summer camp program, targeted at minority students. About 140 students were enrolled in the virtual camps, and UrbanPlan was part of the camp curriculum. We are working to strengthen our relationship with REEC and curate a list of REEC speakers to share broadly throughout ULI.
These are just some of the many ways ULI is striving to be better and do better so that our Institute will continue to lead the real estate industry in creating the thriving, equitable communities that we, our children, and grandchildren deserve. As we engage with members on next steps, a comprehensive strategic plan to improve DEI throughout our organization will be established with guidance from a newly formed DEI Council composed of members and staff.
In addition, the ULI Americas website (Americas.uli.org) now includes a page devoted to ULI’s DEI Initiative (americas.uli.org/dei) that provides an overview of our commitment to advancing DEI and which will be updated with examples of our efforts as we move forward. We are also creating the DEI Community, an online community open to all ULI members and staff for sharing ideas on improving DEI and providing updates on DEI-related programs, activities, and content. The DEI Community, which is still being developed, will be accessible through the ULI Member Directory.
We look forward to providing you with updates on our progress. We welcome your thoughts on how we can improve and expand ULI’s work on diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Gwyneth Jones Coté