The City of Jackson is working to build its residents’ climate and economic resilience. One of its priorities is Farish Street Historic District, a historically Black neighborhood that has suffered from underinvestment in recent decades. The FUSE Executive Fellow will develop and implement a strategic plan to advance the Jackson Redevelopment Authority’s investment in Farish Street Historic District.
Fellowship Dates: October 23, 2023 – October 21, 2024
Salary: Executive Fellows are FUSE employees and receive an annual base salary of $80,000. Fellows can also access various health, dental, and vision insurance benefits. Compensation for this year of public service is not intended to represent market-rate compensation for the experienced professionals in our program.
ABOUT THE FUSE EXECUTIVE FELLOWSHIP
FUSE is a national nonprofit working to expand social and economic opportunities, particularly for communities that have been limited by a history of systemic and institutionalized racism. FUSE partners with local governments and communities to more effectively address pressing challenges by placing experienced professionals within city and county agencies. These FUSE Executive Fellows lead strategic projects designed to advance racial equity and accelerate systems change. Since 2012, FUSE has led over 250 projects in 40 governments across 20 states, impacting the lives of 25 million people.
When designing each fellowship project, FUSE works closely with government partners and local stakeholders to define a scope of work that will achieve substantive progress toward regional priorities. FUSE then conducts an individualized search for each project to ensure that the selected candidate has at least 15 years of professional experience, the required competencies for the role, and deep connections to the communities being served. They are data-driven and results-oriented and able to effectively manage complex projects by developing actionable roadmaps and monitoring progress to completion.
Executive Fellows are hired as FUSE employees and embedded in government agencies for at least one year of full-time work. Throughout their fellowships, they receive training, coaching, and professional support from FUSE to help achieve their project goals. FUSE Executive Fellows bring diverse perspectives and new approaches to their projects. They build strong relationships with diverse arrays of stakeholders, foster alignment within and across various layers of government, and build partnerships between governments and communities.
Jackson, Mississippi’s Farish Street Historic District was known as a Black Wall Street. During the post-World War Two economic boom, Black wealth and businesses thrived in this neighborhood. Following the integration of public schools and the subsequent White Flight from Jackson, the City’s tax base fell. With fewer resources, the public infrastructure that supports businesses and communities degraded. As a result, the district declined and suffered from underinvestment.
Climate change has deepened the impact of White Flight and underinvestment. In August 2022, rain and flooding damaged one of Jackson’s water treatment plants. This reduced the City’s water pressure and quality, which was already chronically low due to decades of underinvestment. Eight months later, many residents are still drinking bottled water and businesses are losing revenue.
In spite of these structural problems, many Black entrepreneurs still invest in the Farish Street Historic District. Improving the neighborhood’s economic and climate resilience would equip them with the ability to survive shocks and stresses like the water crisis. Against this backdrop, the Jackson Redevelopment Authority (JRA), and its partners 2C Mississippi and Hope Credit Union Enterprise Corporation see tremendous opportunity. They envision Farish Street Historic District and surrounding residential neighborhoods having green infrastructure to support the growing business community and to promote climate resilience by managing storm water and reducing heat islands.
The City of Jackson will partner with FUSE to facilitate strategic investment in the Farish Street Historic District and adjacent residential neighborhoods. The FUSE Executive Fellow will analyze and synthesize existing strategic plans focused on investing in the neighborhood. In addition, the Executive Fellow will advance progress on those plans by securing new resources to carry out projects, building JRA’s operational capacity, and designing communications and marketing to inform residents of the work and encourage additional private investment. As a result of this work, JRA and its partners will be better equipped to invest in Farish Street Historic District’s long-term economic and climate resilience.
PROJECT SUMMARY & POTENTIAL DELIVERABLES
The following provides a general overview of the proposed fellowship project. This project summary and the potential deliverables will be collaboratively revisited by the host agency, the fellow, and FUSE staff during the first few months of the fellowship.
Starting in October 2023, the FUSE Executive Fellow will build deep relationships with a range of critical stakeholders. This will include local government leaders (e.g., JRA, the Mayor’s Office), local environmental and economic justice leaders, the Historic Preservation Commission, and members of the public (with an emphasis on Farish Street Historic District and adjoining neighborhoods) to understand the strengths, needs, opportunities, and aspirations these partners have for the district, climate change, and economic inclusion. At the same time, the Executive Fellow will conduct an extensive desk review to identify best practices and innovative approaches to facilitating green infrastructure investment in historic preservation zones similar to Farish Street.
Next, the Executive Fellow will analyze and synthesize existing strategic revitalization plans focused on the Farish Street Historic District. The City, JRA, and other local organizations have developed strategies to strengthen and invest in the neighborhood. Rather than create another plan, the Executive Fellow will synthesize the findings, data, and priorities that local partners have already identified. This synthesis should guide partners’ path forward in promoting long-term, sustainable investment in the district, and should help them embed racial equity, climate resilience, historic preservation, and economic inclusion into their approach. The analysis should also identify gaps in JRA’s capabilities, resources, and partnerships and opportunities to fill those gaps.
Finally, the Executive Fellow will advance progress towards the goals identified in the synthesis. This includes:
- Securing implementation grants to help JRA and its partners complete and maintain projects;
- Building the operational capacity of JRA and its partners to implement and maintain resilience and sustainability projects;
- Assessing the tradeoffs between historic preservation and green infrastructure investment and developing recommendations on advancing both goals; and
- Developing marketing and communications materials that inform Jackson residents of what JRA and its partners are doing in the Farish Street Historic District and the surrounding areas and that encourage additional investment in the neighborhood.
By October 2024, the Executive Fellow will have overseen the following:
- Conduct a Stakeholder Listening Tour – Develop relationships with stakeholders in Jackson government, community groups, and members of the public, with an emphasis on the Farish Street Historic District businesses and residents. In addition, conduct a literature review of sustainable investment facilitation that has been effective in cities similar to Jackson.
- Synthesize Existing Strategic Plans – Analyze and synthesize existing strategic plans aimed at building long-term, sustainable investments that promote economic and climate resilience in the Farish Street Historic District. Identify common goals, assess capability, and resource gaps, and develop plans to close those gaps.
- Secure Resources to Advance Progress – Identify and secure implementation grants and private investment to bring strategic projects to fruition.
- Build Operational Capacity – Build the skills and capacity that JRA and its partners need to implement and maintain strategic projects for the long term.
- Craft Marketing and Communications – Design strategic communications to engage members of the public and to draw in additional investors to the Farish Street Historic District and the surrounding neighborhoods.
- Executive Sponsor – Dr. Safiya Omari, Chief of Staff, City of Jackson, MS
- Executive Sponsor – Jhai Keeton, Deputy Director of Planning and Development, City of Jackson, MS
- Project Supervisor – Alex Lawson, Chairman, Jackson Redevelopment Authority
In addition to the qualifications listed below, a background in multi-stakeholder partnership facilitation is strongly preferred for this project.
- Synthesizes complex information into clear and concise recommendations and action-oriented implementation plans.
- Develops and effectively implements both strategic and operational project management plans.
- Generates innovative, data-driven, and result-oriented solutions to difficult challenges.
- Responds quickly to changing ideas, responsibilities, expectations, trends, strategies and other processes.
- Communicates effectively both verbally and in writing and excels in both active listening and conversing.
- Fosters collaboration across multiple constituencies in order to support more effective decision making.
- Establishes and maintains strong relationships with a diverse array of stakeholders, both inside and outside of government, and particularly including community-based relationships.
- Embraces differing viewpoints and implements strategies to find common ground.
- Demonstrates confidence and professional diplomacy, while effectively interacting with individuals at all levels of various organizations.
FUSE is an equal opportunity employer with core values of diversity, equity, and inclusion. We encourage candidates from all backgrounds to apply for this position.