Student Fellowship

Equitable City Contracting: Increasing Participation of Minority and Women Underutilized Business Enterprises

Project Area:

Equitable Economic Development

City:

Durham, North Carolina

Reporting to:

Chief Finance Officer

The Challenge

City procurement and spending that reflect city business and resident demographics is a key mayoral and council priority and one that aligns with Durham’s Strategic Goal #1 of “Shared Economic Prosperity” “to maintain and grow a strong and diverse economy through a variety of businesses, industries, and employment opportunities to benefit all Durham residents and businesses.” An example of an initiative focused on this goal is the Equal Business Opportunity Program (EBOP), which seeks to increase the dollar value of city contracts for goods and services awarded to Minority and Women Underutilized Business Enterprises (MWUBEs). City staff see an opportunity to increase the participation levels in this program. 

An equitable contracting workgroup was recently created among three departments: Equity & Inclusion, Office of Economic & Workforce Development, and Finance (the divisions of Purchasing and Underutilized Business Compliance). With the help of the City’s Office of Performance & Innovation, the group performed a SWOT analysis of the city’s equitable contracting processes. The city has already acted on some of the findings, for example, by standardizing and automating certain forms. Through this analysis, city staff also surfaced several opportunities for achieving their equity contracting goals, including more efficient data collection and analysis, enhanced outreach strategies to engage MWUBEs, and improvements to the required paperwork and processes.

The fellow will be working alongside the Chief Finance Officer and the City Procurement team to help answer these key questions:

  • Does current data collection and benchmark infrastructure accurately and consistently capture city’s MWUBE participation?
  • Are there inherent barriers to city procurement processes (including paperwork requirements) that discourage MWUBE participation?
  • How can the city enhance outreach, communication, and engagement of contracting opportunities for MWUBEs? 
  • And, more fundamentally, does the city’s Equal Business Opportunity Program (EBOP) ordinance, the foundation for all MWUBE policy and protocols, ensure contracting practices are equitable and inclusive? If not, informed by the answers to the questions above, what changes are needed? 

What You’ll Do

The fellow will engage with internal and external stakeholders, including MWUBE owners to identify opportunities and gaps in the EBOP program. They will conduct data analysis, assess current processes, and make recommendations that will inform modifications to the EBOP ordinance. Time permitting, they will also work with the City Attorney’s office and the Finance Department to revise the ordinance for city council approval. Key deliverables include:

  • Process map of vendor contracting processes and workflows to identify internal and external obstacles that deter EBOP participation and recommendations for improvement.
  • Research and review of programs and ordinances from peer cities that can serve as examples of promising practices and benchmarks to achieve the city’s goals. 
  • Recommendations for modifications to the EBOP ordinance and associated data collection, analytic infrastructure including benchmarking tools, and processes to increase participation in the program.
  • Recommendations for outreach and communication strategies highlighting the purpose, scope, and opportunities available through the city’s equitable contracting initiatives.

What You’ll Bring

The fellow will be expected to possess the following skills: 

  • Data analysis
  • Qualitative interviewing and analysis
  • Policy analysis
  • Design thinking
  • Human centered design
  • Writing and editing
  • Stakeholder engagement and management
  • Spanish language fluency is desirable but not required


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