The Fairfield County Equity Lab: Building Bridges to Unlock Our Shared Power

Oct 24, 2023

Poverty is a choice.

But it’s not the choice of the roughly one in eight children in Connecticut who are growing up lacking basic needs.  Nor is it the choice of the thousands of hardworking adults in Fairfield County who are not paid a living wage.

Instead, poverty is a societal choice — the result of systems that are engineered to benefit some at the expense of others.

That message was delivered powerfully to more than 200 community members by sociologist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Matthew Desmond during our recent kickoff event for The Fairfield County Equity Lab — a new resource we’ve launched to spark equity-centered learning, connection, and innovation in our community.

Matthew showed, in stark detail, how America’s poverty rate is exceedingly high for a developed country — and how we’ve created this condition through an array of choices made nationally and in local communities from coast to coast.

But Matthew didn’t come to Fairfield County to just paint a bleak picture. Instead, he offered steps all of us can take to advocate for change so we can create a community — and a country — where every person has an equitable opportunity to thrive.

Foremost, achieving this vision will require knowledge and collective action.

And that begins with increasing awareness in our community of Fairfield County’s inequities and creating the conditions for individuals, businesses, government, nonprofits, and grassroots organizations to come together to address them.

It’s this idea that inspired the Community Foundation — along with forward-thinking partners Bank of America, CT Public, and Wells Fargo — to create The Equity Lab.

The Equity Lab serves as a bridge — connecting people from all walks of life who are committed to creating positive change in our region.

It is built on the idea that meaningful and lasting change is possible when we come together as a community around a bold vision.

In the months ahead, The Equity Lab will host a series of events with local and national experts that are designed to increase our collective understanding about our region’s racial inequities and how they came to be.  These events include appearances such as Matthew’s, which was part of our new “In Community” series that features influential thinkers addressing persistent challenges facing Fairfield County and society at large.

The Equity Lab will supplement these conversations by collecting and sharing data that informs our understanding of local conditions; providing workshops, discussion groups and other opportunities for community dialogue; and collectively creating a blueprint for equitable change.

And, finally, The Equity Lab will invest in individuals and organizations that are actively working to increase equity in our region. To do that, it will deliver targeted funding, training, and leadership development programs to these committed people and groups — and bring together new voices who share a passion for a more just and fair future.

Through these events and conversations, we’ll be building bridges and relationships that, in turn, will spark collective action.  I was inspired to see such a beautiful cross section of our community take a first big step towards action at the Lab’s launch.

But that’s just the start.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once challenged us to, “build bridges, not walls.”  In a world too often marked by immense tragedy, suffering, division and conflict, bridge building – between people, between cultures, between neighborhoods, between beliefs – is needed more than ever.  And while it may feel daunting to figure out how to have an impact on the broader landscape, within our own backyard, we can make a difference.

I invite you to join us as we navigate the road ahead and to participate in future Equity Lab programming, so we can create a Fairfield County all of us deserve and positively impact the world, together.

If you would like to learn more about how you can sponsor or support the “In Community” event series or The Fairfield County Equity Lab, contact Rebecca Mandell,

In Community,

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