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Xav Briggs

Xavier de Souza Briggs

Senior Fellow - Brookings Metro

Xavier (Xav) de Souza Briggs is a senior fellow at Brookings Metro as well as a senior adviser shaping and implementing the team’s strategy for impact from the federal to the local level, and aligning public and private action, including business and philanthropy, for an inclusive and climate-smart recovery. Briggs also serves as a senior adviser at Freedman Consulting, LLC, and for the 2021-2022 academic year, he is a visiting fellow at the SNF Agora Institute on democracy at Johns Hopkins University.

Known for his wide range of interests and track record of building and reshaping fields, Briggs is an expert on economic opportunity and inclusive growth, racial equity and pluralism, housing, urban and regional development, and democratic governance in the U.S. and abroad. Briggs has testified before Congress on several of these topics. An award-winning educator and researcher, he is also an experienced manager in philanthropy and government.

His recent work at Brookings has helped catalyze public conversation about lessons of the pandemic economy on the urgency of making worker-centered innovation the new default in business (Fast Company); the opportunity to scale a “public option” to help gig workers find good work; the importance of one fair wage minimum for businesses as well as their workers and local economies; the need for engaging communities and investing in “shovel-worthy” infrastructure, not just “shovel-ready” projects, to ensure that historic federal investments expand access to wellbeing and promote equity (Planning); what a more democratic and equitable federalism would require and what it would mean for America’s future (Democracy Journal); and how to develop successful communities of practice, to drive learning, intergovernmental cooperation, and better outcomes, in and around the public sector.

Briggs’ books include The Geography of Opportunity: Race and Housing Choice in Metropolitan America, which won planning’s top book award; Democracy as Problem Solving: Civic Capacity in Communities Across the Globe, a four-nation comparative study and finalist for the C. Wright Mills Prize for best scholarly book on a social problem, and Moving to Opportunity: The Story of an American Experiment to Fight Ghetto Poverty, winner of the Louis Brownlow Award. His views have appeared in the New York Times, Boston Globe, CNN, and other major media, in English and in Spanish.

In 2020, he served as Distinguished Visiting Professor of Business, Public Service and Sociology at New York University and was a volunteer on the Biden-Harris Transition Team, conducting agency reviews, serving on the volunteer interviewer corps, and advising on business recovery, climate action, racial equity, worker empowerment, improving government effectiveness, philanthropic partnerships, and other issues.

Prior to joining Brookings, Briggs served for six years as vice president of the Ford Foundation, overseeing its inclusive economies and markets work globally along with its regional program teams based in China, South Asia, and Southeast Asia. He led the foundation’s efforts to develop an actionable framework for understanding and challenging the drivers of inequality in our world, and also to build the field of impact investing and commit $1 billion of endowment assets, the largest-ever for a private foundation, for that purpose. He was a member of the board executive committee for Living Cities, a consortium of America’s largest private foundations and financial companies.

Previously, Briggs was professor of sociology and urban planning in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and served as head of MIT’s Housing, Community, and Economic Development Group. From January 2009 to August 2011, he served as a program associate director (“pad”) in the White House Office of Management and Budget. There he oversaw a wide array of policy, budget, and management issues for roughly half the cabinet agencies of the federal government and many independent agencies.

Earlier in his career, Briggs worked as a community planner in six high-poverty neighborhoods of the South Bronx, leading a project team that centered racial and economic equity and sustainable investment and won the American Planning Association’s top national award; a senior policy official at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, where he helped negotiate the redevelopment of public housing and lead the design of new economic development programs (to generate impact investment in low-income rural and urban communities) and of federal support for more sustainable regional growth and land use; and a faculty member at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, where he launched, and then migrated to MIT, the popular open-source tools of the Community Problem Solving Project and Working Smarter in Community Development.

Briggs currently serves on the boards of the Center for Advanced Study in Behavioral Sciences, Demos, the Global Impact Investing Network, JUST Capital, and One Fair Wage, as well as the steering committee for the nonpartisan Resilience Roadmap Project. He is an elected member of the National Academy of Public Administration. Briggs holds an engineering degree from Stanford University, an MPA from Harvard, and a PhD in sociology and education from Columbia University, and he was a Rotary Scholar in Brazil. His dissertation study, “Brown Kids in White Suburbs,” examined the effects of a landmark, court-ordered housing and school desegregation, becoming one of the most highly-cited works on social capital and the role it plays in economic opportunity and winning the annual best dissertation prize of the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management.

Xavier (Xav) de Souza Briggs is a senior fellow at Brookings Metro as well as a senior adviser shaping and implementing the team’s strategy for impact from the federal to the local level, and aligning public and private action, including business and philanthropy, for an inclusive and climate-smart recovery. Briggs also serves as a senior adviser at Freedman Consulting, LLC, and for the 2021-2022 academic year, he is a visiting fellow at the SNF Agora Institute on democracy at Johns Hopkins University.

Known for his wide range of interests and track record of building and reshaping fields, Briggs is an expert on economic opportunity and inclusive growth, racial equity and pluralism, housing, urban and regional development, and democratic governance in the U.S. and abroad. Briggs has testified before Congress on several of these topics. An award-winning educator and researcher, he is also an experienced manager in philanthropy and government.

His recent work at Brookings has helped catalyze public conversation about lessons of the pandemic economy on the urgency of making worker-centered innovation the new default in business (Fast Company); the opportunity to scale a “public option” to help gig workers find good work; the importance of one fair wage minimum for businesses as well as their workers and local economies; the need for engaging communities and investing in “shovel-worthy” infrastructure, not just “shovel-ready” projects, to ensure that historic federal investments expand access to wellbeing and promote equity (Planning); what a more democratic and equitable federalism would require and what it would mean for America’s future (Democracy Journal); and how to develop successful communities of practice, to drive learning, intergovernmental cooperation, and better outcomes, in and around the public sector.

Briggs’ books include The Geography of Opportunity: Race and Housing Choice in Metropolitan America, which won planning’s top book award; Democracy as Problem Solving: Civic Capacity in Communities Across the Globe, a four-nation comparative study and finalist for the C. Wright Mills Prize for best scholarly book on a social problem, and Moving to Opportunity: The Story of an American Experiment to Fight Ghetto Poverty, winner of the Louis Brownlow Award. His views have appeared in the New York Times, Boston Globe, CNN, and other major media, in English and in Spanish.

In 2020, he served as Distinguished Visiting Professor of Business, Public Service and Sociology at New York University and was a volunteer on the Biden-Harris Transition Team, conducting agency reviews, serving on the volunteer interviewer corps, and advising on business recovery, climate action, racial equity, worker empowerment, improving government effectiveness, philanthropic partnerships, and other issues.

Prior to joining Brookings, Briggs served for six years as vice president of the Ford Foundation, overseeing its inclusive economies and markets work globally along with its regional program teams based in China, South Asia, and Southeast Asia. He led the foundation’s efforts to develop an actionable framework for understanding and challenging the drivers of inequality in our world, and also to build the field of impact investing and commit $1 billion of endowment assets, the largest-ever for a private foundation, for that purpose. He was a member of the board executive committee for Living Cities, a consortium of America’s largest private foundations and financial companies.

Previously, Briggs was professor of sociology and urban planning in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and served as head of MIT’s Housing, Community, and Economic Development Group. From January 2009 to August 2011, he served as a program associate director (“pad”) in the White House Office of Management and Budget. There he oversaw a wide array of policy, budget, and management issues for roughly half the cabinet agencies of the federal government and many independent agencies.

Earlier in his career, Briggs worked as a community planner in six high-poverty neighborhoods of the South Bronx, leading a project team that centered racial and economic equity and sustainable investment and won the American Planning Association’s top national award; a senior policy official at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, where he helped negotiate the redevelopment of public housing and lead the design of new economic development programs (to generate impact investment in low-income rural and urban communities) and of federal support for more sustainable regional growth and land use; and a faculty member at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, where he launched, and then migrated to MIT, the popular open-source tools of the Community Problem Solving Project and Working Smarter in Community Development.

Briggs currently serves on the boards of the Center for Advanced Study in Behavioral Sciences, Demos, the Global Impact Investing Network, JUST Capital, and One Fair Wage, as well as the steering committee for the nonpartisan Resilience Roadmap Project. He is an elected member of the National Academy of Public Administration. Briggs holds an engineering degree from Stanford University, an MPA from Harvard, and a PhD in sociology and education from Columbia University, and he was a Rotary Scholar in Brazil. His dissertation study, “Brown Kids in White Suburbs,” examined the effects of a landmark, court-ordered housing and school desegregation, becoming one of the most highly-cited works on social capital and the role it plays in economic opportunity and winning the annual best dissertation prize of the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management.

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