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Brookings and John Legend’s HUMANLEVEL announce a new partnership to improve well-being, equity, and upward economic mobility for people and communities nationwide

April 28, 2023

Brookings and Human LevelWashington, D.C. — The Brookings Institution and HUMANLEVEL, an initiative founded by John Legend that aims to uplift communities disproportionately impacted by institutionalized racism, have announced a partnership to disrupt and dismantle assumptions, institutions, and pre-existing public policies that have attempted to prevent Black, Brown, and other marginalized communities from thriving and experiencing well-being. The partnership will provide valuable research and policy analysis, challenge current disparity-focused reporting on equity and racial justice issues, and advance stories of local grassroots momentum for community leaders and policymakers who are focused on eliminating barriers that cause racial and economic stratification.

Formally launching the partnership at an event in Washington, D.C. on April 29, Bending The Moral Arc Toward (Racial) Justice, Brookings and HUMANLEVEL will convene a range of key stakeholders—including policymakers, members of the media, researchers, funders, and community advocates—to release newly released data on well-being and explore the insights and stories of people and places that are having a positive effect on the well-being of all Americans.

“When we study the stories of people and places, we see that everyone can thrive if given the right tools and opportunities,” said artist and activist John Legend. “I’m proud to partner with The Brookings Institution to fight for sustained investment in our local communities and reframe the narrative around racial equity by focusing solutions.”

By combining Gallup’s wellbeing index data from 2008 to 2019 with Gallup Center on Black Voices data from 2020 to April 2023, Brookings researchers have constructed the longest continuous time series of life evaluation data by race and ethnicity ever published.

“Today, we find ourselves confronting the many social and economic consequences of policy choices shaped by assumptions about race and culture. Policy choices can be changed, and Brookings recognizes the power of policy choices to positively change the trajectories of communities across the nation,” Andre Perry and Camille Busette, co-leads of this partnership and Senior Fellows at The Brookings Institution commented. “Our goal in partnering with John Legend and his HUMANLEVEL initiative is to ensure that more movers and shakers, policymakers, and people on the ground have the tools and resources they need to elevate and enrich the lives of people and places throughout our country.”

To leverage this unique moment in our nation’s journey toward racial equity, the partnership will help to reframe the narrative around racial equity to focus on local solutions unique to the cities and communities where we work and to ask the pivotal questions around what next steps are needed to keep progressing racial equity in the right direction. A recent Brookings publication co-authored by Perry and Gallup Principal Economist Jonathan Rothwell, with contributions from John Legend, reinforces the partnership’s objectives, noting that by focusing on the places where all groups are thriving, we can see where racial cooperation and democratic decision-making are most likely to be a reality, and work toward lifting the well-being of the most discontented, regardless of their group membership.

“Brookings is honored to partner with John Legend and his extraordinary team at HUMANLEVEL on the urgent work to improve Black residents’ well-being through local data and action,” said Amy Liu, President of Brookings. “What we learn together from engaging directly with community stakeholders in structural change can inspire wider reforms, including improving life prospects for other racial and ethnic groups, too. It is this potential to build a thriving multi-racial, multi-ethnic society that is most exciting about the partnership between Brookings and HUMANLEVEL. I appreciate John’s deep personal commitment and reach.”

The combined reach and influential platforms of Brookings and HUMANLEVEL will elevate the national discourse on improving equity and upward economic mobility in America, with the specific goals to:

• Advance policy ideas for adoption among federal, state, and local policymakers for accelerating economic opportunity and well-being for individuals and communities.
• Leverage HUMANLEVEL’s platform to extend the impact and reach of Brookings’s research by amplifying key initiatives, developments, and policy priorities to changemakers and mainstream public audiences.
• Use public convenings to leverage Brookings’s and HUMANLEVEL’s convening power to garner policymaker attention to generate more buy-in and engagement for racial equity solutions.

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About HUMANLEVEL

Founded by John Legend, HUMANLEVEL is igniting systemic change and building racial equity across American cities and communities by uplifting communities disproportionately impacted by institutionalized racism. HUMANLEVEL works with elected officials and community members to create projects that address immediate needs at the local level while advocating for more equitable policies at the local, state, and federal levels. HUMANLEVEL builds on John Legend’s work with FREEAMERICA, which aims to end mass incarceration and invest in communities.

About Brookings

The Brookings Institution is a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C. Our mission is to conduct in-depth, nonpartisan research to improve policy and governance at local, national, and global levels.