Build Better Podcast Featured

Achieving Equitable Outcomes in the Long Term with Barry Reaves of the BPDA

by Emily Langner

Barry Reaves

On season 2, episode 12 of the Build Better podcast, Anastasia welcomed Barry Reaves, the Boston Planning & Development Agency’s (BPDA) first ever director of diversity, equity, and inclusion. The BPDA is the planning and economic development agency for the City of Boston. Its mission is to guide inclusive growth in the city, creating opportunities for everyone to live, work and connect.

Reaves is responsible for the development and oversight of the BPDA’s racial equity and diversity priorities, and works to establish collaborative partnerships with internal and external stakeholders to foster a more inclusive, equitable, welcoming, supportive, and diverse agency. He says some of the factors that prevent minority- and women-owned companies from being able to secure a contract are not having access to capital or adequate technical and legal support, and not knowing about the opportunities available. He says one way to eliminate these barriers is to allow more time in the process to give smaller companies the time to put together a bid.

The BPDA Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion’s equitable procurement plan focuses on ways to demystify the process, ensure that the process to bid on goods and services that the agency is offering are not overly burdensome or cumbersome to small businesses, and demonstrate a commitment to reaching a more diverse pool of applicants. Reaves says the BPDA is not only promoting opportunities, but is doing more aggressive outreach with advocacy groups to create relationships and better refine the process of creating a more level platform for small businesses.

Reaves notes that the best ways to balance the risk/reward of a project while increasing diversity are to build more relationships, add more peer reviews, add different mechanisms to allow for emerging companies to get the necessary mentorship, and create outcomes that allow for sustainability and advancement to the next project. He says prioritizing a company’s growth and long-term success will mean for “a stronger, more profitable organization that is capable of doing bigger and better projects.”

Reaves also says every project should have an equity framework, and should define specifically what success looks like. He says it is the industry’s responsibility as a whole to be accountable, and to measure outcomes and course correct when a specific strategy is not working.

He emphasizes the importance of long-term effort and commitment, and says success is dependent on all parties “going in the same direction.” Reaves concludes, “We all have to believe in the same thing, and we all have to want to see the same outcomes, and we all have to do our part and roll our sleeves up to actually put our money where our mouth is.”

Listen to season 2, episode 12 now!

Emily Langner is editor at High-Profile Monthly.