Panelists discuss plans for Pittsburgh's social investment fund. Photo by Tracy Certo.

What a week it was in Pittsburgh.

Last week, the Germans were in town connecting around Resilient Cities. The French think tank was here to exchange ideas for better cities. And p4 took place, gathering 800 people — 720 of them local — to look at innovative and inspiring ways to make Pittsburgh a more equitable and sustainable city.

To cap it off: A gathering of 125 “city stakeholders” at the Energy Innovation Center on Friday morning, for the purpose of co-creating a $3 billion social investment fund for Pittsburgh.

“How many of you were at p4?” asked the Mayor in opening remarks, referring to the conference where he’d hinted at the news of a social benefits fund. “And how many were inspired?” he asked.

Hands shot up everywhere.

“And how are we going to pay for it?”

It was the perfect segue to his announcement of the co-creation of a social benefits fund to implement goals of the One PGH resilience strategy. One PGH, grounded in the principles of p4 (people, planet, place and performance), is a blueprint for Pittsburgh to thrive as a city of “engaged, empowered and coordinated neighbors.”

In other words, making a city truly livable for all.

We’re talking a $3 billion investment in many areas, including pre-K for all kids, doubling the fund for affordable housing, ensuring all residents are within a 10-minute walking distance of high-quality green space, creating 27 green infrastructure projects and achieving 100% renewable energy.

It’s an ambitious plan.

Update slide on One Pgh shown at the social investment fund announcement.

“It’s all doable, and it’s all doable within a year,” Peduto declared. “We know the challenges and we are ready to invest to solve them. How do we implement them THIS year?”

He noted that they’re not looking to create another layer of government. The fund would be structured more like the Pittsburgh Promise, which is an entity of its own and doesn’t belong to the school system. And it would build on the work already being done here.

“We want to empower groups to do more and provide resources to them to do it,” he said. “Making sure 412 Food Rescue and the food banks have the resources they need.”

Current funding, he said — the raising of $10 million last year from the realty transfer tax, which will be annual and will be used in the affordable housing fund, for example — is still not enough.

“The past four years we have been listening, working with experts around the city and the country to put (ideas) into one plan — OnePGH,” Peduto said.

“What if we could partner with you, and then partner with our corporate community, and then partner with our foundations … and work together as one? To co-create a social benefit investment model for Pittsburgh. Where do we want to be in 12 years?”

We need a plan, he said, noting that we’re at a turning point and development is occurring faster than we can manage. “Without one, we’re going to make the same mistakes we made in the past.”

“We can’t rely on the federal government,” he added. “We have to do it ourselves.”

Other cities — New York, Los Angeles and Chicago — have social benefit funds. The purpose is to foster collaboration and innovation and leverage public capital with private capital to tackle tough issues, said Peduto. This fund would coordinate capital to benefit the long-term health of the city.

The City has partnered with more than a dozen organizations — Rand, Brookings, the Allegheny Conference and more — conducting workshops and visits with more than 50 scopes of work completed thus far. That was phase one, which went from December to April.

125 stakeholders met at the Energy Innovation Center last Friday to work on phase two of the social investment fund for Pittsburgh.

Phase two begins now.

Timeline of the process

Tracy Certo

Tracy is the founder and Editor at Large of NEXTpittsburgh which she started in March 2014 and sold in December 2020. She is passionate about making Pittsburgh a better place for all and connecting people to do the same.