Within the Builders of Color Coalition, we strive to expand access and diversity in Boston’s real estate industry to create greater opportunities for land ownership and wealth. We quickly grew into a network of over 500 real estate professionals of color in the region, and this spring we launched the Boston Minority Real Estate Directory to connect the breadth of our network with the rest of the power structures in the industry. This directory is a big step forward in our organizing efforts, but it alone will not solve the glaring gaps of opportunity in our city.
Boston is a tribal city, made up of an array of neighborhoods, cultural associations, and other social groups. We are known for fiercely supporting our social circles – and also for building strong walls between them. It’s hard to divide into tribes, but once you are there, you are there. That’s what I love about our city. But it is also what holds the city back.
We may be well-meaning when we look after our own, but it backfires on us creating huge disparities between us. In real estate, who you know strongly determines your access and your results. The solution is to seriously seek new relationships, make new friends, develop your tribe, and open up the wealth of opportunities in our city.
The tragedies and protests of the past year have inspired a radical shift in consciousness and action across our country. In Boston, there is a renewed interest in working with individuals and businesses of color. A homogeneous company and project teams are no longer acceptable. These days I get more calls and emails for business references than I can send. I’m grateful for the enthusiasm, yet the job of building new working relationships doesn’t happen overnight. Composing a list will not give the results we are looking for. In our field, we rarely team up on new projects without a certain level of personal history, without the time it takes to get to know each other. And even when these relationships are established, we must maintain them permanently.
So, in addition to using our directory to solicit partners and suppliers for development projects, real estate companies should also research specific connections and build them over time. They are expected to attend various professional events with the goal of finding a new, unique contact, holding periodic coffee talks, inviting each other to future social events, going for walks or hikes together and, over time, developing those relationships. to become mutually complementary.
To expand access to the sector, real estate professionals of color need specific opportunities, including open vacancies, better access to contract tenders, and increased funding. But we will also need peers and mentors to help us find our place, enter the social and professional spaces that will open up our careers, and work together to create value for each other and for our communities.
For many of us, the last year of social distancing due to the coronavirus pandemic has refocused our social circles. It also made us look around and realize how very much our networks are like us. In early 2021, a friend of mine wrote on Facebook that “2021 won’t be different if we’re not”. As we seek to emerge from the pandemic and strengthen our bonds, let’s commit to making them richer and more inclusive, with each new relationship at a time – to build better and even stronger tribes than ever before.
Dave Madan is founder and president of The builders of the Color Coalition.