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Is This the Eligibility and Redistribution Engine America Needs?

A former mayor of Compton, Calif., who oversaw the country’s largest experiment with universal basic income, thinks a new software platform can help bootstrap underserved communities.

An AI-generated image of how Compton, Calif., might look with universal basic income in place.
The podcast cover image for this The Future in Context (TFIC) episode shows an AI-generated photo realistic image of how Compton, Calif., might look if universal basic income were fully implemented. (DALL-E 3)
Listen to this episode on the player below or subscribe for free on YouTube or the podcast app of your choice — Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Audacy and Audible.

There is no equity without data.
Aja Brown
Former Compton, Calif., Mayor Aja Brown grew up poor. Early on, she developed a sense of what could be for her community. Later, as an urban planner, she had what she calls a “heart to see Compton reach its full potential.” Once she sat behind the mayor’s desk, armed with a 12-point vision plan that reflected community needs and a determination to revitalize her city, she used the levers available to her to nudge Compton toward a preferred future. During her tenure, Brown focused on sustainability, economic development and youth empowerment, leveraging private investment to drive progress.

She also championed the Compton Pledge, America’s largest experiment with a universal basic income program, to help address systemic inequalities. That work has led her to the intersection of public policy, philanthropy and technology — where she believes data-driven solutions can be better delivered outside of government.


Here are the top four takeaways from this episode:

  1. Community-Centered Leadership: Brown’s tenure as mayor was defined by her community-centered approach, rooted in a comprehensive 12-point vision plan that addressed the pressing needs of Compton residents. By focusing on sustainability, economic development and youth empowerment, she aimed to revitalize the city and empower its citizens.
  2. Innovative Policy Initiatives: Brown’s implementation of innovative policy initiatives, such as the Compton Pledge guaranteed income program, showcased her commitment to addressing systemic inequalities. By directly delivering resources to residents during the pandemic, Brown demonstrated the power of combining philanthropy with policy-driven solutions to uplift communities.
  3. Technology as a Tool for Equity: Brown emphasizes the importance of technology, exemplified by platforms like Forward, in streamlining government processes and ensuring equitable distribution of resources. By leveraging data-driven solutions, technology can empower underserved communities and improve the efficiency and transparency of government.
  4. Continued Advocacy for Change: Brown’s work exemplifies a continued advocacy for change and equity in governance. Her dedication to empowering communities and driving transformative initiatives underscores the ongoing need for innovative approaches to address systemic challenges and uplift marginalized populations.

Related Links to items referenced in the episode:

Our editors used ChatGPT 4.0 to summarize the episode in bullet form to help create the show notes. The main image for this story was created using DALL-E 3.
Paul W. Taylor is the Senior Editor of e.Republic Editorial and of its flagship titles - Government Technology and Governing.
Ashley Silver is a staff writer for <i>Government Technology. </i>She holds an undergraduate degree in journalism from the University of Montevallo and a graduate degree in public relations from Kent State University. Silver is also a published author with a wide range of experience in editing, communications and public relations.
Carl Smith is a senior staff writer for Governing and covers a broad range of issues affecting states and localities. For the past 30 years, Carl has written about education and the environment for peer-reviewed papers, magazines and online publications, with a special focus on conservation and sustainability. He has guest-edited special issues of the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health focused on the Precautionary Principle and the human rights dimensions of environmental degradation. Carl attended the University of Texas and the University of Georgia. He can be reached at or on Twitter at @governingwriter.