The Berkshire Black Economic Council Presents

The 2020 Berkshire County
SUCC3SS Report - Recruitment & Retention

Creating a Framework for Black Economic Empowerment in the Berkshires

Table of Contents

How to Read the Report

The Domain Reports broken into 5 major sections. 

  • The Overview
  • The Relevant Context
  • The Ideas
  • The Analysis
  • The Recommendations
There are also references for additional research and a link to a glossary of terms 

SUCC3SS Idea Jam 

Recruitment and Retention Report 

Overview – I

Domain Description

Making Berkshire County an attractive place to settle and relocate to for Black and African American, young professionals, families, and retirees. 

Domain Vision

Establish Berkshire County as a regional hub of Black business, thought, cultural expression, and community by developing resources networks that support and offer opportunities to African Americans, while also creating spaces that are welcoming and cognizant of the Black experience in the United States.  

Domain Areas of Focus

  • Quality of life from Black Perspectives (for example; community, schools, housing, social life, professional life, regional transportation, and connectedness).
  • Representation and ownership of resources necessary to pursue one’s dreams (for example banks and capital funds, media marketing, political representation, and diverse educational opportunities).

Domain Goals

  • Dismantle the Barriers to retaining and recruiting Black and African Americans in Berkshire County.
  • Create a better ecosystem for professional success.
  • Provide a high quality of life for Black and African American residents. 
  • Increase regional connectedness that makes the Berkshires more attractive to Black and African American residents
  • Support new to the area Black and African Americans.
  • Stem population loss countywide by offering African Americans locally, regionally, and nationally, an ecosystem of personal and professional success. 

At The Idea Jam – II

Station Activity

  • What initiatives are currently present to recruit and hire Black and African Americans to the Berkshires?
  • What can we do to retain new Black recruits?
  • What are the issues with the retention of Black and African Americans in the Berkshires?
  • Recruitment and Retention Ideas and Inspiration from Idea Jam session participants.


Shirley Edgerton – DEI Consultant, Cultural Proficiency Coach, Pittsfield Public Schools

Akilah Edgerton – Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for Berkshire Day School.


Findings – III


  • Lack of career and educational opportunities
  • A lack of inclusivity and belonging for biracial and multiracial people.
  • Hard to find and access networks, both socially and professionally.
  • The presence of Black and African American people is marginalized.
  • Appropriation 
  • Sustained Region-wide population loss and its associated effects across sectors.


  • The history and tradition of Black and African American contributions to the Berkshires are unique compared to many rural New England counties. (Rev. Samuel Harrison, Elizabeth Freeman, WEB Du Bois, Gather-in, etc)
  • The Berkshires are small enough that we can make significant progress
  • Low cost of living compared to much of Massachusetts
  • Potential for High quality of life (Cultural institutions, Recreational Activities, Educational Organizations.) 


  • Build upon the existing initiatives that have established diversity pipelines in Berkshire County. 
  • Support for regional transportation linking cities to the Berkshires.
  • Opportunity to get in on the ground level of innovative initiatives that promote a Black Agenda for Berkshire County (and can be a model for similar counties).
  • Black and African American tourism generated $60 Billion in economic activity in 20191. Berkshire County is unique in the richness of Black and African American history. Let us (re)introduce the world to it.


  • Institutional racism keeping the Berkshires homogenous.
  • Lack of commitment from organizations, politicians, et al to increasing diversity tangibly in the Berkshires.
  • Increased out-migration by Black and African American youth seeking career opportunities and community.


What Idea Jam participants had to say

Recruitment and Retention Ideas 

•Housing/safe space for teacher and new members of the community

•Having a different route/survey for filling out loans to start a business especially for African Americans

•Transportation to bigger cities on weekends

•Having job fair events to make finding jobs easier

•Internship opportunities

Analysis – IV

Gap Analysis:

Within an “Inclusive Economic Strategy,” the focus has to give voice, power, and funding to the niche market you are wanting to attract. It is imperative that “authentic cultural relevance” strategies are at the central core of marketing of recruitment and retention efforts for it to be successful.

A successful marketing strategy starts with the 3 C’s: connection, conversation, and community. Without connection and discussion among the people you’re hoping to target, your business cannot generate a sense of intimacy. For Oldford, intimacy is sharing your personal story so that customers may connect with it.

-Scott Olford

Blacks and African Americans need to own the space of recruitment and retention via the support of “set aside allocated funds”  to design and implement pipelines and narrative marketing campaigns to recruit and retain more Blacks and African Americans to the region. 

Narrative summations

Where we are now and where we are going (narrative summation)

The Berkshire County population has been decreasing steadily since the 1970s, limiting career opportunities for all residents, stagnating commercial and residential development, and creating challenging economic conditions for local business owners. The opportunities and challenges that Idea Jam participants identified mirror those defined in the Berkshires Initiatives for Growth report from 1Berkshire. However, of specific concern to Idea Jam participants is creating welcoming and safe spaces in a county that lacks diversity2,3.



That lack of diversity in Berkshire County may have a unique effect on Black and African American youth and young adults, who have expressed feeling marginalized and tokenized, and experiencing culture shock upon arriving at Universities. 

Where are we now?

(Overview of the challenges, opportunities, risks, insights.)

The declining population has increased the tax burden on homeowners. The median age of the population in Berkshire County is higher than both the state and national medians, which is likely to impact the services municipalities can provide4,5. There is no effective strategy in place to address the declining population of African Americans in Berkshire County. We are also in a state that because of this lack of strategy, that a rich and robust talent pool to effectively diversify hiring of african americans to fill current employment positions and home ownership political positions and more.


Where are we going?

Career Opportunities— Internships, access to start-up capital, job networking.
Regional Connection— transportation to bigger cities on weekends.
Safe Housing— Design of residential infrastructure that creates spaces for the community. Housing for new to the area Black and African Americans that integrate them into the existing community, and is SAFE for Black and African Americans.
Youth activities and engagement— Both in and out of school. Increasing opportunities beyond sports, promoting arts and entertainment venues, providing SAFE (from surveillance and to express themselves) gathering places. Increased mentorship opportunities with people they can relate to.
Community— Weekend gatherings. Networking professionally and socially. Integrating new to the area people into the existing community. Addressing issues of biracial belonging and appropriation/tokenization of Black and African Americans.
Coalition— Development an organization committed to pursuing a Black Agenda for Berkshire County.
Tourism— Customize marketing and tourism campaigns specifically marketing our rich culture and heritage of the Berkshires to target regions in New York City, Boston, Providence, Rhode Island, Washington DC, Albany, long-term and more…

Recommendations – V

Dismantling the barriers to recruiting and retaining peoples of the African Diaspora to Berkshire County by increasing connection to regional cities, black organizations, and institutions, developing a supportive professional culture that values diversity, building on current diversity pipeline initiatives and establishing more in different sectors, investing in the skill development of our region’s youth and establishing career opportunities that entice them to stay, architecture–public infrastructure and landscape design– that promotes community and is free from surveillance and offers the freedom to express our Blacknesses. To pursue those mandates, we would suggest;

 Recommendation 1

A Welcome Committee

  • A welcome committee that helps integrate, new to the area Black and African Americans into the community by offering events to socialize and network, and friendly faces. 
Recommendation 2


  • Creating and sponsoring events that offer alternatives to existing social and cultural events, celebrate Black History, and offer safe spaces for the enjoyment of outdoor recreational activities. (For example a Juneteenth Parade; Watch Night celebrations; Blackshires; Black Trailblazers hiking group5; consider a Bike trail linking home of WEB DuBois, Rev. Samuel Harrison, James Weldon Johnson, and Elizabeth Freeman.)
Recommendation 3

Planning Board

  • Fund and establish a Black and African American led Regional Planning Board7, potentially integrated with the Black Economic Council, to make recommendations of architectural vernaculars that do not perpetuate structural racism in the built environment for public works and private development, organize Black business owners and residents, and commission studies of the needs for Black Berkshire County residents.
Recommendation 4


  • Funding; research into the unique experiences of Black and African-American youth in Berkshire County, and financially supporting the current youth initiatives led by Black community members; surveys, focus groups and events to identify the professional and social wants of Black and African American youth and young adults.
Recommendation 5


  • Explore Black-owned transportation infrastructure–Uber, bike shops, etc.–and communication platforms–Blackshires.
Recommendation 6

Blackshires Platform 

  • Further fund the Blackshires platform to help promote regional cooperation between Black business owners, which will stimulate collaboration among entrepreneurs to strategize workforce development strategies that appeal to, and empower, young Black and African American Berkshire County residents.
These recommendations are intended to integrate with and build upon those offered in other Idea Jam reports. As the strategies and recommendations described in these reports are implemented the Berkshires will become a more attractive place, and the short and long term solvency of its municipalities will be ensured.

Next Steps

Organizing a working group focusing on Recruitment and Retention of Black and African Americans, that crafts an impact charter, and pursues public and private solutions as outlined here and in associated reports (please refer to Entrepreneurship, Education, Arts and Culture, and Neighborhood Revitalization).


📚 References

Research, References and Bibliography

1. Mandala Research. “African American Travel Represents $63 Billion Opportunity.” GlobeNewswire News Room, Mandala Research, 20 Dec. 2018,
2. B.E.C. virtual SUCC3SS Idea Jam 2020
3. According to data from the ACS 5 year estimates, 4.45 percent of Berkshire County residents identify as Black or African American–alone or in combination with one or more races. Roughly 90 percent of Berkshire County residents identify as White. tables B02001 and B02009
4. Berkshire Benchmarks. “2018 Regional Indicators Summary.” 2018. Berkshire Regional Planning Commission. Online PDF
5. Mark Maloy, “Berkshire County’s Changing Population” (Berkshire Regional Planning Commission, posted September 10, 2014), PDF: 2,
6. Dixon, Julia. “1Berkshire’s Berkshire Initiative for Growth Report.” 1Berkshire. August 2017. Online PDF
“Tourism also plays a key role in recruitment. 1Berkshire’s Berkshire Brand Development Research study found that 10% of young professionals who relocated to Berkshire County discovered the region while on vacation”. Consider nationwide campaigns promoting outdoor recreation of the Berkshires to Black and African Americans young adults.

7. BlackSpace, BlackSpace Urbanist Collective, Inc., 2020,


🎥 Credits 


Shirley Edgerton – DEI Consultant, Cultural Proficiency Coach, Pittsfield Public Schools

Akilah Edgerton – Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for Berkshire Day School.


John Lewis, R3SET
Kamaar Taliaferro, R3SET
Patrick Danahey, R3SET
Devin Shea, R3SET


Alyssa Mack, SP3AK EASY Studio
Kamaar Taliaferro, R3SET


Segun Idawoo, BECMA
Malia Lazu, MIT

Table of Contents

About the SUCC3SS Idea jam

The 2020 Berkshire County SUCC3SS Idea Jam was a community event series designed to create a holistic, collaborative framework for a successful ecosystem for Berkshire Black businesses, community members, and the Berkshire County community at large.

The community came together using an Idea Jam methodology to est a vision of establishing the Berkshires as a model for Black Economic empowerment for counties across the North East.

The jams were held at the beginning of COVID-19, after transitioning the series from an in-person experience. 

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