Research Report

Voices of the Community: DC, Maryland, Virginia

Voices of the Community: DC, Maryland, Virginia (VoicesDMV), is a community engagement initiative from the Greater Washington Community Foundation, in partnership with the Urban Institute, designed to lift up residents’ stories and perceptions of the quality of life in the Greater Washington region.

Over eight months, the Greater Washington Community Foundation and Urban Institute surveyed more than 3,000 respondents, held seven focus groups with special populations throughout the region, and engaged residents in four community conversations in Prince George’s County, Northern Virginia, Montgomery County, and Washington, DC.

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This brief is organized around four major themes that emerged from the VoicesDMV data. These themes are summarized below, along with high-level findings from the survey, focus groups, and community conversations.

Well-being and satisfaction with the DMV

People are generally happy with their quality of life, the diversity of our region, and the amenities available to residents, but many are concerned about traffic and congestion, crime and safety, and the high cost of living. And although change has become a constant, the flurry of new development can leave many residents and their families wondering whether those changes will benefit them or people like them.

Economic security and inclusion

Despite an abundance of wealth in the Washington region, shared prosperity remains an aspiration. Faced with the threat of displacement, many households are making the difficult decision to move away from their close-knit communities to find security elsewhere. Our region has work to do to remove structural barriers that have created racial inequities and to ensure everyone benefits from our economic growth.

Social inclusion

The Washington region is one of the most diverse places in the country, and many people feel they fit in here. Although our region is generally viewed as more accepting of people of different backgrounds, discrimination in the community and workplace remains a concern for many residents, particularly people of color.

Making change happen

People emphasized basic services when ranking priorities for their local governments, but a majority also felt public officials should address environmental and social issues. Although many people trusted their local governments to handle local problems, few thought they had much influence over local government decisionmaking. People also looked beyond typical helping sectors, such as government, nonprofits, and faith communities, and saw businesses and universities playing a vital role in addressing our region’s economic and social challenges.

What’s Next

In the years ahead, The Community Foundation will collect updated survey data and conduct focus groups and community conversations with different people who represent the region’s diversity to build upon the information provided here. The challenges facing our region may be great, but so are the strengths that a united region can bring to bear to move us forward together. Future iterations of VoicesDMV will help our region gauge whether it is making progress toward providing equity, access, and opportunity for all.