Cities are struggling to deliver affordable, equitable and quality public services, including health and safety, parks and streets, sewer and water service and education. At the same time, communities are struggling to plan and finance infrastructure improvements that can both mitigate climate change and adapt to its impacts.

Most cities respond to these challenges by having each agency pay for benefits that align with their departmental mission. While it makes sense to delegate responsibility among agencies for various public services, this siloed approach makes it hard to undertake more beneficial joint projects.

The Joint Benefits Authority (JBA) is a new way for municipal governments and service providers to raise money and collaborate on challenging cross-sector problems. The JBA approach creates a framework for advanced capital planning that aligns departments’ priorities, community needs and funding from the beginning. This approach increases efficiency in infrastructure investments and amplifies benefits, leading to more beautiful, functional and climate-resilient cities.

The JBA helps cities shift to integrated designs through:

1. Prioritizing Nature-Based Solutions.

The JBA advances natural infrastructure approaches at scale to deliver the most benefits. In addition to common benefits from nature-based solutions like cleaner air, better water quality and improved flood resilience, these projects can bring ancillary benefits such as reduced heat island effect, better mental and physical wellbeing, improved habitat diversity and beautiful neighborhoods. For example, a community greenway along a street corridor can manage excess stormwater, better connect residents to the neighborhood, improve safety by reducing the speed of traffic, shade students on their way to school and offer environmental education opportunities in the school year. The JBA provides a model that allows for individual projects like this to be replicated across multiple cities.

2. Integrated Project Delivery.

Multi-agency advance capital planning allows stakeholders to establish one JBA project team. This approach promotes good governance and eliminates duplicative costs for planning, design, implementation and monitoring. Considering public investments across a neighborhood as one project streamlines community participation and allows them to better evaluate how the projects will impact them overall. The JBA project manager leads the project to deliver safer streets, upgraded transit, urban greening and more on behalf of the city’s department, the public and the other partners.

3. Creative Municipal Financing.

The JBA offers a cooperative mechanism to pioneer municipal financing that delivers and maintains public infrastructure. The JBA is given its authority by city departments, including the power to issue bonds. In addition, collaborative projects anchored by multiple city agencies with strong community buy-in will likely attract new state and federal investments, including grants.

4. Inclusive Practices.

The JBA provides a new approach to advance social equity through inclusive and integrated implementation, which empowers communities to shape projects to meet local needs. While traditional public engagement often stops at community feedback, the JBA includes community leadership, residents and businesses as part of the project team. This allows the community to take an active and direct role in the project, including participating in decision-making, filling jobs for implementation and supporting long-term stewardship.

JBA team diagram


Learn more about the Joint Benefits Authority, below, or read the full FAQ document.

What does the Joint Benefits Authority aim to achieve?

The Joint Benefits Authority brings city departments together, in partnership with the community, to finance and deliver infrastructure that transforms neighborhoods and builds resilience in the face of climate change. A major goal of this work is to capture co-benefits of district scale public infrastructure by employing advance capital planning and integrated project delivery.

A successful JBA will:

  • focus investments in areas of need.
  • build efficiencies by aligning agency goals and resources.
  • bring the community in as part of the project team.
  • deliver district-scale resilient infrastructure solutions.
  • provide long term stewardship.

How does the Joint Benefits Authority work?

The Joint Benefits Authority (JBA) is based on the Joint Powers Authority (JPA) model that allows government agencies to work together to provide regional services or projects.

The two key elements of the tool are the formal agreement that outlines the intentions and the independent entity to finance and deliver the project.

Individual departments commit to the integrated public infrastructure project and provide oversight. They commit to the JBA and form a unique entity that takes on the powers of the city agencies, like bonding authority. They also serve as the “member agencies” in directing the project and provide the funding to repay project financing.

The JBA entity includes a project team that delivers the planning, design, financing, implementation, maintenance and monitoring. That team must address the needs of each individual department and the community to develop a fully integrated project.

How does the Joint Benefits Authority ensure Social Equity?

Social equity signifies equal resource distribution, opportunity and access for community and individual’s social well-being. Public services and investments in health, housing, education and jobs are not provided equally across neighborhoods in cities. Certain social groups and geographies have greater access to opportunity based on social conditions in their environment.

The Joint Benefits Authority aims to address the unequal distribution of public services, public investments, and economic and social opportunities by:

  • focusing resources to areas that are historically underserved and already impacted by environmental and social burdens.
  • collaborating with the community as part of the team to define and deliver the project.
  • ensuring project benefits are directed to the existing community.
  • building community capacity for ownership and stewardship of neighborhood public investments.

How does the Joint Benefits Authority achieve integrated solutions?

The Joint Benefits Authority (JBA) will support cities and communities in advanced capital planning that creates multi-purpose projects.

The JBA provides the mechanism for communities to achieve:

  • One Team: The JBA creates one project team for district-scale adaptation projects, reduces overlapping services with single entity responsible for delivery of the shared city vision and takes the project from ideation through life cycle operation.
  • Resource Efficiency: The JBA aligns departments’ priorities and community needs, and pools the limited city resources to address neighborhoods at risk.
  • Integrated Solutions: The JBA expands project goals to incorporate new project partners and funding with multi-purpose, multi-benefit projects.
  • Bonding Power: The JBA serving as a finance vehicle with the power to issue bonds.
  • Long-Term Stewardship: The JBA addressing climate uncertainty with adaptable nature-based infrastructure solutions at the neighborhood scale.

Who is involved in developing the Joint Benefits Authority and who is funding it?

The World Resources Institute is partnering with Encourage Capital, the Liquid Assets Project and the San Francisco Public Utility Commission to design and pilot the Joint Benefits Authority (JBA) concept with funding from the Kresge Foundation, Spring Point Partners and the Moore Foundation.

We are working closely with stakeholders and partners throughout the City of San Francisco to define and implement a pilot JBA project. Our goal is to test this idea and replicate.

Learn more:

  • Read a 2 page summary of the Joint Benefits Authority here.

  • Read a detailed review of the JBA's Frequently Asked Questions here.


Cover image by Robert Bye/Unsplash