Leah Elliott


Leah works with clients to advance racial equity and social justice at the neighborhood, city, and state levels.

As a leader in the Inclusive Cities practice, Leah specializes in policy development and program design for nonprofits, governments, and grassroots coalitions. Since joining the firm in 2016, Leah has worked with clients in the fields of economic development, criminal justice reform, workforce development, affordable housing, and climate resilience. Leah is passionate about projects that connect HR&A’s expertise in economic development and real estate to the work of local activists and leaders fighting for equity and justice on behalf of Black, LatinX, and LGBTQ+ communities.
Leah’s portfolio includes:

  • Expanding Skillful, an equitable workforce initiative of the Markle Foundation, in the states of Colorado, Indiana, and Rhode Island. Since 2017, Leah has worked with Skillful – and in partnership with employers, job coaches, and State leaders – to increase access to work and education for people who face discrimination, including the 70% of the U.S. workforce without a college degree. In Colorado, she helped Skillful design and launch the Governor’s Coaching Corps, a now yearly professional development program for job coaches in multiple states. She is currently managing Skillful’s partnership with the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training to improve statewide job coaching systems and employer recruitment in the wake of COVID-19.
  • The creation of equitable economic development plans and policy agendas in Pittsburgh, PA and Dallas, TX. Working with the Pittsburgh Economic Justice Circle (EJC), Leah led an analysis of the City of Pittsburgh’s capital and operating budgets and supported the EJC in leveraging these findings to develop and launch a campaign calling on the City and economic development officials for transparency, equity, community voice, and accountability in their budgeting. Leah co-facilitated a workshop for EJC member organizations and peers to build local capacity in budget analysis using a racial equity lens.
    In Dallas, Leah collaborated with members of HR&A’s Texas office to develop an Equitable Development Plan for Harold Simmons Park. The EDP, commissioned by the Trinity Park Conservancy, will guide the construction, programming, and governance of this future 200-acre park separating downtown and West Dallas. Leah contributed to plan components related to procurement and workforce development.
  • The development and launch of Faith Communities for Just Reentry, a campaign to increase access to housing and healthcare services for New Yorkers harmed by systems of incarceration. On behalf of Trinity Church Wall Street, Leah conducted a needs assessment of housing supply and services for New Yorkers leaving Riker’s Island, the city’s largest jail facility. Based on these findings, she led a team from HR&A and Trinity to develop a policy agenda and interfaith coalition calling for reforms to New York’s criminal justice and housing systems. HR&A partnered with local service providers and advocates to inform the development of the policy agenda and initial coalition activities.
    Leah holds a Master’s in Public Policy from the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University. An advocate for education and human rights, she previously worked for The Choices Program at Brown University and the LGBTQ Representation and Rights Initiative based at UNC-Chapel Hill. She grew up in North Carolina and lives in Brooklyn, NY.