More and more, Californians are tuning out the partisan bickering and the resulting gridlock that paralyzes our leaders, preventing them from addressing issues like the economy that are hitting so close to home every day for their constituents.
Enter organizations such as The Greenlining Institute, which is a national entity that focuses on affecting policy, helping underserved communities organize, and fostering leadership in the name of racial and economic justice.
They held their 19th annual economic summit last week in northern California to discuss economic empowerment for some of those underserved communities that have been hit hardest by the recent recession.
Martin Luther King Jr. once said that the next phase of the Civil Rights Movement would be economic rights and much of the data Greenlining provided echoed this sentiment: People of color are less likely to own a bank account, less likely to own a home, less wealthy, less likely to enter the middle class, more likely to be unemployed during a recession, and less likely to have a seat on the board of directors at a financial institution.
To combat this, the Summit brought together investors, bankers, social justice leaders, nonprofits, foundations, government officials, youth leaders and the faith community to explore strategies to help revive the economy in these oft-ignored communities.
Strategies discussed included wealth growth through capital investments, business ownership, and the promotion of business models that align profit and social progress, and strategies to employ individuals who face obstacles in entering the job force.
Dannie Vasquez, through his business Legacy Equity Advisors, works to help those seeking to diversify their portfolio invest in underserved, undervalued global communities of color.
“We are launching the California Impact Fund and we are targeting these areas, with support of foundations we are getting off the ground to revitalize these communities. We are not issuing loans, debt or credit, we are investing cold hard cash,” Vasquez said.
Jason Triniew with The Roberts Enterprise Development Fund explained how their business model creates opportunities for economically disadvantaged youth and adults. REDF invests in nonprofit social enterprises that in turn create jobs for the homeless, previously incarcerated and others who face obstacles in entering the job force.
“Our programs are trying to give people a step up into the workforce,” explained Trineiw.
Likewise, Jodi Pincus oversees the Rising Sun Energy Center, a national leader in curriculum, training, and workforce development in the energy efficiency sector. Not only is the Rising Sun Energy Center aligning profit with the environment, they also employ a number of at-risk youth, and help them gain economic sustainability and the work experience to help them overcome life’s obstacles.
Alan Fernandez Smith, President and CEO of Urban Habitat, spoke on equity as an economic growth strategy for all in a morning session on Pioneering Leadership,
“Inclusion and access is key, it’s paramount to economic growth. Conversations on economic development should not just be centered on the Silicon Valley, but the entire Bay Area,” Smith said.
“If you are not at the table, you are on the menu.”
The best solutions to solve this economic crisis are the solutions that come from the bottom up, “by the people, for the people”.
Kudos to The Greenlining Institute for highlighting new innovative economic models that help to ensure the American Dream is accessible to all communities.
We look forward to continuing this conversation May 11 at the California Economic Summit.
Danielle Williams is a policy associate at California Forward