Tag: City First Enterprises

Promoting effective philanthropy for Greater Washington | A second quarter report to the community

By Tamara Copeland
Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers

A few years ago, there was a lot of talk in the social profit sector about moving from good to great. Some in that sector may be surprised to learn that folks in philanthropy have been having a similar conversation. What does it take to ensure effective philanthropy? How can we ensure that funds are being invested in the best way to truly improve the region?

So, for the second quarter of 2015, WRAG took “promoting effective philanthropy” as our focus:

WRAG’s “Fundamentals of CSR” seminar, held in April, aimed to promote effective partnerships between corporate funders and the region’s social profit community. Our belief was that corporate philanthropy’s impact would be strengthened by having community partners who better understood the unique philanthropic perspective of corporations. Over 50 members of the local social profit community participated in this very well-received workshop and told us that their knowledge about CSR improved from an average of 4.8 on a 1-10 scale before the seminar, to 7.9 by the end of the two-day seminar. Great. Now, we have to wait a bit to see if that knowledge gain makes a difference.

In May, Community Wealth Building took front and center as we hosted – along with the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region, the Consumer Health Foundation, and City First Enterprises – the first community update on this initiative. The standing-room-only audience was eager to learn the status of the first business launched under the community wealth building umbrella, and to consider if they saw a place for themselves in this initiative. Many did! So, after several years of planning, community wealth building is taking off in our region. Great? I sure think so.

Next, affordable housing. We all know the current state of this as a crisis in our region. In May, WRAG and Enterprise Community Partners collaborated to present to the Federal City Council on a new funding pool that we are establishing for developers of affordable housing units. It will provide these developers with access to low interest bridge loans. This is exciting and innovative work for WRAG, and is creating buzz as we move into the impact investing arena. Stay tuned for an announcement next month about how you can be involved in this effort, too. It’s not just for institutional philanthropists. We can all play a role in enabling affordable housing in our region. Definitely a move from good (info gathering) –> to great (taking action and making a difference).

And, last, but definitely not least, what will it take to move the social profit sector in Loudoun County from good to great? More communication across sectors and more targeted and increased philanthropic investments. To get there, WRAG hosted our first philanthropy conference in Loudoun County. Over 100 people attended, including 40 funders, along with representatives of social profit organizations and local government. Now that interest in the county has been kindled, the next step is a meeting this summer to really talk about how to move from interest to action.

There will be no lazy, hazy days of summer at WRAG. Moving from good to great takes time, energy, and focus. We’re glad to play a part with philanthropy in our region. Happy summer everyone!

You can read Tamara’s first quarter report to the community about growing philanthropy in our region here

Reversing inequality locally and beyond

As income gaps among Americans continue to widen, should the country look toward a new progressive era or keep on the same path hoping trends will inevitably change? A number of new, long-term approaches to create a more equitable economic system have been adopted across the country in recent years, including Evergreen Cooperatives in Cleveland, OH – a leading example of community wealth building initiatives in the U.S. (NPQ, 3/10)

What is encouraging is that, across the country, there are many signs that frustration is forcing exactly the kind of experimentation with new institutions that may one day become a significant part of the power base of a new politics and that may also suggest principles for larger national application—efforts that may also slowly help lay foundations for a long-term approach capable of reversing deepening inequality. Critically, at their core, these experiments involve a new principle, something quite different for the new era—at first locally, ultimately potentially nationally: the idea that wealth ownership must be democratized both in theory and in on-the-ground practice, building slowly from experiments to larger scale.

Essentially, a new strategic paradigm—the idea that democratizing ownership can begin locally—is emerging around the nation. Especially important has been the expansion of worker and community cooperatives—an old form now exploding in relevance around the nation in communities that have been left behind and writhing in pain as national and international forces both turn their backs on locality and find it impossible to enact even modest policies of significant assistance.


One particularly impressive effort involves the Evergreen Cooperatives—a complex of linked cooperative businesses owned by workers from the surrounding low-income communities and established to create green jobs (and democratized ownership) by capturing procurement dollars from the “anchor institutions” as they make their supply chains more sustainable.

Related: An initiative similar to the Evergreen Cooperatives is underway here in our region. In a post last month, Tamara shared how that vision came to fruition, with a new initiative led by City First Enterprises launching in Prince George’s County known as the Community Clean Water Management Group. (Daily, 2/18) For more information about the Community Wealth Building Initiative, check out past Daily posts HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE.

FOOD | Want to eat nutritious food? If you don’t get a raise, you’re out of luck (WaPo, 3/10)

EVENTS | On Monday, March 16 at 5:30 PM, the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region will hold their 2015 Annual Celebration of Philanthropy at The Mead Center for American Theater. For more information and to purchase tickets for this fun night of performances, networking and more, click here.

– The D.C. Office of Planning is looking into creating a greater supply of family housing in multi-family buildings amid a sea of new studio and one-bedroom units that cater to a very different audience in the city. (WCP, 3/11)

Advocates inclined toward housing deregulation argue that the best course of action is simply to allow more housing to be built, by lifting zoning restrictions on building height and density. Supply will then catch up with demand, and costs will come down.

But that raises the next “for whom” question, one about household composition. The majority of the new apartments and condos rising up in D.C.’s hottest neighborhoods are studios and one-bedrooms. These units cater to the young, childless professionals who have flooded the city in recent years, but don’t do much for the larger families who are feeling pinched.

– Map Fix: See Where Low-Income Families Are Being Replaced by DC Singles (DCInno, 3/10)

LGBT | A new report evaluating the status of the Metropolitan Police Department’s fulfillment of recommendations made by the Hate Crimes Assessment Task Force, shows that much more should be done in the District to better the department’s relationship with the LGBTQ community. Many of the recommendations show little-to-no progress since they were first proposed. (DCist, 3/10)

EDUCATION | Anxiety abounds as DC schools roll out new, harder tests (GGW, 3/11)

While one half of this couple may be wrapped up in email controversy, the other half has probably forgotten his password a long time ago….and has no plans to recover it.

– Ciara

From Vision to Reality

by Tamara Copeland
Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers

It feels good to have a good news story every now and then. Here’s one.

Over the past year, we have provided periodic updates on the planning phase of the Metropolitan Washington Community Wealth Building Initiative (CWBI) led by City First Enterprises (CFE); however, none of those updates compares to this one.

Late last year, the CWBI incorporated its first company, the Community Clean Water Management Group (CCMG). Based in Prince George’s County, Maryland, CCMG will provide stormwater management maintenance and monitoring services to both anchor institutions and private clients. Within the next few months, CCMG will announce its founding Chief Executive Officer and will begin identifying, interviewing and hiring employee-owners.

Now that’s a success story.

So how did it happen?

Almost four years ago, grantmakers in our region learned of an initiative in Cleveland focused on getting people out of poverty. The local grantmakers met with leaders of the Cleveland initiative to learn more. Based on those conversations, a feasibility study was commissioned to determine the viability of launching, and the interest in participating in,  a community wealth building initiative in our region. And now, that dream has come to life: a CWBI-inspired business created initially to serve an anchor institution, Prince George’s County, is now reality.

While the first business is focused on clean water and is located in Prince George’s County, the CWBI is neither a Maryland initiative, nor is it a clean water initiative. It is a regional initiative focused on creating quality, wealth-building opportunities – through either the creation of businesses or the provision of goods or services to existing businesses — for harder-to-employ people.

If you are an anchor organization – a government, a hospital, a university – interested in learning more about CWBI opportunities, contact Andria Seneviratne at City First Enterprises.

This is the catalytic role that philanthropy often plays. Congratulations to the grantmakers who had a vision and made it a reality.

What does it take to launch a new initiative?

2014 WRAG Delegation to Cleveland

By Tamara Copeland
Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers

It was 2011 when I first learned of the Evergreen Cooperatives from three local grantmakers – Linda Howard of the Summit Fund, Kristin Pauly of Prince Charitable Trusts, and Margaret O’Bryon then of the Consumer Health Foundation. The Evergreen Cooperatives are worker-owned businesses located in underserved areas of Cleveland that supply nearby anchor institutions with services and goods they need. This philanthropy-led initiative in Cleveland, designed to actually move people out of poverty and into the middle class, was causing a buzz. By inviting the Evergreen Cooperatives’ leader to speak with local leaders, these three foundation executives started a powerful conversation.

A spark/an idea. The spark was undoubtedly the dynamic presentation (View part 1 and 2) by Ted Howard of the Democracy Collaborative, the organization that had been hired by the Cleveland Community Foundation to lead this work in Cleveland. He shared the model, the goals, and the potential for the Greater Washington region with funders, nonprofit leaders, and government officials. There were many questions and some reservations about the model’s potential here, but overall, attendees left wondering, “What if this really could work?” However, that spark alone was not enough to launch the initiative.

Resources and research. A group of about a dozen funders combined their resources for a $250,000 pool to hire Ted Howard and the Democracy Collaborative (based at the University of Maryland) to research the viability of the Evergreen model here in our region. This work included interviewing almost 200 local leaders. Afterwards, there was no question that an adaption of the principles and ideals of the Evergreen Cooperative’s worker-owner model was possible here. But, the due diligence alone was not enough to get it off the ground either.

Deeper research. Now a leader was needed to decide what kind of business had the greatest opportunity for success and to develop a capital plan to underwrite the start up costs of that business. John Hamilton, President of City First Enterprises, was that leader. He understood the business world and he understood the needs of the community. John and his team determined that the biggest opportunity laid in anchoring this work to a municipality. Next, they determined that stormwater/cleanwater management was the area of work with the greatest immediate potential here in our region. Combining those two factors with a desire by Prince George’s County to identify new approaches to combat wealth inequality in the County made Prince George’s County the optimal municipality to begin this work.

Collaboration. So, what does it take to launch an initiative? A strong cross-sector collaboration to meet a community need is a must have. The philanthropic community was the catalyst, the academic community provided the research, and government had a need to address: compliance with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Water Act standards. All of these factors have converged in a way to make the initiative possible.

The last ingredient. Even with all the partnership stars aligning, there is still work to be done. All parties are eager to launch the initiative and implement the tenets of community wealth building in Prince George’s County, but are awaiting finalization of the necessary agreements. We are excited about the potential impact of the Community Wealth Building Initiative and look forward to providing you with an update of our progress soon.

Note: Late last month, WRAG hosted the second tour of the Evergreen model for local funders potentially interested in becoming a part of this work. To learn more, contact Tamara Copeland at WRAG or Jason Washington at City First Enterprises.