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In Response to Increasing COVID-19 Disparities, We’re Rethinking Support

The pandemic has highlighted the shifting needs of our network. Here’s how we’re evolving, adapting, and uplifting.

Authors: Olayinka Credle, Melonie Tharpe, Director Portfolio Initiatives

For the past two years, we’ve been getting to know the practitioners who make up the Common Future network — a community of wealth builders, organizers, cooperative incubators, land trust makers, and entrepreneur support organizations working to build just economies across the country. Building on Common Future’s strong foundation of investing in and uplifting these leaders, we wanted to learn not just where they are today, but where they wanted to go in the future and how we could best support them. With this shift comes a new name for our team — the network team formerly known as the program team — and a new set of insights and ideas.

What We Learned

  • Folks need more resources to do this work.
  • There is a desire/need to have more ways to connect directly with each other across the network, sharing ideas and resources among organizations.
  • There are incredible folks working on similar issues or with similar approaches and they aren’t always connected.

Incubate, Co-create, Fund, and Influence

Connecting the dots between organizations has always been a major part of our work, however — after hosting a series of listening sessions for our network leaders last fall 2021 — that role has taken on a heightened level of passion and priority. As we prepare to bring our network of community wealth builders together this year, we are highlighting a few of the themes that have emerged as places where our economy isn’t working — namely where we might be able to incubate and co-create good ideas, fund our community, and use our influence to spread the word and get others to do the same.

  • Both in the news and from organizations supporting small business and cooperative launches, we hear loud and clear that the care economy — those caring for our children, our elders, and those who need assistance to live full lives — isn’t working. In 2022, we will be exploring how we can better co-create with our network to rethink this sector, seeking solutions we can potentially incubate and fund.
  • After a series of listening sessions to gain insight into how our network members are thinking about land and property ownership in their communities, our aim is to address the lack of funds to purchase and develop retail property, especially capital that is non-extractive and that can be deployed quickly to stay ahead of developers.
  • As we’ve written about before, nonprofits often need unrestricted funding to address the need for technical assistance services such as marketing, business admin, and other resources that help propel growing BIPOC businesses forward. But more importantly, collectively we want to answer this fundamental question: what is the best methodology to identify and provide technical assistance for struggling BIPOC businesses?
  • And finally, we have seen how COVID has exacerbated the nation’s already growing racial wealth gap and we plan to incubate, co-create and fund potential solutions and uplift leaders who are addressing this injustice through restorative economics in local policy and community organizing spaces.

Looking Forward:

Though we never could have predicted how a global pandemic would have shifted the needs of our community, the needs of the organizations we support have shifted significantly. Taking those learnings in mind along with feedback, we are changing how we think about our role in engaging and supporting our network. In 2022 and beyond, our plans include the following:

  • Invitations to gather with other practitioners to share what is working and explore shared issues.
  • (fingers crossed!) In-person activities across the country.
  • The launch of our online collaboration and co-creation network hub: The Commons.
  • Online community learning cohorts to further the work of our practitioners.

Stay tuned!

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