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Community-Driven Approaches to Equity to Receive $10M to Grow

Detroit, Michigan

Detroit, Michigan

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The Rockefeller Foundation and Chan Zuckerberg Initiative have teamed up to create the Communities Thrive Challenge, which will have 10 winners.

Successful local solutions to unemployment, financial insecurity and economic underdevelopment among low-income neighborhoods could see $1 million in funding from the new Communities Thrive Challenge.

The Rockefeller Foundation and Chan Zuckerberg Initiative collaboration aims to split $10 million and technical assistance among 10 U.S.-based, community-driven approaches.

An example of the type of organization being looked for is the Family Independence Initiative, or FII, which works to strengthen and create new social networks among low- and middle-income communities through its online platform UpTogether and direct investment.

“The biggest asset to Detroit is not institutions,” Kofi Kenyatta, FII director in the city, told Route Fifty by phone. “It’s people.”

CZI recently funded FII in a push to help the organization scale to achieve its goal of serving 20,000 families by 2020—1,000 of them in Detroit. Only organizations that haven’t received funding from CZI or Rockefeller in the last decade are eligible for the new challenge, which rules out FII.

Once they enroll with FII, families receive stipends—$2,400 for two months—that they can spend on resources like food, housing, transportation or education. They’re encouraged to first connect with a family partner that FII has previously assisted for advice on spending the money, with FII only linking them to a program or resource if they strike out.

That way, the families themselves grow the network and FII can go away if need be without it failing, Kenyatta said.

“Our focus has always been removing systemic barriers to opportunity and mobility,” said Caitlyn Fox, CZI policy and advocacy director, in a phone interview.

FII currently works with 380 families across Detroit, making referrals by, say, connecting a person applying for a job at Quicken Loans with another in the network who recently landed a job there.

Once a certain amount of families are part of the network, FII plans to collect data to engage policymakers and put the program in front of mayors and governors.

The challenge application window, which runs through June 12 for registrations and June 19 for submissions, is open. After a peer-to-peer review, 80 applicants will advance to the second round on Aug. 6.

That round will feature a panel of experts in business, labor, community organizing and government reviewing their applications and awarding at least $5,000 to 20 finalists. Rockefeller and CZI will then visit each finalist, intended to represent a diverse set of locations.

“That could be in a distressed place, or it could be in a place that has been growing rapidly but not everyone has been able to benefit,” said Rachel Korberg, Rockefeller’s associate director, by phone.

Winners will be announced in late fall 2018.

Kenyatta is Detroit-born and raised and had the benefit of growing up in a socially connected and politically active household, and he wants the same for other families. The Communities Thrive Challenge uses a similar approach.

“It’s really a breath of fresh air because those are the solutions that will allow us to achieve equity,” Kenyatta said.

Dave Nyczepir is a News Editor at Government Executive’s Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.

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