Inclusive Economy for a Just East Bay
“For an economy to function well, it should be growing, sustainable, and stable. But it should also be growing for all people–not just creating wealth and financial stability for some but ensuring that every person has equitable opportunities for good jobs, and career paths in order to be free from the worry of meeting basic human needs or financial hardship.”
~Venkat Mohan, EBCF Fund Holder
EBCF’s vision of an inclusive, fair, and just East Bay is rooted in the notion of equal opportunity for all. However, we know well that structural barriers prevent this vision from being a reality. This has precluded some communities from accessing the same economic opportunity and prosperity enjoyed by many of their neighbors. To create a truly inclusive economy, the foundation is supporting community-led solutions.
An Inclusive Economy provides equitable opportunities for good jobs, entrepreneurship, and career pathways, particularly for underserved communities. We aspire to live in an East Bay with vibrant, resilient communities, strong local economies, and thriving industries that contribute to a sustainable environment, and the health, well-being, and prosperity of its residents.
“I have been working at the Marshalls in Emeryville’s Powell Street Plaza for the past 3 and half years. I work hard at my job and do my best as an employee. I need to work around 20 hours a week to help pay my college tuition as well as help pay rent and support my family. But recently my hours have become fewer and less predictable. In the last scheduling period I wasn’t scheduled for a single shift. With uneven income and rents increasing so drastically in the East Bay, my family was forced to leave the Fruitvale neighborhood where we have lived our entire lives – despite the fact that all 5 of my parents and siblings work. I budget my finances tightly, but without the hours over the past several months I’ve accrued thousands in credit card debt in order to make ends meet. And it’s not just me, I know many retail workers with similar experiences. Having a fair work week in Emeryville would allow me to get the hours that I need in order to pay for college, support my family and have the freedom to live a healthy life where I can plan and control my own time.”
Bay Area Ranked Third in Economic Inequality
In spite of the regional economic boom, income inequality is on the rise with African Americans and Latinos overrepresented among the lowest-earning households. The poverty rate for African Americans is more than double the poverty rate in the region, and these rates are exacerbated when adjusted for high housing costs. The region is now home to high-income families that earn 11x more than families on the lower end – making ours the third most economically unequal region in the United States. Rents continue to rise, while wages have stagnated and middle wage job opportunities continue to shrink, deepening inequality. If we are to create an inclusive economy that truly lifts up BIPOC communities, there is a philanthropic imperative to strengthen community leadership and power to ensure that economic development does not lead to further inequities.
Lifting Community Solutions
Local communities of color and the organizations that amplify their voice have been collaborating to develop community-grounded solutions to the crisis of economic inequality. Housed at the East Bay Community Foundation (EBCF), the Inclusive Economy Fund seeks to scale these efforts by pooling philanthropic resources to build grassroots community leadership and power to create and expand equitable opportunities for entrepreneurship and good jobs for communities of color.
A main focus of the Inclusive Economy Fund is resourcing community organizing groups to launch the REAL People’s Fund – a $10 million community loan fund designed and governed by a consortium of local community organizing groups. Responding to the income and wealth inequality that has led to gentrification and displacement of the East Bay’s historic communities of color, six community organizing nonprofits (ACCE, Asian Pacific Environmental Network, Communities for a Better Environment, Oakland Rising, Restaurant Opportunities Center, Restore Oakland) came together to create a community-controlled loan pool to invest in the small businesses that anchor economic opportunity in their neighborhoods. That mission has taken on added urgency in light of the disparate impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting recession on communities and entrepreneurs of color, and the failure of many small business support programs to reach those Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and other POC business owners.
The REAL People’s Fund offers accessible financial products and business advisory services, with a focus on community-based businesses that build wealth through entrepreneurship, create quality jobs for low-income people, and help anchor communities facing displacement. The fund is professionally managed by lenders RUNWAY and Community Vision, together with business developer Uptima Business Bootcamp.
Inclusive Economy Ecosystem
This community process drives the direction of the Inclusive Economy Fund to ensure that community solutions are always at the forefront. The community partners have identified that the critical components of any inclusive economy strategy must be based on:
- Policy and systems change;
- Community leadership, power, and ownership;
- Community innovation; and
- Shifting capital to better reflect values of equity and justice.
Through this framework, an inclusive economy in the East Bay is one which provides equitable opportunities for good living-wage jobs, long-term career pathways, and socially responsible entrepreneurship – especially for those who are traditionally left behind. Indeed, we can achieve an inclusive economy when historically disenfranchised communities, especially low-income and communities of color, the formerly-incarcerated, and new immigrants, fully participate in and benefit from economic decisions that shape their neighborhoods and the region. Thus is the charge for the Inclusive Economy Fund and its community partners.
Goals and Outcomes
The goal of the Inclusive Economy Fund is to build community capacity and leadership in order to influence economic development decision-making in the East Bay. Through this approach, we aim to:
- Demonstrate a systems-change approach through coordinated actions and interventions by community partners in a public policy process
- Connect first-hand, lived experiences with academic research and organizing to create research-informed, community-led campaigns or policy blueprints for equitable economic development that can be implemented at the city and/or county level
- Strengthen inclusive economy movement infrastructure, which is critical in achieving sustainable long-term change to move beyond only organizing city-by-city or project-by-project to a regional strategy with a more long-term, future facing stance
- Create an inclusive economy for the East Bay, where historically disenfranchised communities have access to good living-wage jobs, long-term career pathways, and entrepreneurship – all rooted in socially responsible businesses that benefit the environment and creates wealth.
Role for Funders and Donors
Funders and individual donors are invited to participate in the Inclusive Economy Fund, which supports grassroots community partners who are building economic power. All contributions have a real and lasting impact and move our community closer to the goal of an inclusive economy in the East Bay.