A Framework for Building Thriving Communities

Dear friends and community members,

As a community foundation, having a finger on the pulse of our community is central to who we are and our ability to make a difference in the lives of those who call our region their home. Last year, in partnership with Urban Institute, we launched Voices of the Community: DC, MD, VA (VoicesDMV) to connect directly with the people and communities we serve and understand our neighbors’ experiences in their neighborhoods, jobs, schools, with local government, and with each other — and to identify the role philanthropy can play in enhancing or improving those experiences.

VoicesDMV revealed a region in which, while separated by income, education or geographic boundaries, all of us share similar hopes and dreams. We all want a better overall quality of life for ourselves and our families, including the opportunity to live in a safe and welcoming environment, obtain a quality education, earn a living wage, and build assets for a secure future. And yet, as prosperous as our region is, our survey found that deep disparities in income and opportunity persist and the gap continues to widen, preventing many of our neighbors, particularly people of color due to historical discrimination, from accessing the region’s economic growth and prosperity.

A decade ago, our Economic Security Framework was created as a direct response to the economic crisis and its impact on the region, with a focus on workforce development, safety-net services, and education. But the nature of today’s challenges requires a different approach, one that goes deeper toward addressing systemic issues to improve the economic and social well-being of people and communities who have long been marginalized, particularly communities of color. While economic security will remain part of our work going forward, we have taken this opportunity to refresh our focus areas to fully capture the range of efforts that are critical to building thriving communities. Our new Building Thriving Communities Framework will broaden our work with donors and partners across the region to disrupt poverty, deepen human connection, and prepare for the future of work.

With this refresh, we seek to deepen and expand existing work by leveraging new tools, prioritizing strategic partnerships across sectors, and developing innovative approaches to addressing the region’s most pressing challenges. This includes a new partnership with the District of Columbia Interagency Council on Homelessness to launch a broader public-private partnership that will build off the District’s plans to make homelessness rare, brief and non-recurring by making critical investments to accelerate our community’s response.

We are also deliberately centering racial equity and community voice in our community leadership efforts and in our grantmaking. For example, as our Workforce Development Collaborative celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, the focus will remain on supporting programs and policies which help workers advance their skills and credentials, but with a special emphasis on eliminating inequities based on race, ethnicity or gender and providing new career pathways and wealth-building opportunities.

We hope you see a connection between our Building Thriving Communities Framework and your own charitable giving plans. We would welcome the opportunity to discuss how The Community Foundation can support your broader interests. You can also make an unrestricted gift to the Fund for Greater Washington to support our ongoing community change work across the region. Your continued partnership and support are crucial as we seek to build thriving communities today and for generations to come.

Sincerely,

 
 Bruce McNamer, President and CEO

Bruce McNamer, President and CEO

 Tonia Wellons, VP of Community Investment

Tonia Wellons, VP of Community Investment

 

Building Thriving Communities

The Greater Washington Community Foundation has three focus areas which guide our interconnected and strategic approach to Building Thriving Communities. These focus areas represent the range of efforts that The Community Foundation, our donors, and partners individually and collectively undertake to strengthen our region and create a brighter future for our most vulnerable neighbors. Through support for direct services as well as research, advocacy, and grassroots community engagement, we are contributing to systems change in the following areas: 

Poverty

Approach: Respond to the multi-dimensional nature of poverty by addressing basic needs – food, shelter, education, health – while also working on systemic approaches to dismantling its impact.

The Community Foundation has long advocated for and supported education and safety-net services as part of our economic security framework. But the persistence of poverty—often predicted by zip code and race or ethnicity—remains one of the biggest challenges affecting families across the region. We are committed to addressing inequities and helping our most vulnerable neighbors—people experiencing homelessness, unstable housing, or underemployment—find pathways out of poverty by supporting both direct services and systems-level interventions.

Related Funds and Initiatives:

  • Fund for Greater Washington
  • Partnership to End Homelessness in DC
  • Children’s Opportunity Fund (Montgomery County)
  • Sharing Funds
  • Transforming Neighborhoods Initiative
    Prince George’s County)
  • Fund for Children, Youth and Families
  • Raise DC
  • Scholarship funds
  • Neighbors in Need Montgomery Fund

Broader Foundation and Donor Interests:

  • Safety-net services
  • Affordable housing
  • Homelessness
  • Hunger
  • Education and scholarships
  • Economic development
  • Public Health
  • Early Childhood Development
     

Culture and Human Connection

Approach: Foster diverse and inclusive connections by promoting philanthropy and civic engagement, supporting arts and culture, and advocating for equity, inclusion, and justice.

Our region is one of the most culturally, ethnically, geographically, and economically diverse areas in the country. Yet underlying discrimination and disparities based on race, income or gender continue to threaten community cohesion. We can enhance community well-being by celebrating our region’s diversity and the economic and social benefits therein, facilitating civic participation by all and advocating for more just policies and investments that support members of our community who are economically and/or socially marginalized.

Related Funds and Initiatives:

  • Fund for Greater Washington
  • VoicesDMV
  • Resilience Fund
  • Sharing Funds
  • Celebration of Philanthropy, Celebration of
    Giving, and Civic Leadership Awards
  • Spring Creek Environmental Fund
  • Corporate disaster relief funds and other
    responsive funds

Broader Foundation and Donor Interests:

  • Race equity and inclusion
  • Social justice
  • Civic engagement
  • Disaster Relief
  • Arts and Culture
  • Environment
  • Human rights
  • Criminal justice reform
  • Public spaces

The Future of Work

Approach: Prepare workers and entrepreneurs to build the skills and resources they need to succeed in our region’s changing economy.

As our region grows and adapts to a changing global economy, local employers increasingly demand a higher level of skill and knowledge from workers. Thousands in our region are unemployed, under-employed, or stuck in low-wage employment because they lack the tools and training. We will continue our work to eliminate income gaps, especially those based on race or ethnicity, and advocate for fair wages, portable benefits, and state of the art workforce systems. Ultimately, we aim to connect workers to career pathways and industry-recognized credentials to help them enter and advance in their careers, build skills, and increase wages.

Related Funds and Initiatives:

  • The Catalyst Fund
  • Workforce Development Collaborative
    • Greater Washington Works: IT and
      Health Careers with Promise
  • Sharing Funds

 

 

Broader Foundation and Donor Interests:

  • Career pathways
    and advancement opportunities
  • Adult education, training
    and credentials
  • Income inequality
  • Workforce development programs
  • Wealth-building, entrepreneurship and small business
  • Portable benefits
  • Research and advocacy

Centering Race Equity and Inclusion at The Community Foundation

The Community Foundation is building on a rich history of social justice grantmaking and community leadership initiatives—including funding collaboratives such as the Washington Area Partnership for Immigrants and the Common Ground Fund, which originated our acclaimed “Putting Race on the Table” discussion series—as we renew our institutional commitment to race, equity and inclusion. Our priority is to ensure that our leadership team and staff have a full appreciation for what it means to apply a racial equity lens to our day-to-day work. This includes revisiting our internal processes and institutional infrastructure to make sure they reflect our values for racial equity in pay, voice, contracting, hiring, governance, and in our grantmaking process. Similarly, we look to achieve racial equity in our programmatic and community leadership work by explicitly acknowledging systems and policies that have led to disproportionate negative outcomes for people of color, and by disaggregating data as we consider current and future programmatic interventions. We seek to center racial equity at The Community Foundation by actively engaging people and communities most impacted, particularly as we pursue solutions and investments.

This is a work in progress, but our commitment to this work remains steadfast.

Journey to Security: An Immigrant Woman's Path to Launching a Career in IT

When Betty Gebremariam, an Ethiopian immigrant, sought a new position in the US to support her family, she knew a few challenges lay ahead. Most of her work experience was in Ethiopia, and English was her second language. And, though educated at Admas College in Ethiopia, Betty had no United States based training or education. Her husband was employed, but with two children, the family still struggled financially.

Motivated and determined, Betty decided to focus her energy not only on getting a job, but on launching a career with longevity and financial security for her family. She knew that the IT industry was in-demand and saw many opportunities in the field, so Betty set her sights on a position as a help desk technician.

In February 2016, Betty turned to the Skillsource Group, a nonprofit organization that offers employment and training services to Northern Virginia area employers, job seekers and youth. The Northern Virginia IT Employment (NVITE) Partnership, led by Skillsource, was one of three grantees selected by The Community Foundation’s Workforce Collaborative to provide unemployed and underemployed low-income job seekers with intensive case management, employment coaching and skills training to launch or advance them into entry-level Information Technology living wage careers as Computer User Support Specialists.

That May, Betty started training at Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) and earned a JAVA programming certification. Intellectual Point, a technology company in Reston, had an open position for a help desk technician. Betty’s case manager submitted her resume, now equipped with a new skillset, for the On-the-Job Training (OJT) opportunity, and Betty was hired after interviewing with the owner. She excelled and retained employment with Intellectual Point, earning $15 an hour.

“I am so grateful to Skillsource Group for assisting me in training and job placement. I am now starting my dream job path,” Betty says. “I have been energized to traverse the road ahead in success.” Betty adds her financial distress is gone, and remarks how patient and helpful Skillsource Group and her new employer Intellectual Point were in her journey.

The Workforce Collaborative congratulates Betty on her new career — Betty is the very first job candidate to graduate and achieve a job placement through the Collaborative’s Greater Washington Works initiative.

The Workforce Collaborative is a coalition of local workforce investors who share a common commitment to addressing poverty and income inequality by helping workers advance their skills and credentials so they can earn family-sustaining wages. Current Collaborative partners include The Community Foundation, the Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, Capital One, JPMorgan Chase & Co., the Consumer Health Foundation, Kaiser Permanente, the Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation, the Moriah Fund, Northern Virginia Health Foundation, the Weiss Fagen Fund, the Marian Osterweis Fund, United Way of the National Capital Area, and the Washington Area Women’s Foundation.

Greater Washington Works is a $1 million grantmaking initiative of the Collaborative designed to address local employer hiring challenges by meeting the talent needs of local IT and Healthcare employers. Greater Washington Works will support at least 250 local workers to launch living-wage careers in the IT and Healthcare sectors.

To learn more about The Workforce Collaborative, visit www.gwwdc.org.