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Impact, Pivot, Repeat: Community Progress Makers on Meaningful Support & Meeting Our Cities' Toughest Challenges

November 01, 2017
Luis Granados, Executive Director, Mission Economic Development Agency
Emily Gresham, Assistant Vice President of Research, Florida International University and Co-Founder of StartUP FIU
Lisbeth Shepherd, Executive Director, Green City Force

From creating jobs to expanding affordable housing, cities face economic challenges that grow increasingly complex as more people move to urban centers in search of economic opportunity. Variables including policy changes, budget cuts, and local crises constantly impact how (and how well) community-based organizations can respond. While we need all the help we can get, some philanthropic support can be prescriptive and overly restrictive about our approach and how we define success. To truly accelerate progress, nonprofits need support in a form that encourages us to adapt to external shifts and develop new ways of addressing long-standing issues. The Citi Foundation's Community Progress Makers Fund helped us do just that. The $20 million, multi-year initiative provided unrestricted grant support to 40 nonprofits in six U.S. cities, enabling a variety of organizations to pilot innovative solutions, increase their ability to secure additional investment, build their organizational capacity and attract new community partners. The Citi Foundation is looking for the next 40 Community Progress Makers. Eligible organizations can apply here by December 18, 2017.

Here's a look at some of the work and successes that have already come out of Community Progress Makers.


Opening our commercial kitchen at Florida International University to local food entrepreneurs entailed a major cultural shift. While universities typically frame economic prosperity around degree attainment, the flexibility offered by the Community Progress Makers Fund allowed us to respond to our community's needs differently. Now we also look at our role in providing access to resources and direct services. As a Community Progress Maker, StartUP FIU FOOD is leveraging multiple university resources to anchor our support for community members we didn't traditionally serve.Green City Force
New York City

Being chosen as a Community Progress Maker among leaders from around the country was a great honor. Thanks to the care and thought that defines this innovative, program, we've learned a great deal from our peers working in related and overlapping fields as well as from the Citi Foundation team. It's been invaluable to have a way of understanding our work in a broader context and to be exposed to cutting-edge practices that can help to inform our work. The significant unrestricted funds—so rare and so important for an organization like ours—have provided the platform we needed to undertake new innovation and growth. Pro bono skills-based workshops led by Citi volunteers helped strengthen our communications strategy and story-telling. The program's full-on support and conditioning have truly positioned us for much greater impact in the future.

Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA)
San Francisco

Due to the tech boom's gentrification of San Francisco's Mission District, MEDA was compelled to expand its résumé to include "Community Real Estate" as a means of reversing the current trend of displacing established family-serving businesses and low-income immigrant Latinos who for decades have called the neighborhood home. Thanks to the invaluable support of the Community Progress Makers Fund, MEDA was able to take the risk of creating the Adelante Fund, a community loan arm that helps finance small businesses unable to access capital from traditional lenders. The Fund has also helped to preserve and produce 1,026 affordable housing units. MEDA has now doubled its Community Real Estate goal from producing 1,000 affordable housing units to 2,000 units by 2020, as we achieved our initial goal three years ahead of schedule.

To learn more about the Community Progress Makers Fund, visit and follow #ProgressMakers in social media.